Home in on talent, wherever in the world

Mohan Joshi, Independent Management Consultant, writes about how the contemporary leader can, and should, connect across and beyond borders

The boss ran into his subordinate in the office. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”

If you are Matt Mullenweg, Founder and CEO of Automattic (WordPress, Jetpack, WooCommerce), this is not a joke. His 800 employees are scattered across 67 countries. Some members of his “distributed workforce” are nomads without a fixed home, but they all work from where they are, and it works very well for Matt.

As a leader you are always looking for the next big opportunity. However, to engage the best talent, and to make the most of them, does not necessarily require for them to live within a few kilometres of your office—they could be anywhere in the world.

Different roofs, common goal
Not so long ago when I was in charge of setting up a factory, the first thing I did was to ensure that most employees lived within arm’s reach. Yes, that saved commuting, but, more importantly for me, it also addressed the ‘what if’ scenario.

That concern was probably justified when business was all about surviving one crisis after another. Hopefully, now we have better systems in place. Technology has eliminated the barrier of distance. Connections can be instantaneous.

The reason why a globe-trotting CEO friend lets his secretary work from her home, 100 km from the factory, instead of letting her go is because he values her skill and experience—neither easy to replace. She does visit the factory, maybe a couple of days a month. Work goes on, perhaps more efficiently than it used to.

Document, connect and let work flow
It may not yet be feasible to run a factory if all the employees stay at home. Letting some of the support services be rendered from home could very well save on precious real estate and enhance productivity.

Spot, make and sustain your connections with the talent you need. Let them decide their work environment.

Document the ground rules and make sure everyone knows the what and why of those. Nip crippling bureaucracy in the bud. Connect and communicate often. Slot in face-to-face, in-person meetings.

Then sit back, enjoy the diversity the world has to offer and focus on growth. Fortunately, skills have no borders, nor does success.