This article was originally published by Forbes Magazine on June 27, 2017 and was written by Skrumble’s very own Eric Lifson. 

Companies have begun to follow the rising trend of increased work flexibility. In a compensation study conducted by Deloitte, 33% of 1,400 CFOs stated that telecommuting is the most influential factor in attracting top talent, and 46% said it was second behind salary.

As technology advances, I have found that there are now greater opportunities for employees to work outside of the office and collaborate to the same extent as if they were in a cubicle.

Employees are now gravitating toward the ability to control how they work and communicate within a company. They want to share their opinions throughout the company and create actual impact. If managed properly, a flexible work environment and communication structure benefits the entirety of an organization.

When employees are tasked with executing strategies without the knowledge of strategic intent from management, they feel separated from management and have little motivation to work hard.

As U.S. Navy SEAL Leif Babin mentions in his book, in 2008 when Boat Crew VI was failing under their original leader, that leader didn’t believe it was possible for them to do any better. The leader justified his performance based on his crew and not his management practices. However, when the leader of Boat Crew 11 took over the boat, he changed management practices and pulled the team together, eventually winning.

Without the ability for employees to feel like their voice is being heard, they won’t feel empowered to execute on the company’s goals and may be perceived as poor performers.

This disconnect also influences the way managers think: They can perceive failures as the results of their employees who carry out strategies and take little responsibility themselves. Managers who do not clearly communicate their strategic vision to teams will inevitably create a divide within the company because there is no context to act upon.

For employees to be optimally productive, they must feel empowered. Employees require transparency: They need to understand the company’s strategic vision behind every action they are tasked with.

Many organizations follow a top-down vertical communication structure where employees communicate down the organizational hierarchy, limiting their access to communicating with anyone in higher level management.

At my company, we have adopted a horizontal communication structure through multiple initiatives and seen promising results in productivity and satisfaction. Horizontal communication means information flows across all functions on the same organizational level. Although some people within the company may have stronger opinions and power than others, horizontal communication allows everyone to be heard and valued, encouraging employees to move toward the company’s vision.

Improve HR Programs

The key to creating horizontal structure is by changing company practices. Human resources is at the root of a company’s culture, and their practices must be changed to facilitate employee autonomy, implementing new programs that allow for employee empowerment. For example, employee suggestion programs would allow employees to voice their opinions. We have created Friday Roundtable Sessions where everyone at the company meets to discuss anything that’s on their minds regarding business operations and weekly updates. This has allowed our company to connect firsthand with each other and has taken away any divide that may have been created.

Employ Collaboration Software

Many companies still use email and phone systems to communicate. However, the culture of these technologies limits employees from complete autonomy and full company transparency. We have developed a collaboration system that unifies all applications needed for company-wide communication into one main application.  We have seen productivity increase and employees more satisfied with their working situations.

Reduce Corporate Hierarchy

Traditional top-down corporate hierarchies create communication issues and limit collaboration. People across the organization may not know the full context of key strategic initiatives, and management may not understand the complete day-to-day ebbs and flows that are happening in the trenches. With less bottle-necked decision-making processes and access to leadership on a lateral level, information flows much quicker and more effectively.

Transparency throughout the company gives employees a voice to share their opinions and ask questions. It creates equal voices in the company, giving value to every employee. With a horizontal company structure created through better HR programs, collaboration software and corporate structures, productivity and satisfaction can increase.

Author: Skrumble