6 Surefire Tips On Effectively Managing Remote Employees
How do you effectively manage a talent pool that is spread across the globe?
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Now that we live in an increasingly borderless world—thanks to the Internet and social media—it has allowed companies to tap into talents that were geographically outside their reach before.
“Being able to employ talent outside of your domestic market can lead to diversity of thought, which should provide your business with richer ideas and intellectual capital,” says Richard Hanson, CEO of Jobable Hong Kong. “In the same way, if there is a skill shortage in an area key to your business, then there is greater flexibility in trying to address this by utilizing other markets of talent.”
However, according to Hanson, there are also downsides to this kind of arrangement. For example, a dissipated workforce can easily grow out of control without solid communication frameworks in place, which ensure that productivity and accountability are upheld.
It’s also important to ask yourself whether or not this arrangement is suitable for the kind of business that you do. For example, such jobs as copywriting and graphic design are perfect for the remote arrangement since employees would only need a computer and Internet access. This isn't the case, however, for jobs that require the use of specialized equipment or constant face-to-face collaboration between colleagues.
So how do you effectively manage a talent pool that is spread across the globe and maximize its potential? Here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
1. Encourage effective communication
“From a macro level if you haven't got daily in-person interaction, then keeping the company vision clear to a distributed workforce can certainly be a challenge,” says Hanson. “On a day-to-day basis, the execution of tasks and projects should be more than possible for distributed teams, especially if they are enabled by some of the fantastic online productivity tools available today. At Jobable, we use Trello and Slack, for example.”
He adds that a good company should be more than the sum of its parts. Clear communication is key for distributed teams; without it, businesses can break down very quickly.
2. Establish expectations
You must be clear to the whole team early on about what the goals and expectations are—when they need to be met and how they should be accomplished. That way each member will be held accountable for his or her deliverables.
Even with excellent communication skills, confusion can still arise between managers and employees when it comes to remote arrangements. That is why it’s important that you establish what needs to be done so that timelines are followed.
3. Equip the team with the right tools
Make sure that the team has all the means to do their job and do it well. Give them access to a shared calendar so everyone is aware of the ongoings within the company and eliminate conflicts in scheduling. Set up an online document and file sharing system where the whole team can have access to the materials they need to get work done. Update them with news about the company and other important details they need to be privy to. Furthermore, a communication platform such as Slack on which the whole team can communicate is imperative.
4. Visit the team
Do this as often as you can. In a Harvard Business Review article, Mark Mortensen, associate professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD, says that seeing people in the flesh can build trust within the team. It’s also important for managers to understand the situation in which their team is working, he said. “Join in on a conference call to the home office so you can get a glimpse from their perspective.”
5. Chat with your employees
Managers should see their employees as human beings with goals, dreams, and feelings—not just people whom they can fire off a laundry list of tasks to be accomplished. Engage them in small talk, get to know them, and know how they’re doing. Ask them about the challenges they’re facing and what changes they’d like to see in terms of operations. Inquire about their wellbeing and growth. By doing this you are building rapport with your employees, and more importantly, it imparts a sense of camaraderie.
6. Balance time zone disparity
Scheduling a meeting is especially tricky when it comes to remote employees. Max Armbruster, founder and CEO of TalkPush says, “Nobody likes to wake up to a list of chores. The morning is a time when we all need to find motivation or even possibly find inspiration for the rest of the day. As a manager, you intuitively know that messaging your staff at 6 am to press them for an update on an urgent project would be counterproductive.”
“When working across opposite zones, it's easy to forget that. Managers should therefore make a conscious effort to adapt their cycles to their team. For a manager based in the US working with an Asian team, this means switching on the left brain to execute meticulously in the morning, and switching on the right-brain to etch out inspiring plans in the evening. I got in the habit of scheduling a couple of hours of email in the morning, and to take a break from work in the afternoon, by going on a walk, or running some chores, so that I can be more of a big-idea, thoughtful leader by the time my colleagues wake up.”