The technology to enable remote work has never been so available and sophisticated, says Kunal Chopra, CEO of Kaspien, a wholesale retailer, e-commerce agency and software provider for brands on Amazon, Walmart and other platforms, based in Spokane Valley, Washington. Chopra, who cut his teeth in tech roles for companies like Microsoft and Amazon, argues that providing a remote tech stack is critical to success today.
Chopra spoke with StrategicCIO360 about the war for talent and the importance of connection—whatever your work setup.
Now that everyone on your team is not in the same room, it’s vital that everyone is connected through technology. With many companies transitioning to a hybrid workplace, how are companies managing their data silos?
Technology is the short answer to managing data silos. As someone who has been working remotely for more than 10 years, I have seen many organizations leaning into remote work, and have been doing so intentionally or unintentionally with technology at the forefront for quite some time.
Even before the pandemic, most of the data, assets and work we share with one another—and ultimately, how we connect with one another—has always in some way been through an online portal like a company drive or digital communication platform. Since the onset of Covid-19, most organizations have quickly adopted hybrid or remote workplace accommodations for their employees, and I’d expect that to continue as the new norm looking ahead.
The technology industry specifically has been on this path for remote work long before the pandemic. Depending on the size of the team and organization and the context, the technology workforce naturally lends itself to remote work due to the nature of the role. In today’s workforce, the options for a remote technology job are growing, which means there is more competition than ever for top talent in the technology space.
Today’s organizations absolutely must work on transitioning to a hybrid or remote workforce in order to attract top talent. Since the labor market is so tight, technology can also enable organizations to expand their potential talent pools, opening them up to the option of bringing on international talent.
Is technology readily available to help manage teams as companies transition to a hybrid workplace? In your opinion, is it sustainable for a company to work remotely and in the office, solely connected virtually?
Ten years ago, while the technology was there, it wasn’t as reliable or advanced as it is today to establish a solely remote workplace. However, timing and context are everything, and technology has advanced significantly in the last decade to a point where a fully remote workforce is a completely viable path.
With high internet performance speeds and free WiFi nearly everywhere—coffee shops, stores, even hotels and resorts—people can work wherever they are. Software and applications such as Slack, Zoom and video tools have made it possible to connect with coworkers and clients to collaborate and brainstorm and complete the vast majority of their work remotely.
As it is possible for most companies to transition to a hybrid workplace, it’s not a cookie-cutter answer. Companies need to take into consideration what works best for their employees and the work their company does. For example, in sales and marketing, some of the work those teams do relies on face-to-face interaction, so remote work is not a one-size-fits-all option.
Whether an organization is fully remote, in-person or a hybrid of both, it is essential to bake a people-first approach into the organization’s remote tech stack, onboarding process and overall company culture. This critical human connection can be lost in an age of technology, so by bringing forward a people-first approach, your organization will stand out.
How are you managing your hybrid team and enabling insight and knowledge sharing and connectivity in general across Kaspien at this time?
At Kaspien, we take a people-first approach—we prioritize our employees and make sure they know our company puts them at the forefront of our actions. The first question out of my mouth in a meeting is, “How are you doing today?” not, “What’s the status on your deliverables?” This may seem like something minor, but is extremely impactful to managing a remote or hybrid team.
We have implemented several practices to help employees step away from the back-to-back meetings, incoming emails and distractions. For example, we have “no meeting Thursdays” once a month, allowing employees to unplug from the business of meeting and phone calls and offer unlimited PTO to encourage work-life balance. That said, helping our employees stay connected is another key priority, so we host virtual happy hours, and ensure our teams have all the tools they need for seamless communication and connectivity.
Have you encountered any challenges in transitioning the workforce to a work from home environment? Do you see any challenges in the future as organizations begin returning to the office?
One of the biggest challenges is the simple fact that some people are more eager to return to the office than others and companies are striving to implement solutions to accommodate both options. While some prefer to work from home, others are excited to get back to in-person work. My priority at Kaspien is ensuring that the team has all the tools necessary to support both sides of this coin, enabling a seamless workflow between our remote and hybrid employees.
Outside of my own day-to-day work, the technology space as a whole is facing the challenge of finding talent. As companies are transitioning to a fully remote or hybrid work environment, people are realizing they can work from anywhere, and this lends itself to high turnover as people explore other options for their career. For companies to remain competitive and entice top talent, they need to explore options for expanding their tech stack and giving their employees a choice in how they’d prefer to work. If you continue to operate the same way while other competitors do, you will miss out on top talent, revenue opportunities and innovations. At the end of the day, if you don’t change, you stagnate.