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Talent Development and The Virtual Office


I read a great blog recently from Jacque Vilet on how the relative merits of the virtual office compared to a face to face environment. In her blog she reaches an interesting conclusion that innovation and creativity is enhanced when teams are face to face - talking, collaborating, sharing. While a virtual office can generate increased productivity and lower costs it may be an impediment to generating that next great business building idea.

Forester Research reports that more than 34 million U.S. adults work remotely at least occasionally and that this number will grow to 63 million by 2016.

What is driving this?

  • Employee preference - shorter commute times, flexibility
  • Decreased costs - less office space required, lower fixed costs
  • Better online collaborative tools - Citrix, file sharing

The end result from this transition to virtual is increased productivity in terms of greater employee hours worked and lower costs as the office space footprint is reduced. 

In looking at this from a talent development strategy it looks promising on the surface. It will be easier to recruit new people if you provide them with a flexible work from home option. You can also increase the geographic span of your team since geographic boundaries no longer apply.. 

This all seems to make perfect sense. So why are smart companies like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo moving away from virtual and actively promoting more face to face time with their employees?

The reason is that they recognize that innovation and creativity is what drives their organizations.

Innovation - that big/business changing idea - does not happen in isolation. It happens when people talk, share, debate, test and interact with each other. That is why companies are looking for ways to bring their people together and create environments where collaboration can nurture and grow.

HR can help in this area by building a talent development strategy that encourages and rewards teamwork - shared goals - interactive environments. 

It should be noted that while face to face employee interaction creates greater innovation, organizations should not completely abandon the virtual office option. Jacque Vilet in article proposes a hybrid model that draws from the strengths of both options:

  • Virtual - for task oriented/high concentration activity requiring alone time
  • Face to Face - when new ideas, product services are being developed.

To read the full article from Jacque Vilet please click "Virtual Or Face To Face?"