On this episode of The Scalability Solutions Podcast, founder Leila Blauner is joined by Dave Lewien, President of GoWest IT, a managed service provider and information technology consulting firm. We are so happy to have Dave on the show because many companies have been transitioning to a remote workforce in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are a number of important considerations when transitioning employees to remote work.
Security, IT, and People Considerations
As a security-first company, Dave sheds light on what companies need to consider as they transition employees to remote work. He helps us understand that when moving from an office to wherever the employees decide to work, holes in security need to be patched up.It is also critical to ensure employees have access to the tools and technology they need to do their job effectively and efficiently.
Dave and Leila discuss the importance of thinking about the people involved, and how to support them.
Hiring Remote Employees
Now that the workforce is shifting, more and more companies will be hiring people for remote positions. Dave discusses how working with Scalability Solutions and using simulations helps the candidate clarify if they want to do the job that GoWest IT needs to have done and if they will have the skills and qualities to do it well. Leila reminds us that not only do we get to have a wider candidate pool when hiring for remote work, but that the diversity that brings enhances the team and performance.
Learn more about GoWest IT
Read GoWest IT’s blog about Remote Workforce Security
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This Episode’s Transcription
Welcome to the Scalability Solutions Podcast, the show that explores how happy successful teams are created and how to maintain phenomenal retention within your company. Join us for stories, insights, and client spotlights brought to you by Scalability Solutions, a team who believes you can love going to work every day. On this episode of the Scalability Solutions Podcast, Founder Leila Blauner is joined by Dave Lewien, President of Go West IT. Founded in May, 2010, Go West IT is a managed service provider and information technology consulting firm. Go West IT supports businesses that rely on technology to deliver their goods and services. And on this episode, we discuss the security, technology, and people considerations you need to make when transitioning to a remote workforce. Dave sheds light on how they have supported clients overall with IT needs, but especially with the rapid shift to remote work. Leila adds in her expertise around hiring remote employees now that we’re likely going to see remote work being the norm for quite awhile. Enjoy the episode.
We are so excited to have our guest on today. Dave, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here.
Yeah. We’re happy to have you. And Leila, welcome back as always.
Good to be back. Thanks.
So Dave, your company handles IT and security needs for companies, including those that don’t have their own IT department. And you also augment existing IT departments as well. So what are the most common areas that businesses need help with?
You know, businesses choose an outsource IT service provider or a managed service provider generally to take care of back office IT. That means supporting servers, firewalls, cloud infrastructure, people, laptops, and computers. And we do all of that and that’s very important. But I think today it’s also small businesses are looking for someone to help them leverage their technology and businesses, particularly small businesses, are starting to transition their thinking around technology and understand that it can be a strategic advantage for them. And so they’re oftentimes looking to a managed service provider, like Go West IT, to help them really move along their digital transformation path and leverage technologies and leverage the information they have to really become more competitive in their market.
That’s interesting. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you mean by that, of leveraging their technology? Because people might not even know that that’s something they could do or should do. So give us a little bit more insight on that.
Yeah. So there is a shift with most businesses and the leaders and managers at some point where they understand that technology is more than the computer or launching an application or getting access to data. And it is about giving their people tools to really leverage up the knowledge that the people have in their heads, make them more productive, allow them to bring data together and use data. I heard a stat at Microsoft a couple of years ago that less than 1% of the world’s data was ever analyzed, the data that’s stored in computer systems was ever analyzed. I think the last time I heard that stat had it actually increased to 2 or maybe 5% of the data that’s stored in the world is ever analyzed.
So I think small businesses in particular are beginning to make the shift to understand that technology isn’t just my laptop and my computer and my server and my firewall, but rather it’s the information that we have and that we use to provide value to our customers. Any business when they’re delivering services is trying to provide value and leveraging the data, the technology, the information is part of that. So it’s twofold. It’s leveraging the data and the technology and then making their people more effective, more productive. You’re at the end of the day oftentimes paying for the brain power that your people have and so technology is about making sure that they utilize that brain power effectively.
