The future of work is here: Our top 7 takeaways from Ascent by Oyster

The event is over, but the learning continues.

The future is distributed. Ascent by Oyster.

On July 14th and 15th, the team at Oyster did something we had never done before: hosted a first-of-its-kind virtual conference. The two-day online event, Ascent by Oyster, explored all-things related to the future of work, and focused on how globally-distributed companies can elevate their performance and make a positive impact.

If you weren’t able to make the conference (or if you’re looking for some highlights to share with your team), we’ve pulled together our top seven takeaways that employers, HR leaders, talent acquisition teams, and job seekers must know in order to adapt to the new world of work.

1. The role of HR leaders is changing…fast

One of the job functions most affected by the pandemic has been human resources. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the roles and responsibilities of HR leaders, shifting their jobs to becoming more focused on offering remote working options and all of the compliance changes that come along with that.

During a fireside chat about the future of HR, Oyster co-founder, Jack Mardack,

was joined by Conner Forrest, Senior Research Analyst at 451 Research to discuss the evolution of the “People” job function post-pandemic. (Conner had recently created The Future of HR Report for us, so we were eager to hear him and Jack discuss the key findings.)

If there was one major takeaway from this session, it’s that in this re-invented role, HR leaders will have an outsized impact on the working experience at their companies for years to come.

2. When done right, remote work can be great for employee wellbeing and productivity

Before the pandemic, many companies were reluctant to offer remote work options, fearing that it would cause a drop in productivity. But as we’ve come to learn, when leaders trust their staff, that trust is rewarded in greater productivity and wellbeing. A key takeaway here is that this new way of working has employees who were once wondering when they’d be going to the office are now asking why they should go back to the office.

During a panel discussion on building a successful distributed company we heard from Quora’s Adam D’Angelo, Butter’s Jakob Knutzen, Doist’s Amir Salihefendic, and our own Tony Jamous, who spoke about the “superpowers” fully-distributed companies are able to unlock. This includes shifting towards becoming an outcome-driven culture, rather than assessing value based on hours clocked. Companies need to adjust their offerings to meet these new employee expectations.

A presentation slide showing performance increases once teams learn how to work, build culture, and fix trust

3. Offering work-from-anywhere options is a competitive advantage

Remote work isn’t only good for employees, it has countless advantages for companies too. By offering work-from-anywhere options, companies gain access to the most talented employees. As we heard from Adam Long, Vice President of Sales at Firstbase, “Offering not only remote work, but work-from-anywhere options is a competitive advantage in the hiring market.”

Companies that hope to attract the best talent from around the world have to level-up their entire hiring strategy, which includes rethinking traditional office perks and being better attuned to the needs of a workforce that’s spread across the globe.

4. Building a thriving distributed workforce requires ongoing education

It isn’t enough to simply declare a remote work policy—building a thriving remote culture requires ongoing education and training for employees and companies alike.

Ensuring intangibles like employee wellbeing, engagement, and sense of belonging in a remote work environment requires skill and knowledge from employers and HR departments. Similarly, employees also need to be equipped with access to the best tools and resources to enable them to be successful.

In Ascent’s Global Talent Acquisition session, Careem’s Ruth Fletcher shared one of the questions her team asked when preparing to go remote-first: “How do we train our leaders and managers on engaging people and building community in a remote-first context?”

We’ve learned that in a remote environment especially, leaders must be very intentional and strategic about the skills they’re fostering in their employees. As an example, our team at Oyster just launched Oyster Academy with two programs designed to help HR leaders and job seekers prepare for the future of distributed work. (You can get certified for free here!)

5. There are legal challenges to overcome when going remote-first

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that there are legal and compliance issues to navigate when embracing remote work and hiring across borders. But we learned in our panel session, Legal Perspective for Fully Distributed Companies, those challenges shouldn’t put companies off adapting to the new normal.

A tweet from Ascent speaker Miranda Zolot from Oyster

Our takeaway from this session is that there are resources and tools flooding the market to help companies tackle these challenges. Here at Oyster, we just released our own set of distributed HR tools (which includes a legal hiring kit) to help HR and People Ops leaders navigate cross-border hiring.

6. Culture matters more than ever

To build a thriving remote-first environment, companies need to prioritize workplace culture. At Oyster, we run ‘heartbeat meetings,’ hold regular issue-unblock meetings, and prioritize asynchronous communication so team members in different time zones don’t miss out on important news or events.

The slide below is pulled from our CEO Tony Jamous’ keynote on the principles of distributed leadership. In his talk, we learned that trust is more important than ever in a remote-first environment.

A presentation slide on how to fix trust and relationships in a distributed team

7. The Head of Remote role will become standard in years to come

In the post-pandemic era, more and more companies are establishing a Head of Remote role. While the role itself is still evolving, its importance is being felt across industries. During our panel, Head-to-Head of Remote, we heard from GitLab’s Darren Murph, Dropbox’s Allison Vendt, Okta’s Samantha Fisher, and our own Rhys Black who shared their predictions for the new “hottest title in tech.”

We learned that in years to come, it may be a regular role at the C-suite level, is likely to have a large focus on operations, and will sit at the intersection of workplace culture, design, and experience.

It’s clear from the enthusiasm shared by our peers during the event, the future of work is changing—and more and more companies are joining the movement. We see a change happening that is much deeper than ‘where’ people work, and an opportunity for organizations of all sizes to achieve unprecedented things by broadening their talent horizons. Is your organization on board?

Distributed work is here to stay. For more on how you can prepare for this new reality, download a copy of The Future of HR Report.

About Oyster

Oyster is a global employment platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve, without the usual headaches or the expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world—with reliable, compliant payroll as well as great local benefits and perks.

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