With technology offering a myriad of options supporting connectivity to the office, employers must continuously alter management approaches as remote workforces become a business reality. This oftentimes requires creative communication techniques, oversight of performance, and motivating and tracking accountability – all of which are vital total team success.
First and foremost is connectivity. Although physically separated, employees should feel they are part of the team and deliver accordingly. Management must also promote accessibility to provide guidance and monitor when issues arise. A mutual understanding of the value presented from both sides must exist in order for this type of work environment to succeed.
It takes a creative hand and some flexibility to make management of remote employees work. However, with a drive and some focus, it is possible and will produce positive results. The top five areas to carefully consider when managing both an on-site and remote workforce include:
Create strong employee-manager relationships.
Every successful relationship requires mutual respect from both sides. In the professional world, it also requires professional bonding and creative collaboration to achieve common goals. When employees are remote, it is difficult for managers to respond to body language and facial expressions. Technology helps here with video-conferencing. Management should make it a point to stay connected to remote employees so they still feel they are part of the team.
Be sure everyone is on the same page. Clear communication between all members, not just manager to employee, is vital. “You don’t need to talk to your employees all the time, but you do need an easy way for you and your workers to communicate when there’s a need. And since a good manager often does more listening than talking, it really needs to be a two-way process.” (Source: Telogis)
When giving an assignment or a directive to a remote employee, be sure to have them reiterate the task back to you, so you know they fully understood. Again, the inability to read body language and expressions can falsely lead a manager to believe all is well. If you are adept at hearing any sign of uncertainty, then you will be able to question it. Otherwise, an employee may think one thing, while you wanted entirely something else. Diligent communication is essential to keeping the remote members connected and in the loop.
Maintain individual and team accountability.
Communicate expectations of both on-site and remote employees from the start. Explain that while some employees may not be in the office, they are still accountable. Clearly defining roles and expectations will prevent misunderstandings. Setting guidelines before the start of a project can help the team, remote employees, and management get off to a good start.
Improve company culture.
By stressing the importance of an employee’s role and their overall impact on the future growth and success of the company, not only will your employees enjoy seeing their hard work translated into tangible results, but your business will function more efficiently because of it. When the desire to become an important contributor to continued growth and success becomes widespread, you can foster a culture of productivity and success.
Australian companies are a great example of organizations that value corporate culture. One company, Royal Canin, devotes large resources towards fostering a happy and productive work environment for their employees, which has ultimately enabled them to become one the most popular brand names in Australia for pet food. (Disclosure: The writer of this article is affiliated with Royal Canin and opinions expressed are those of the author.)
Conduct effective staff meetings.
This won’t be easy, but finding the right time during the week when all team members can participate in a staff meeting is essential. According to Gigaom contributor Mitchell Harper, “Similar to a daily stand-up meeting in teams using Agile methodologies, a quick five-minute call or video chat on Skype every morning is a great way to hear progress updates from your team, as well as identify roadblocks that might get in the way of completing your project.” This is most challenging when dealing with employees scattered around the world; but is most important, because when everyone on the team comes together periodically, synergy is strengthened.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Simon Crompton is a freelance journalist and entrepreneur, who spends the majority of his time blogging about business startups and consulting on web development. He has launched multiple online companies. He is also a dedicated follower of fashion, and has written for the Financial Times and GQ. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.