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Tag: rebuild staff

Remote work is for the birds Remote work saved our businesses in Covid, but could kill it if left unchecked

Elite Business: Remote work is for the birds

In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo puts a question mark on remote working.

Businesses are about people. And people are about skills, thinking and action. If your people are less than that, you should be looking at technology to do that person’s job. It’s more reliable, dependable and far easier to manage. But it won’t create magic, innovation or culture across your business. People will and do. Remote working puts a question mark on that. 

Here are some reasons why.


When a problem arises, the ability to immediately resolve it by pulling people into a room before it cannot be done remotely. And if the problem and its solution need a multidisciplinary approach, which most problems do, then the right people in the room can step out after and all do what needs doing to get the job done. 

As your business grows, it is even more critical because the people in the room might have to coordinate and organise their teams to get the job done. It’s instant, and when it comes to retaining clients and building a brand (problem resolution builds a brand better than any marketing campaign), you need to get it done there and then.

Culture and value

Culture is nebulous, yet without one, your business creates a staccato experience for suppliers, customers, and employees. Values create the nous that enables your business and its employees to operate against an intuitive framework when needed. This intuition or unconscious response develops over time. It doesn’t build from the values stated in your website or reception wall but through living, breathing and observing the behaviour of all business employees, especially its leaders. 

If values create the framework and culture of the behaviour about what a company stands for, the best way to learn it is in person. Imagine a scenario where an employee enters the office of a manager. The door closes. A few minutes later, the employee leaves the office, pale and slightly stressed. Your colleague sitting next to you asks what went down. You explain what that employee did, and through that, you learn the authentic culture and values of that company. A word indicating a value, be it integrity, honesty, etc. means very little until it is understood and witnessed in practice.

Learning and training

While aspects of employee training are best offered online and therefore accessible remotely, the context, the application and the improvement of an employee’s performance arguably cannot be. We learn by doing not online engagements and content. Observation and “show and tell” are far more impactful ways of developing capability in your employees. Imagine trying to learn kung fu remotely rather than in the ring. Only when a punch lands do you genuinely understand how to take the theory and put it into a useful practice suited to your inherent abilities. The same goes for riding a bicycle, managing a project, managing a team, collecting a debtor book or selling.


Beyond a job, why do people opt to work in your business? I’ll put it into context in a recent meeting with a global law firm specialising in tax. Their brand exciting and innovative brand operates across a  federation of autonomous companies operating in 169 countries. In the past, they won recruits with their innovative approach to tax, assured learning and very quick exposure to exciting clients. Their vibrancy won them talent before bigger firms’ cold, hard salary packages. But, they have found that remote working has directly prevented the handover of relationships from senior partners to junior partners and associates. It has harmed the transfer of knowledge on the subject matter, the personalities making up a client, the industry, and it has stunted the ability of senior partners to pick junior partners effectively and for junior partners in return to compete to work with promising associates. 

Remote working is a privilege, not a right. If you are attracting employees who demand it, consider moving on. They are there for their comfort rather than the well-being of the business as active, engaged, committed contributors who go beyond fulfilling a functional role.

When is there a case for remote work? It should be part of your business-building toolkit. How to use it, when and where and then how to manage it is a future article. 


How to rebuild a team after retrenchments

Covid 19 forced many companies to cut costs but cutting their payroll. For many it started by cutting salaries, and then for some, they had to cut the workforce. This was not always managed well and in many instances it has  undermined the trust of the employees towards their employer.

People power a business, says Pavlo Phitidis. The building blocks of a business can be very simple. It’s similar to building a bridge – you can mechanically put each in place build the structure. He sees three critical building blocks in a business:

  1. You need to stand for something: what does your business do, for whom, what problem do you solve for them and why do you matter?
  2. Build the functions of the business into systems: marketing, sales, operations and administration. These systems deliver the promise you make to your customers and clients.
  3. Unless you power 1 and 2 with people, they don’t work

Listen to the podcast of the discussion that Pavlo had with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show on 702 & CapeTalk about this

Business leaders in the SME space in South Africa have been through the wringer for the last 5 years: Working in a regressive economy, with a government who doesn’t seem to like business or know how to engage us. And then we have been under assault with the unreliable power supply due to Eskom.

When Covid came, SMEs already had thin balance sheets, it felt like the final straw. For many who have been running their own business for 5 or more years, they have become virtually unemployable, and have no option but to make that business work. Covid pushed people into a place of concern and panic, and many behaved towards their teams in a way they may now regret. It wasn’t necessarily deliberate, it was the shock of how Covid disrupted their environment.

There were a number of variations from cutting salaries to advising staff of no pay raises, to trying to make staff look to the upside of not travelling in traffic due to working from home… in all instances, the subtext was that if you don’t toe the line of the new policy  you can find another job, knowing there are very few out there.

Pavlo witnessed many instances where the labour act was not followed. Paycuts were done for some but not all, with no transparency, which breaks the most precious ingredient between the business owner and their team. That needs to be rebuilt now.

While remote working via Zoom and other online platforms enabled work to continue, in many cases it has further broken the connection of culture that evolves in a workplace through daily interactions.

Pavlo hopes that most businesses have reset themselves by now to be relevant to the changed lives of their customers.

There are number of things to do to now to rebuild the people part of the business.

  1. Recognise that you are a leader

When you run your own business, that is what you are: a leader! No-one else is going to lead it whether you employ 3 or 300 people. So you are the one that has to rebuild that trust with your people.

  1. Communicate

If remote working is the new normal, you have to develop policies and systems that allow for effective communication. Pavlo’s advice is NOT to turn camera’s off in meetings – you miss body language and have no idea what people are doing on the other side. It takes all of the human engagement out of the discussion. Use all the tools at your disposal to increase engagement on screen if that is how you are working now.

  1. Start an engagement

Don’t leap into the issue. Start an engagement that will elicit some level of emotion. Pavlo does this often by asking a business owner ‘what inspired you to get into the business’ which removes it from a fix-it type of conversation, to an expressive one. So now ask: What did you do during lockdown? What caught you offguard most? And follow that genuine conversation with: So where are we now?

  1. Set a strategy

While acknowledging that things will change and evolve as we are in uncertain times, the team needs to know there is a game plan, and understand WHY not just how it works and the role that they play in it.

  1. All in it together

Everyone has everything to gain, and everything to lose in the business’s survival and success. Unemployment is going to become even worse in the coming months, Covid is still around, and so people are going to be very apprehensive about employing new staff. If the strategy makes sense, and is consultative with the team, and people get to contribute, which makes them co-creators, this makes them take accountability and responsibility for it.

If you are struggling with a people problem in your business, contact Aurik to get the building blocks right for growth.