As a manager of a remote workforce – how will ensure your team are supported, productive and engaged?
In 2019, we are starting to see companies reaping the rewards by enabling employees to work remotely. Technology advances with software and communication tools over the past decade have significantly changed the way people work remotely. According to Global Workplace Analytics – flexible workplace options has grown by 40% in the past five years.
Employees are also enjoying the freedom and flexibility of working from their home-based office as they move towards an ideal work-life balance.
I like this statement from Julie Wilson –
“Managing a virtual team requires managers to double down on the fundamentals of good management, including establishing clear goals, running great meetings, communicating clearly, and leveraging team members’ individual and collective strengths.” – Julie Wilson, Harvard University
Nothing in life happens without effort and leading remote employees or managing a virtual team will require all your best leadership skills… plus some!
To ensure success – you will need to approach each day a bit differently.
You already know or may have read my previous post stating how outstanding communication skills are a key leadership trait. When leading and managing remote employees and teams you need to do more than communicate – you need to over-communicate.
Monthly one-on-one meetings with your direct reports will not be enough.
To ensure success you need to check-in daily with your team and create a culture of communication where communication is a key part of how your team operates.
Think about this – if your staff were in the office with you – how often would you interact with them… once, 3 times, twice an hour…?
Here’s the thing – those conversations come naturally as you interact or pass each person in the office however that won’t happen when they’re working remotely.
It’s up to you to drive the communication culture.
Let technology help. Chat tools are great for this – Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype for Business, Messenger – work great for this. A quick “good morning, hope you’re well” message takes a few seconds to start a quick chat conversation and lets your employee know – that you know – they are out there, working away and you care about how they are. Simple and powerful, don’t you think?
If you really want to over-communicate then do this. Make a list of daily employee interactions – share it with the team – and work with them to find a way to include it as a normal process.
Here are a few communication processes I have had success with –
- team meetings – use video conferencing (VC) for every meeting
- daily catch ups – use instant messaging tools or pick up the phone and call people (remember making phone calls 😊)
- one-on-one meetings – use video conference to make it more personable
- daily huddles – get the team to VC into a daily huddle. A 5-minute huddle where remote staff can see the rest of the team helps them feel connected and supported
- group chat-rooms – set up a group chat room where you and your team can send messages to your closed group. This is also great for quick group check-ins – ‘Who had an awesome weekend?’ ‘What did you get up too?’
- email – a normal way we do business however this can be used to over-communicate also. Depending on the content – end the email with a question or a call-to-action and ask recipients to ‘reply all’ – this elicits a response from everyone who receives it and gets a conversation going (note to use this sparingly as we all get a lot of emails each day…).
Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Your remote staff need to know they are being supported and communication is key to this happening.
Communication success summary
- use video calls at every opportunity
- it’s up to you to drive the communication culture
To ensure success when leading remote employees, you will need to work through each day with a business as usual mindset. The main difference will be that some, or all, of your team members may not physically be in the office.
Building team collaboration assists to build trust between you and the employee and bonds team members together.
When remote employees feel supported and confident to have their ideas heard the whole team benefits and teamwork is strengthened.
What your team members do matters – and they need to know this.
As the leader, you need to ensure that individuals have a clear understanding of how they contribute to your teams’ goals and the wider organisations objectives. Once this is well understood, you can measure the progress and update your team when achievements or targets have been met.
Don’t aim for a virtual team – Build a community of focused and engaged employees who understand where they belong in the company and feel supported by their peers and leaders. They just happen to enjoy the work-life balance benefits that your company promotes – how awesome is that?
Collaboration success summary
- build trust between all team members at every opportunity
- make the connection between what people do to the company goals
- find ways to be inclusive with all team members
During my leadership career I have been fortunate to work with amazing people in great organisations.
My experience with remote employees varies from creating a ‘first for the company’ geographically dispersed remote team to leading employees who work from their home base 100% of the time or one-to-two days per week.
To ensure success I worked with them to develop processes that were unique for us. The way we completed work, supported each other and communicated was different to other office-based teams.
We provided (and received) feedback, measured team and individual progress and kept the team up to date with the results. I complimented individuals and encourage them to nominate others for reward and recognition at a team and a company wide level.
If you manage your remote employees just like any other team and dial up your key leadership skills, you too will make it work.
One last tip – employees who have a home-based office can sometimes find it hard to ‘switch-off’ and can overwork. They can also do less walking and sit for long periods of time.
To support a healthy workplace – send regular messages reminding employees to stretch, stand up, drink water etc. Support them to shut down their computer at the end of the day, close the (home) office door and end their day.
What’s one tip that’s worked for you and your remote employees?
Keep on learning,