Trust and collaboration are the keys to effective remote workforce management. But that’s easier said than done.
Managing remote employees isn’t entirely different from managing in-office team members. Many typical management goals remain the same: you’ll want to encourage two-way communication and daily productivity while giving employees chances at both short- and long-term career advancement. But the change in environment means those goals must be made more explicit and handled with less face-to-face guidance.
Here are the best tips we can give you, based on our 15+ years of experience.
1. Establish Clear Expectations for Virtual Conduct
Social norms might be easy to figure out in person, but a remote workplace needs to make them more explicit to ensure everyone’s working together effectively.
Teams should discuss and decide on their preferred virtual collaboration conduct, such as how promptly co-workers should expect a response to a question.
We recommend taking advantage of business communications platforms like Slack (what we use), which can let you set different statuses such as ‘do not disturb’, ‘on lunch’ or ‘out of office’. Tools such as Google Calendar allow you to display your standard working hours as well as arrange meetings, and can integrate with tools like Slack.
When working remotely, the more information you can convey to one another about the nature of your workday, the better the team’s synergy will be.
2. Check In on Employees Even When Nothing Is Wrong
There are plenty of reasons staff may choose to work remotely, but it can be a strange and lonely experience for them if they’re kept out of the loop. With no daily coffee run or passing small talk, it’s easy for remote employees to feel disconnected from members of the team who see one another on a more frequent basis.
If a remote worker is struggling, they may not feel able to reach out in the same way as they would in the office – so you’ve got to be proactive about keeping in touch, and ensure that regular contact becomes the norm.
Kathryn Smithson, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at PathSocial, suggests that managers should check in on employees even when nothing is wrong.
“Meetings on a regular basis build a culture of open communication… 1:1s are an excellent way to stay on top of progress toward goals and get to know your colleagues better, (and) when things go wrong, you will be better able to put out the flames before they can spread.”
Besides, if you’re only contacting employees when something is wrong, you run the risk that employees will start to associate your presence with exclusively negative interactions, and you can bet your bottom dollar they won’t stick around for long.
3. Celebrate Achievements and Make Time to Socialize
In addition to checking in on employees at appropriate points during the day/week, it is crucial to celebrate your team’s achievements and put aside time to socialize with them, even if they’re fully remote team members.
Celebrating milestones your team members have reached or outstanding work they’ve completed can have a huge impact on productivity and overall success. In 2021, a Great Place to Work study revealed that 37% of workers think the biggest driver for great work is recognition – more than training, promotions, and even salary raises – so communicating to staff that you can see they’ve gone above and beyond can really make a difference.
On top of positive, ‘work-related’ catch-ups, however, hosting additional meetings where the ultimate goal is team bonding and having fun will also contribute massively to your team’s morale.
After-work quizzes, weekly and monthly roundups of company ‘wins’, one-to-one sessions, and appraisals are all examples of meetings that could boost your team’s cohesion and staff morale. There are a surprising number of activities that can actually be done remotely, from wine tasting to mock game shows (we’d highly recommend recreating Family Feud), and you could even get staff to take it in turns to run virtual social events.
4. Set Team and Individual Goals
Every company has performance goals, whether that’s beating a certain competitor, growing revenue a certain amount or securing that next round of funding. It’s easy to get bogged down tracking that overall end goal, and forget to take a step back and set team goals on a regular basis.
Making sure to set and communicate team goals is one of the most important things you can do to keep your team on the same page, no matter where they are. This blends well with a collaborative, results-oriented management strategy, and can add some structure to remote meetings and check-ins. It can also help replace or temper the granular time tracking that often discourages remote workers.
Employees who are aligned with a common end goal can then develop their own personal objectives to reach it, says Corey Walters, founder and CEO of online marketplace Here:
“The best way to measure success in (a hybrid) environment is to ensure each person understands their responsibilities and meets deadlines accordingly, which can be tracked through quantitative KPIs to determine team efficiency.”
Individual goals for specific staff members that contribute to the team goal can be tracked with performance management software.
Leaving staff members wondering exactly what their manager expects of them is a recipe for disaster. Even a motivated, enthusiastic staff member will struggle to move in the right direction if they’re never told what that direction is.
5. Don’t Forget About Remote Training
Leave plenty of space for training and e-learning if your team is working remotely, as most educational material will need to be self-taught. Fortunately, there are a wealth of training resources for you to choose from online, including ways to make online courses, tests, and presentations that employees can do at their own pace. Degreed, Udemy, Workday and Cornerstone are all popular choices.
If utilized correctly, remote training courses and e-learning modules will contribute to your employees’ professional development whilst also refreshing them on important aspects of their roles. For example, cybersecurity e-learning modules that cover important principles – such as ensuring confidential data is being stored correctly – can be repeated every six to 12 months to ensure best practices are being maintained.
E-learning courses, and all types of remote training, will also have positive consequences for your business’ management team. They’ll free up valuable time that would otherwise have been used to host training sessions on the same topics or rectify mistakes made by poorly trained employees.
6. Install the Right Technology
As anyone who’s rushed to install Zoom or Teams over the past couple of years will know, having the right technology to actually implement all of the tips discussed above is just as crucial as following the tips themselves.
Courtesy TechCo. By Aaron Drapkin. Article available here.