A straightforward guide for business leaders and remote team managers
Remote teams are extremely common in today’s workforce. That’s because companies realize the impact remote work has on employee satisfaction, productivity, and cost reduction. Despite the benefits, however, it can be challenging to manage a remote team in a way that makes its members feel like they’re working toward the same goals.
I’ve spent over 12 years striving to build and maintain corporate cultures to support remote work. While doing this, I provided jobs to thousands of remote workers in multiple countries. Here are some tips that may help your business to deal with remote work, for which there is an increasing demand due to coronavirus outbreak. What is more, sometimes there is no choice.
Ability and motivation to work remotely
When you hire someone, applicants not only choose your company because of the position and remuneration but your brand, location, community and corporate culture as well. Home-based working is primarily selected by those who want to work from home. A typical employee at traditional service centers often has a higher need for affiliation, that means they need to feel a sense of involvement within a social group. If the need for social interaction is high, the advantages of a home-based opportunity are less attractive, especially when they will have to work physically isolated, without the sense of belonging to workplace communities.
Managing home-based employees also could be difficult if they’re primarily or only motivated by the salary, rather than by solving problems, helping others, self-improvement or creating values. Money is only one of the motivational incentives, and researchers say that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. Other than the motivational factors, it’s also worth to consider if the potential employee can afford and maintain a quiet, separated place at home, dedicated to working without distractions. It is definitely easier for older generation. Based on my experience, they are more appreciative towards a stable remote opportunity, they like spending more time with the family and less time with commuting. Especially seniors enjoy customer service and roles where life experience matters.
To find a good fit it’s crucial for labor-heavy businesses to properly assess personalities during recruitment. There are many tools that can help you evaluate prospective candidates, our best experience is with Hogan Assessment systems, which measures different psychometrics and predicts performance and workplace fit. A reliable personality assessment helps you to know about a person’s key motivators, works style, and reduce the challenges of team dynamics that is a vital component in a remote environment.
Mixing models makes it harder
Large organizations train remote workers onsite first before sending them home. The problem with this is that you might hire employees that like to work in the office, but not from home. They’ll accept it, but they may only enjoy the on-site part, and that means somebody will be disappointed on the long term; either you or your employee or both. If you go remote, do it 100% and fulfill your employees’ social needs with a frequent communication and virtual community-building.
You really don’t need to see each other
It’s great to have personal meetings, and video sessions as well; since remote-only is only sufficient up to a certain point, for example, management meetings still benefit from face-to-face conversations. However, visual meetings can sometimes lose focus and add an unnecessary layer to your work relationship. For most non-managerial workflows, the phone, chat, email and collaboration platforms are perfectly adequate to keep all parties focused and giving less basis for discrimination or other unnecessary, unconscious emotional factors that may affect achieving your goals.
Different skill sets for HR and management
A seasoned recruiter has an established track record finding people locally. They maintain a relationship with student organizations, universities, staffing agencies, for example. However, these skills and networks are counterproductive for remote recruitment as you need to think globally without geographic limitations. A recruiter for remote workforce has to be good at marketing and online communications instead of traditional HR skills. The same applies to people management. Most managers are excellent managing employees in person, however sometimes they feel lost, powerless if the team members are away, and trust issues tend to increase. Fostering management accountability and evaluations based on performance – instead of emotions – helps to reduce the gap.
Culture as a basis
Companies should be governed by policies and procedures first, and then by people. An authoritarian leadership doesn’t work in a remote environment; neither does “stick and carrot” management models. If you can’t put away “punishment” or manipulative tactics and focus on supporting and coaching instead, remote team management will be hard for you. It all starts with trusting your employees, even if they are out of sight.
Impulsive and emotional decisions create uncertainty as there’s less room for correction. It’s better to follow a written operating procedure that is transparent with your team. Creating these documents is a lot of work sometimes but it’s worth it; an open policy works as an “internal law”, strengthens accountability and builds trust between workers and managers.
Tools and performance metrics
It’s easy to get lost, exploring and implementing multiple collaboration platforms. Slack, Trello, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace, Asana, Monday.com. It all depends which suits your workflow best and how fast your team gets familiar with it. Whichever you use, it’s critical to create a useful management dashboard with the relevant metrics. It’s not easy added on top of platform implementation and training; however, once you have a great dashboard, it makes your life easier. Relevant KPIs help you make better decisions and communicate better on people’s performance. The whole company will be much more efficient and stable with a performance focus, supported by metrics.
Rather overcommunicate than leave your team in the dark
Efficient remote team management requires frequent and structured communication. Set up and communicate your agenda in advance and stick to the points. When you prepare, and manage expectations, your team will be much more productive remotely than in the office. Watch what you say and how you say it, as your words are much more powerful remotely and your message is easy to misunderstood. There’s less room for correction online, and to compensate by improvising could easily create unnecessary turbulence in team dynamics.
Strong bond in a virtual community
Whether people work remotely or on-site, there is the natural human need to be a part of a community that shares the same values. Communicate your goals, vision and values frequently to help everyone align with corporate identity. Create channels, content and activities for socializing and community building purposes. This way people can learn more about each other, share common goals and engage with your brand. Loyalty, integrity and commitment are the values that set your team’s long term success. With the right approach, these can be built among remote teams, just as among their office-based counterparts. A well maintained virtual community can make its members feel as if they are a part of something important, they can create an impact together, and sometimes this bond can be even more powerful online, than in an office environment.