Got it. Well we’re definitely going to talk about the people in just a little bit. And part of your work, especially recently, has been helping companies transition their employees from working in the office to working remotely. So let’s get into this. What do companies need to keep in mind about remote workers when it comes to IT?
Go West IT is a security first type of company, so that question immediately takes me to security. To be sure the rapid shift to remote workforce prompted by the COVID-19 situation has made many companies more vulnerable to security risks, cybersecurity risks in particular. The thing I think they need to think about first is, as we make these rapid changes, what holes are we opening up and how will we go about patching those holes up? I understand completely that some changes had to be made rapidly without regard for what additional security risks might be introduced because businesses just had to keep moving. But going into months three and four of dealing with work from home and COVID situations, it’s definitely time if it hasn’t been done already to refocus on what security vulnerabilities were introduced and how are we going to deal with those, not only through the COVID situation, but probably into the long term because COVID has done more to enable remote productivity, has accelerated the adoption of remote productivity and remote workforces more than I think any particular technology would have.
It’s just that impetus or that push because we had to have it. And so businesses at this point should be thinking about how are they going to deal with the security aspects today and into the future. And then beyond the security there’s the considerations of productivity, effectiveness, controls over perhaps corporate assets if businesses send people home with their computer equipment, and all the complexities that are introduced by having business assets spread all across the country and people’s homes.
Yeah. It’s really interesting to think of all of those details that people might not consider as you shift from working in an office to working at home. So obviously there’s security issues and concerns and areas in IT, but then there’s also the people. So Leila when an employee is transitioning to remote work, but they were hired from an in-person position, how can their employer best support them in this transition? And what do they need to keep in mind?
That’s a great question. So there’s the obvious stuff, things that Dave can help with like making sure that they have the right equipment to do their job, the right technology to do their job. There’s also an importance in making sure that the processes that are in place when they are in-person are just as efficient when they’re working remotely because that can cause frustration and obviously reduce productivity if not.
The less obvious stuff is more on the emotional side. So if you are used to being really tight with your team and then you’re suddenly working remote and you’re not seeing them in person like you used to be, you’re not walking by their office and saying, “hi,” it’s easy to start feeling left behind or in the dark, like you don’t know anything or not valued. So really making sure that you make space for connection. And that can be in multiple ways, whether it’s a weekly meeting, but you can also get creative with it. One of my clients has a morning coffee over Zoom and anybody that wants to connect just socially just joins the Zoom for morning coffee. Really making sure that you show appreciation so that they know they’re just as valued now as they were before.
So I have a remote team. I send very specific notes on things that they did well. If I just say, “Hey, you’re doing a great job.” That doesn’t go very far. But if I say, “Hey, that email that you sent was so valuable because it prompted XYZ.” That’s very meaningful and makes them feel like they’re still really appreciated just as much as they were when they were in person. And then creating space for collaboration, so they can still contribute ideas and making sure they still feel in the loop. But the most important is ask them, ask how you can support them in the transition. So, “Hey, you know, you were in person, you’re now remote. I want to know, what do you miss? What are your big concerns and what would really help you thrive?”
Yeah. As we talk about this, there’s so many pieces that maybe you now need to consider. Like Dave said that the IT and the security, but also the connection and how you communicate with people, a team that maybe was always in the office didn’t have some sort of chat tool or wasn’t familiar with something like Zoom that we’re all talking about right now and many of us are using. And to have to make those shifts, both in how you interact and the tools that you need to do it, that can be a big shift for people. Dave, do you find that people are sort of struggling with this as you’re helping them? Are they embracing it? What’s kind of the feeling as you’re helping people transition to the remote use of all of this?
You know, there are kind of two camps. There are the groups that had already started working towards a more virtual existence, a remote existence, and using remote tools. Go West IT is a fairly Microsoft centric company. And so we were very early adopters of the Teams platform and Teams as much more than just a video platform. It’s phone system. It’s file storage. It’s the front end for SharePoint. It’s a lot of tools that can be built into Teams. And there were other customers who were also kind of moving along that path. So they had one experience, which was a much more rapid adoption of that technology because they were thrust into it, but they were ready.
