Remote Talks: Episode 1 - Engagement, Bias, and Inclusivity with Tayo Rockson

Welcome to Remote Talks!

Remote Talks is a series of video interviews with the brightest minds in remote work and global employment, hosted by Remote CEO Job van der Voort. In the first episode, we welcome UYD Management CEO Tayo Rockson to talk about engaging remote teams, combating natural bias, and managing across different cultures.

To see the full interview, watch the video on this page or view the Remote Talks playlist on YouTube. If you’re short on time, save the video for later and check out these quick insights from guest Tayo Rockson.

Remote Talks: Insights From Episode 1

Are companies right now doing enough to create long-term plans for diversity, or are their strategies mostly reactionary?

Tayo: A lot of pressure has been put on companies. It’s hard to gauge if it’s authentic or not...but in my experience, the companies that have reached out to me have been more interested in working out sustainable plans. My concern, and the true test would be, what happens a year from now?

Is it enough to start hiring more global talent, or do companies need to think beyond just where they hire?

Tayo: Widening the net is a start. Then you’re not going to have the excuse of demographics in cities...but then you can also think about demographics from the idea of different ages, generations, nationalities. All those perspectives add culture, in essence, to your company...That’s a different dimension of diversity and inclusion.

What’s the obvious next step that comes after a company begins recruiting around the world?

Tayo: It’s the inclusion aspect of this. Communication is a big part of inclusion. Many companies fail with the communication aspect. What is communicating updates, communicating the people development plan? If you’re a startup, talking about the state of the company. When there was not a pandemic, that was already a problem. With the pandemic, it’s hard to mimic that environment for CEOs.

It becomes very easy to justify not having time with what’s going on...That’s why I always say when you’re in a remote environment, structure is the most important thing you can provide as a leader. 

Have you noticed engagement issues at newly remote companies? How can companies fix those issues?

Tayo: Some people are “Zoomed out.” It’s a good chance for people to figure out how to engage more and more...to communicate beyond what we’re used to. 

This is a good chance for people to decide to be proactive and say, let me get to know John. Let me get to know Kofi. Let me get to know Margaret. There has to be that onus, that company culture that promotes that. Sometimes people feel like, ‘I don’t want to overstep. I don’t know if this person knows me.’ They won’t know anything unless there is that environment of cohesiveness.

How can people working remotely make connections when working with people from different cultures?

Tayo: [Remote work] has caused people to relax a lot on some of the cultural norms they might have had. The big cultural differences would be timing, as people have different flexibility with time...Now, that has to be more rigid.

Sometimes in meetings, in some cultures, they don’t speak unless they get called on. It’s hard to figure out how to call upon people in different settings...It’s become imperative for people to set the standard and say, ‘In this setting, I’m going to talk this way, so feel free to have more input.’ I do think with that clarity, people are getting used to it.

Is the idea of ‘returning to normal’ after the pandemic more harmful than helpful?

Tayo: Holding onto the concept that we’re going to go back to normal is probably not going to help people. The normal that we’re going to experience is going to be new. 

I specifically work on bias and team building so people can understand how to communicate effectively and how to build trust, build rapport, so that as the months go by, people don’t feel they’re incompetent. That plays a big role in morale.

How can remote leaders overcome their natural biases when interviewing remote candidates?

Tayo: We all have biases. If your first interaction with someone is virtual...It’s easy for people to default to their triggers. Our biases get triggered mostly when we don’t have enough time. We’re multitasking, we’re tired. Even if you have all these good intentions, if you haven’t actually reflected on your biases, you misinterpret things.

Awareness plus action equals change. Awareness is a good part of it, but action comes from that commitment to unlearning and commitment to being open.

What should companies do when some people want to work remotely and others want to return to the office?

Tayo: Some people are going to like the new model. The onus is going to be on companies to come up with a flex model to accommodate both types of [working styles]. People will really need to pick up on the rapport in the virtual environment...You’re going to have to be more vigilant, more proactive about getting to know people.

How has remote work changed the hiring landscape?

Tayo: People are going to start to realize they don’t have to just move for a job...I’ve seen a lot of people leave New York and a lot of people stay in New York. The ones who stay truly love the city, but those who leave realize they don’t have to be here. They can go back to their family’s home. And companies are accommodating.

You wear amazing suits. How are you dealing with the pandemic? Are you wearing suits around the house?

Tayo: I love suits. I noticed during the pandemic I have started wearing more t-shirts. But I do like to wear suits.

It is something I miss. But it’s a small price to pay for trying to provide a safe world. I haven’t found myself being as comfortable wearing the suits [on video calls] as I thought I would be. I was doing it at first, and then I noticed everyone was in their t-shirts...Maybe I should just relax.

Follow @TayoRockson on Twitter and learn more about UYD Management at TayoRockson.com.

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