If you’re up for the challenge of adapting to manage a remote workforce, here are some helpful tips to bear in mind as a supervisor to remote employees to get the most of the advantages and mitigate the challenges.
Assess the Job
The first step in managing remote employees is asking yourself these questions:
● Can the role be done remotely?
● Should the role be done remotely?
Create a clear job description if you don’t have one already, and ask yourself if this work can effectively be completed offsite. Evaluate the level of collaboration and teamwork required in order to perform the essential job functions. Take into consideration whether or not tools such as video conferencing can suit the situation or if the work requires a face-to-face environment for maximum productivity (Introduction to Managing Remote Employees, n.d.). If you’ve decided this role is a good fit for remote work, keep reading!
Many people want the flexibility of an at-home work environment, but not everybody is well-suited for it. It takes extreme motivation and an ability to stay focused during independent work. Working remotely is a skill in itself, and it’s important that you have that in mind when sourcing talent.
Look for someone that is tech-savvy, self-motivated, and adaptable, with a strong work-ethic and ability to prioritize. This individual needs to be a rockstar at communication and must be organized and reliable. You are looking for a very specific type of candidate, but the good news is that you are not limited to geographical constraints; you may cast a much wider net into the candidate pool to find the best talent out there. Consider conducting interviews that include e-mail, telephone, and video-conferencing so that you may see the candidate’s full communication skillset (Hirsch, 2017).
Become a Communication Pro
Communicating is a must in any organization, especially in a leadership role. But you will need to elevate communication as you know it in order to effectively manage a remote workforce.
The goal is to establish communication channels that make your remote staff feel — frankly — less remote. They need to feel that they are part of a workplace, and that means having the ability to communicate with their peers and supervisors regularly. This will also allow you to have reassurance that what needs to get done is getting done. Create a schedule for meetings, establish expectations for email response time, and be thoughtful in your delivery (Knight, 2015).
Throughout the entire employee lifecycle, bear communication in the forefront of your mind. A good rule of thumb is to over-communicate. Your team will never be angry for having too much information; they will, on the other hand, be dissatisfied if they feel forgotten or blindsighted by information as the result of under-communication.
Create Connection, Collaboration & Culture
Taking it a step beyond basic workplace communication, you are in a position to foster a unique organizational culture that includes your remote staff. It’s critical that they feel connected and are able to collaborate as part of your team. This will ensure that not only are your business objectives supported, but also that your employees feel fulfilled and valued. It’s about building relationships and working together, distance be damned.
But how can we help our employees foster relationships from the comfort of their homes? Get creative.
The challenge: there is no water-cooler to huddle around during break-time.
The solution: give remote employees an outlet for developing personal connections in the workplace.
This could be a chat channel or communication app for your team to communicate through; you could even pose questions to spark conversation. Another fun option is to host a virtual coffee break. Schedule a conference call that is solely for getting to know each other and having a space for personal expression (Connecting with Remote Employees, n.d.). This can bring your team together, increasing loyalty and job satisfaction.
When communicating with your direct reports, be intentional. Take the time to get to know each individual so that you can build trust and strengthen your relationship. Display a genuine interest in their personal and professional goals, and celebrate their victories — big and small.
Provide face-to-face meetings for your remote staff if you have the means. Whether this looks like an annual regional retreat or a monthly lunch meeting, having the opportunity to meet their peers can help your remote staff feel connected and more comfortable collaborating professionally afterwards. Be creative with this and cater it to the needs of your organization (Fica, 2018).
Build Your Toolkit
The world of telecommunication and home-based work calls for a strategically implemented toolkit. Technology has made remote work possible. With the rapid evolution of technology in the workplace, it can be overwhelming to know what you need to help your remote team thrive.
Begin by evaluating your business objectives, organization structure, and job descriptions. Know what type of projects your team works on and what level of collaboration is necessary. A workflow app or project management system may help your employees stay on task and track the progress of projects. This also helps you see what they’re working on in real time.
Then think of all of your communication needs — and I mean ALL of them. What chat tools do you need? What platform will you use for video conferences? Is there a recognition and reward system that you would like to implement?
Once you’ve built your toolkit, be prepared to train your employees how to use these tech tools.
Set Clear Expectations
Remember when I said that communication needed to be on the forefront of your mind at all times? Setting clear expectations is a key part of that.
Your remote staff is likely to be very productive; you’ve hired highly motivated self-starters that are ready to perform. That is great, but it is only valuable to you if they know exactly what is expected of them.
The key here is to define success from the very beginning and ensure that it looks the same for the employee as it does for you. Set SMART goals to reach your desired outcomes, and identify milestones and big calendar events. If you are going to do a 90-day performance review with them, tell them that from the get-go and get it on your calendars. Then follow up. Setting goals doesn’t hold any weight if you aren’t reviewing progress, celebrating small victories, and making adjustments together along the way (Supervising Remote Employees, n.d.).
Some things never change. Whether in a traditional office environment or managing remote employees, training and development must be a priority.
Let’s assume that you’ve had a thorough on-boarding and set your team up for success with your technology toolkit. You’ve got the right people in the right places, but as a leader in the workplace you must take into consideration the professional growth of your staff. Setting development goals strengthens their skills, improves retention rates, and ultimately is a win-win for you and the employee (Developing Remote Employees, n.d.). They are growing professionally and you are gaining a better employee.
Set aside regular time for goal setting with each individual. Have them write both short- and long-term goals, and discuss their previous projects. What did they learn? What challenges did they overcome? How can you better support them? Do they have all of the training and resources they need to succeed?
Your employees want to know that you are reachable and that you share a common goal. Make yourself available to them and be mindful of their time zone. It is reasonable for an employee to expect to be able to reach their supervisor during their working hours. Make a genuine effort to reply to them in a timely manner and show them that you are invested in their work (Fica, 2018).
You spent all that time fostering collaboration, setting goals, and clarifying the expectations. It would be a shame to let all of that go to waste! Especially in an environment in which one may feel isolated, it is crucial to offer recognition and reward. Consider giving a shout out during your next video-conference to that employee that put in extra blood, sweat, and tears to meet a deadline. If your workflow management or communication app offers an employee recognition feature, make use of it! And above all, never forget the power of a simple “thank you.”
Technology and business are two ever-changing worlds, and when they collide in a remote work environment, it means a lot of thinking on your feet. New programs and tools will emerge, some will become outdated, and consumer needs will continue to evolve. We must adapt in this environment. Be ready to make adjustments to your systems, your toolkit, and even your communication style as you work with a variety of different personalities. It is important to have a game-plan, but don’t be afraid to go off-script.
Managing a remote team is undoubtedly a challenge, but the benefits that it can bring in offering employees flexibility and reducing your expenditure are huge. Prioritize communication and bear these tips in mind, and your dynamic team will be set up for success. Go get ‘em!
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If you’re running a remote team or serious about starting one, this is the conference for you. Running Remote Conference 2019 is carefully curated to teach you next-level, actionable strategies and tactics you can utilize the very next day to manage & grow your remote team. This is the conference we’ve been trying to find but until now it didn’t exist. Running Remote is the largest event for practical advice from leading CEO’s, Founders, and Project Managers who build and manage remote teams.
Some of their speakers include Marcie Murray Director of Support Shopify, Amir Salihefendic Founder of Doist, Andrew Warner of Mixergy, Mariano Suarez-Battan CEO of Mural and more. Topics will cover hiring practices, financial management, company culture, collaboration tools and lots more.
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Date: 29–30 June 2019
Location: Bali, Indonesia