And then you’ve got customers who really hadn’t been thinking in that fashion previously. They were still existing in a physical office for the most part. They were accustomed to meeting in person and face-to-face. And so they’ve had to just shift to those new technologies like Teams and Zoom a little bit more rapidly. And there was definitely some pain on the front end around how they were using that. I think too, that now businesses are starting to understand that those platforms are much more valuable than just being able to do a chat and a video call, that there’s a lot more to it.
And to add on to what Leila was saying about the people and the connectivity, I think we’ve recognized and are seeing customers recognize that the people we have working for us are all different, right? They’re all humans. Some of them work very well remotely. In fact, perhaps better than they did in an office setting. And others really struggle. So it’s important to have effective managers who can pick up on the people who are perhaps struggling in those environments and work with them one-on-one, because again, they’re people, they’re individuals, to figure out how they’re going to be able to get those people productive again and make them productive.
The tools are important, but the people skills, the check-ins… For someone who’s struggling to get things done day to day, perhaps it is a quick meeting in the morning to just talk about what they plan to get done today. And then a quick meeting at the end of the day to find out if they got it done. And if they didn’t what happened that day that kept them from doing it? And how are we going to tackle that again tomorrow?
Those are some really great tips, especially as we consider so many people were hired to be in the office or maybe part of their job was done out of the office, but they’re still physically here and checking in. And now we really have this remote workforce for many companies for quite a while. So Leila, with many companies shifting to remote work and probably realizing that as we need more people we are going to hire them as remote employees, what do hiring managers need to consider? And what are some of the benefits of being able to hire remote workers in this new time?
Yeah, there are a lot of benefits. It’s been proven that companies with diversity tend to perform better. If you’re not in a geographical location that has diversity, opening it up to being able to work anywhere because you’re hiring remote obviously increases the numbers. It also increases the number of A players. There are only so many A players that are willing to live in your geographical area and there are a lot more that can live anywhere. For me, we have a fully remote team and it’s been super useful to have people in multiple time zones. And it’s also nice that they can spend more time with their families and on passions because they’re not commuting.
I’ll jump into what’s important to think about when hiring because this is really the make or break for success. If you don’t have the right people, no matter how great your processes are, it’s not going to work. So can they do the job? There’s not going to be as much support most likely for someone to get this person up to speed and really sit side-by-side. So do they have the skills and qualities? And we’ve talked a lot about this. We just recently did a podcast where we talked about simulations and creating many work experiences where we can make sure that people actually can do what they think they can do. You know, there’s not going to be somebody to walk by the office and notice that they’re playing solitaire every single time they walk by or on Facebook every time.
So you got to make sure, obviously, that there’s the work ethic and that they’re self-starting and they don’t say things like… My pet peeve is the grammatically incorrect term “I was waiting on.” So they’ve got to be really proactive. It’s really important that they have kind of an intellectual curiosity, figure it out skills. There may not be someone that can show them how to do everything all the time if they’re remote. And so if there’s a type of person that Googles voraciously anytime they come against a term they don’t know because they’re just curious, they’re probably going to do better remote because they’re going to have that resourcefulness and ability to figure things out on their own.
And then high EQ. It’s really important that they have introspection and high EQ and that on their own they think things like, “How can I do… How can I be even better in this area?” And they’ve got great communication skills. And then transparency is super important. So if they make a mistake, they’ve got to be someone that will tell you about it. “Hey, I did this and here’s what I did to fix it. And here’s how I’m going to make sure that it’s not going to happen again.” These qualities are important anywhere, but I think when you have a remote workforce where there’s just an autonomy that’s inherent in their day to day lives, it’s even more important to make sure that your team has that. And for us, we make sure, both in the simulation, but also in really, really deep dive interviews.
Can I tag onto something that Leila said there?
Leila talked about looking for people who have that ability to figure it out and maybe Google voraciously, ironically that’s one of the areas of risk that’s introduced from an IT perspective. So we want those people with those skills to get things done, particularly when they’re working remotely. But in an IT scenario, if you have all of your employees working remotely in their own little environments and they’re all solving their IT problems based on what they’re able to Google, they can introduce problems to a corporate environment, not knowingly generally, very rare that you’d find someone who’d do something malicious, but inadvertently introduce a risk. So using a good managed service provider who has an established framework for monitoring and controlling environments beyond the company walls is really important during this work from home scenario, which I think will continue indefinitely. I think this is the new way of working, at least at some level.
