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TecHRseries Interview with Michelle Riconscente, Chief Operating Officer at Motimatic

The Covid-19 pandemic may eventually come to an end but the effects of a changed work culture and remote work experience will remain. Catch more thoughts on the changing employee experience in this interview where Michelle Riconscente, Chief Operating Officer at Motimatic shares her thoughts.

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Tell us a little about yourself Michelle, what’s a typical day at work like for you at Motimatic?

I’m the Chief Operating Officer at Motimatic, a social impact company that enhances motivation and reinforces positive behavior through our marketing-for-good platform. I studied Math and Physics as an undergraduate before earning my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. I then spent the early parts of my career in academia before joining the business world, where I’ve focused on combining learning science with technologies and products that help promote workforce skills. That’s essentially what we’re doing with Motimatic, where I have to admit my days are anything but “typical.” Some days I’ll be involved in product and development decisions, other days I’ll be working with clients to optimize outcomes, and still other days I’ll put on my Chief Scientist hat to implement behavioral science frameworks that grow employee engagement. Most days I’m doing a little bit of all of the above!

Read More: Maintaining Employee Morale In Times Of A Remote Work Culture: A QnA With Rob Boland, COO At Reward Gateway

At a time such as the present, with the ongoing pandemic and its effects on businesses and the need to work from home, what are some top tips you would like to share when it comes to tracking remote teams and a distributed workforce?

The first thing businesses need to understand is that their employees will all have different ways of adjusting to the new “normal.” Some employees might transition fairly seamlessly, but many others will struggle to develop a routine and produce the same levels of productivity that they had before. And that’s okay. Businesses have to be flexible during these times to make sure that employees can take care of their children and their families — and themselves. They also have to make sure they’re supporting their employees as best they can, by doing things like providing the right resources and support. A lot of what we do at Motimatic is using the power of social media and motivation science to make sure that employees know about the support that is available to them so that they can use it when they need it.

How according to you will the immediate Future of Work look like given the changing work environment due to Covid-19 and otherwise?

A lot of companies have realized that working remotely can be pretty effective and that, thanks to collaboration tools like Zoom, Slack, and others, teams don’t all have to necessarily come into the office to get things done. So we are already seeing a lot of companies implementing more work-from-home policies that will remain in effect even after Covid-19 is over. That’s especially great for parents of young children or people who need a certain amount of flexibility, but it does require employers to make sure they’re keeping their employees engaged and finding ways to create that feeling of cohesion and camaraderie that comes more easily within an office environment. The future of work might look different from industry to industry, too. Take higher education, for instance. Until recently, there was classroom-based learning and online learning, but for the most part the two remained separate. I think one lasting effect of Covid-19 will be that we’ll see a greater convergence between online learning and classroom learning, so instructors, advisors and administrators will have to adjust the ways they interact with students accordingly.

Read More: Top 10 HR Collaboration Tools That Can Help Boost Remote Work And Collaborative Efforts

In the tech marketplace, work from home is not a new concept, at a time such as the present, it is all about more teams and businesses getting used to the concept. How according to you will the need for HR Technology/Other tools (collaboration tools/etc) change over the next few months because of Covid-19?

Covid-19 has obviously accelerated the need for HR technologies that help distributed teams come together. The lasting result of the pandemic will be that we’ve all realized that these tools work, and they’re effective at enabling employees to work from home while still remaining productive and collaborative. As a result, I think we are going to see a lot of investment and innovation in this area, and we can expect to see a new wave of next gen HR technologies purpose-built for the distributed workforce. Those tools will involve aspects of project management, collaboration, communication, productivity, performance, and more. Cybersecurity tools, in particular, will increase in demand as more people work from home, and they must shift to put more onus on the employees to learn what to watch out for, because risk increases when employees leave the four walls of an office.

What industries / roles do you feel need to proactively start inculcating more employee friendly work from home policies today? What tips would you share with businesses belonging to industries that have not been accustomed to the concept of remote work?

Obviously, not every industry can easily shift to work-from-home environments. Businesses in industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and others will primarily function as they always have. But any industry that can encourage working from home should absolutely do so. I’m talking about professional services firms like advertising, accounting, legal services, consulting, and so on, as well as product and software companies. When creating detailed policies about how to work from home, HR executives in these industries need to address the whole person, not just the “worker.” Working from home has plenty of benefits for employees, but it can also lead to difficult emotions such as loneliness and anxiety. So businesses need to make sure they offer the resources and support to give remote workers a lending hand when they need it. Another crucial issue for businesses to address as they transition to more employees working from home is that of cybersecurity. Remote work creates a lot more opportunities for scammers, phishers and hackers, so it’s important to leverage effective programs that remind employees to remain vigilant and be on the lookout for suspicious activity. That’s the goal behind the new Motimatic for Cybersecurity solution we rolled out recently.

