How to Manage Remote Employees
"Effective team is the key to successful business development." This slogan has long been known to the leading managers, working in various fields of production, trade and services. The ability to choose the right specialists, to form a complete team able to achieve its goals successfully, is essential for the modern manager. But what if you are managing a remote team, administration of which has a number of specifics? This is what we want to discuss.
The modern labor market is characterized by a high degree of globalization that
allows companies to use the services of qualified professionals living in other regions, or in other countries even, without additional financial costs, and exercise the fruitful remote team management.
Having certain experience in hiring the developers’ services and managing remote teams of programmers residing in other countries, we have identified a number of points that need to be taken into consideration for the organization of coordinated work of geographically dispersed teams:
• Specifics of the working process with remote employees;
• Organization of effective interaction and communication with remote employees;
• Features of motivation of virtual team members.
We would also like to share some essential tips for managing remote employees.
What are the specifics of the working process with the remote employees?
Workflow with a remote employee has its own features. This is primarily due to the fact that some members of your staff may reside in different time zones, and therefore such an important part of managing remote employees, as the organization of joint meetings, becomes an offbeat task. Therefore, our first advice is: try to balance the work schedules of your workers.
Indeed, quite often it happens that some of your staff members live in different time zones. In our practice there was a case when a couple of developers lived at minus 6 and plus 8 hours difference from the time of the most of the team. The ability to find a balance between different work schedules of employees and select suitable time for a work meeting that would be most convenient for each of them becomes the solution in such a situation while managing remote workers.
Read also: How to choose an outsourcing company?
What needs to be done to organize an effective interaction and communication with remote employees?
It is necessary to promote solidarity periodically by encouraging participation of professionals working remotely in the general meetings. This will allow them to feel themselves a full part of the team, whose opinion is important for their colleagues and supervisors, thus promoting the successful virtual team management.
Thus, our next suggestion - create a tradition of connecting remote employees to general meetings using Skype or similar communication program. Hardly should you miss the opportunity to bring to the discussion of a specific issue those of your staff members, who are endowed with appropriate competence and expertise in it. When such employee works in the same office, it is simple enough to do. However, if the specialist is a remote worker, bringing him to the general meeting may require some extra effort from remote employee management.
Read also: How to Build a Remote Development Team?
Effective communication with remote employees is one of the key points in the construction of a functional team. The quality of communication often determines the overall level of understanding, emotional mood and, as a result, the productivity of the group. Therefore, you should make an effort to organize successful interaction with each of your teammates, including those working remotely. To achieve this:
• Have more one-on-one conversations;
• Be a careful and responsible interlocutor;
• Show emotions;
• Hold eye contact;
• Organize general activities for the whole team.
Personal communication is the only way to truly understand a person
Spend some time to personally connect with each of the remote workers. Since you do not have opportunities for regular face-to-faces with remote employees in the office, try to compensate for this by personal communication via chat apps like:
Moreover, do not limit your contact with staff by task discussions and job issues only. Do not avoid the small talk, show your workers that you seek to understand them, are interested in their lives, hobbies, and concerns. Such attention of the superior, manifested at the right time, not only contributes to a positive emotional state but also allows you to secure the loyalty of employees, which will remain even if you err or make an unpopular decision.
Of course, it may be difficult to keep in memory all the personal information about each of your subordinates, especially those communication with whom is limited to one or two hours a week. Invaluable assistance in the structuring and storage of such information can be rendered by the project management applications like:
Requiring from your subordinates to be responsible towards the commitments, undertaken by them, you yourself should set an example of such behavior. This is especially true in case you have set time for the private conversation with someone from the staff. Note that remote workers sometimes have to make extra efforts to get in touch with you exactly at the appointed time, and the cancellation of the planned private conversation is extremely undesirable. Choose convenient time to talk to each such employee, fit those conversations into your schedule and try to adhere strictly to the plan. In case of urgent need, you can postpone the planned conversation, but cancelling it altogether would be a serious mistake.
Emotions are the key feature of productive communication
Another important point is associated with the peculiarities of human emotional perception. The scientists who research people’s emotional sphere (here’s an example of related studies) say that non-verbal communication is as much a part of the conversation process, as spoken words are. For this reason, try to use video conferencing whenever possible.
Of course, most of your communication with remote employees goes by text, through emails or messengers. It is worth mentioning that the words themselves cannot convey clearly the feelings of interlocutors. The words’ “dryness” should be compensated with the help of animated GIFs and emoticons to express your emotional states.
Finally, try to collect all your team, including its remote members, to general assemblies at least once a year. This helps to establish much closer personal links than any distant communication will.
Team motivation – what are the specifics of dealing with remote employees?
Let us discuss such an important factor as the employees’ motivation improvement and team building practices. Most of the methods you use to motivate your stationary staff members can also be applied to those working remotely. For example, if a company has a customary to distribute promotional T-shirts, notepads, pens and etc. among staff or to present the employees’ children with sweets for Christmas, it would be great to send the same materials and gifts to remote workers also (remembering the names and sizes of the employees and their relatives would be a great plus). This allows them to feel your care and attention, which has a very positive impact on motivation.
Moreover, planning career paths of your employees, do not forget about those who are working remotely. Making sure that every member of your team clearly sees their opportunities for development and career growth, despite their distance from the main office, you relieve your subordinates from possible anxieties and irritation, offering them a decent incentive to improve their skills and professional competence.
In this article, we strove to discuss some specifics of successful cooperation with remote employees and give some tips and tricks based on our four-year market experience in managing dedicated offshore outsource development teams.
Most importantly, remember at all times that remote workers are an important part of your team, no less than stationary ones. Putting an effort to create a comfortable work environment for them, you increase their efficiency, which in the end will definitely have a notable positive impact on the general development of your company.