Yeah. And that’s great to clarify, Dave, because some of the skills that we want our remote employees to have is consistent across the board and, depending on the industry, that figure-it-outness may not look exactly the same. So you touched on this a little bit, but can you tell us a little bit more, Dave, about what your hiring experiences have been for your remote employees? And how has scalability solutions helped with hiring in general?
Go West IT has had a fairly fluid culture with regard to where people work. And that’s partly because of the work that we do. So many of our people are required to go onsite to our customer offices on a regular basis. It just hasn’t been effective for them to come to an office first and then leave in some sort of way out into the public each day. So many of our employees for a very long time have started their workday from home, gone to work for customers, returned to home from work. And from time to time, we’ll be in the office for meetings or one-to-ones and that sort of thing. So our strategy really isn’t that much different in the current environment, other than we’re now opening up our thinking around maybe the geographic areas, just like everybody else. And Leila touched on that.
But from the start, hiring people who will work remote really involved focusing on the values that they have and how they’re going to work in a culture. One thing that Scalability Solutions helped Go West IT with was establishing a method for finding out how those people will actually perform beyond what’s on the resume and what you can get out of an interview. And I’m referring to a method where we worked through some simulations and those simulations really cut through the resume and the interview questions to figure out, can they really do the work? I would go beyond the “can they” part. It’s do they want to? Is this the job they want to do? So those simulations to give people a taste of, “What am I getting into here?” Has helped clarify, on the way in the door, does the candidate want to do the job that we want to have done?
We want people here that want to do the work that needs to be done. And that clarification on the front end about, “I know what I’m getting into. Yes, this is what I want to do.” Helps eliminate a lot of the will it work concerns down the road. I think more important for remote workers, perhaps even then people who are working on site where we might have the ability to mentor or coach more frequently. You lose a little bit of that when you go remote. And so knowing that upfront is extremely important.
Definitely. Well, we talk I think almost every episode about simulations and how much we love them and how useful they are. So as we get to the end of this episode, Leila, we already know that simulations are amazing. Any final tips for our listeners, if they are hiring and transitioning to a remote workforce?
This is also repetitive. I say it in every episode, but that intentionality and being really thorough in your hiring is absolutely essential.
Yeah. And Dave, any final tips or best practices that the employees or employers need to keep in mind as they’re transitioning to remote work from that security and IT standpoint?
From a very practical level, there are things that a business or that individuals can do to better secure their environments. I do recommend that you have some professionals, either an internal IT department or an external managed service provider, to help really put some controls around your security at the end of the day. But on the front end, there are some basic things that you can ask of your people or that you can work through from a managerial level to better secure your environment.
There’s a blog on our website that refers to things that businesses can and should consider from an IT security perspective. And even if a business can’t do all of them, the most important thing from a cybersecurity standpoint, and this is more important now that are working from home than ever, the most important thing is to start doing something. It’s rare that you find a business that does everything that you need to do, but the businesses that do nothing and don’t start to close that gap on security are going to find themselves too far behind at some point to catch up or they’ll find themselves experiencing a breach and that’s not a pleasant experience.
So the more proactive you can be… Take it in bites. Start with simple things. Be happy to share a link to the blog on our website, which is just a good checklist. Again, you can’t do everything. That’s okay. Start somewhere.
Just do something. And we will include that link for our listeners. So, Dave, thank you so much for taking the time today and shedding light on what we need to consider as we transition to a remote workforce from an IT and security standpoint. And Leila, thank you so much for talking to us about the people and what we need to consider. So Dave, thanks for being on the show.
Thanks very much. It was a pleasure. Enjoyed talking with you.
And Leila, as always, thanks so much.
Thank you. And Dave, it was great to see you.
Good to see you, Leila.
Thanks again to Dave Lewien from Go West IT. You can learn more about them and gowestit.com and you can learn more about hiring fantastic remote employees and join our mailing list at scalability-solutions.com.