What other collaboration tools would you advise teams to use, to boost productivity especially during these uncertain times due to the global pandemic and as work from home starts becoming the new normal for several people and industries.

Obviously you need a good video conferencing tool, like Zoom or Skype, or even Google Hangouts, as well as real-time communication apps like Slack or Mattermost, which is worth checking out. Project management apps like Basecamp, Asana or Monday are more critical now than ever for getting teams on the same page and sticking to deadlines. There are also some great time management tools such as Everhour and Timely. Of course, businesses will have to evaluate any tool their employees use for cybersecurity flaws and make sure that they balance work efficiencies with their company’s security policies.

In your journey in tech so far, what are some of the biggest leadership/team building lessons you’ve learnt?

One key lesson is to focus on goal-oriented management rather than task-oriented management. The more that managers can focus on outcomes and results, the more their employees will feel respected and valued. I’ve also learned that most people are pretty self-motivated, and if you can just give them the right guidance and then get out of their way, they will accomplish way more than if you try to micro-manage them. But — and this is a critical point — without the right support they can easily become frustrated or unfocused, which not only hurts their productivity but can have lasting effects on their psyche as well.

Read More: The Rise In Remote Work

We’d love some of your thoughts on building / scaling sales and marketing teams for (product) companies- what are some of your top tips for hiring/building a strong marketing/sales unit here?

My top piece of advice for hiring strong sales and marketing teams is to make sure that candidates align with your company’s culture. There are countless cases where a great candidate has the perfect background but might have different values or working styles from the rest of the team, and the results can be disastrous. Once you have the right team in place, I recommend relying on the tenets of motivation science to keep teams feeling engaged and inspired. For instance, you’ll want to make sure they can connect with the company’s mission so that they feel like they’re contributing to the greater good. It sounds simple, but when employees can truly internalize the company’s mission and see how their efforts contribute to it, they are much more productive, loyal — and happy!

If you could change 5 (mundane) things about employee practices/collaboration practices in B2B/tech companies, what would they be?

I would first like to get people to understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to collaboration and communication styles. For example, some people really love Slack, but others feel overwhelmed by the volume and frequency of messages that appear there. So I’d encourage people to understand the best ways to truly communicate with each of their colleagues. I’d also like to encourage B2B tech companies to give employees more time to let their creativity flow — we tend to get so bogged down in running the race as fast as we can that it’s easy to lose track of where the finish line is, so sometimes it’s better to step away from all of these tools that can feel like they run our lives. Another change I’d like to see is companies using these collaboration tools for monthly mixers and social gatherings, to let people bond on a personal level that doesn’t involve talking about deadlines and commitments.

 Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!

Jo Dennis, Chief Human Resources Officer at Pinterest

A few tips for businesses worldwide dealing with the current world pandemic

Understand that, while the pandemic will eventually end, many of the changes we are going through now will have permanent and lasting effects. So take a proactive approach to creating the type of work environment that you want to see in the future.

Motimatic was founded on the core belief that people do great things with the right encouragement and guidance. As a public benefit corporation, the company focuses on moving people forward by partnering with organizations and employers whose bottom lines are improved by the success of the people they serve. Motimatic’s turnkey marketing-for-good platform combines behavioral science with online advertising technologies, proprietary personalization algorithms, and micro-engagement strategies to deliver dynamic messaging guided by each individual’s propensities and online habits.

A nationally recognized expert in designing and researching the impact of innovative technologies, Dr. Michelle Riconscente currently serves as Chief Operating Officer at Motimatic, PBC. Her diverse skill set spans interactive product design, learning and motivation science, assessment design, and independent evaluation research. Prior to joining Motimatic, Michelle served as managing director of learning and assessment at GlassLab. She founded the Designs for Learning consultancy, where her clients included the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Digital Promise, UCLA, MIT Education Arcade, Michelson Runway Accelerator and Amavitae. Earlier in her career, as a professor of educational psychology at the University of Southern California, she authored the first experimental study of an iPad learning app. The author of over 100 publications and presentations, Michelle holds a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park and an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in mathematics-physics from Brown University.