Managing employees remotely can be a challenge, especially for organizations that have previously had all workers on-site. However, the transition to remote work can be a smooth one if planned well. In fact, technology has made it easier than ever for employers to work with remote teams.
With the rising popularity of remote work today, company leaders and human resources experts are likely to have employees in a variety of different locations collaborating with each other remotely. Whether you're a leader managing a team of remote workers for the first time or an HR professional looking for ways to improve how your organization operates, here are some best practices and strategies that will enable you to successfully manage employees remotely.
Hire the Right People
Relevant skills and experiences are important, both for in-office and remote jobs. When it comes to hiring remote workers, however, it is important also to consider a candidate’s ability to work in a remote environment. For example, if a job candidate expresses a strong desire to collaborate face-to-face with their team members, they may not be the best fit for a remote job that only allows them to see coworkers virtually.
Another concern to keep in mind when hiring remote employees: keep an eye out for whether or not they are able to work independently. Because managers will not be keeping visible tabs on remote workers, it is important that these workers can motivate themselves to stay on task and perform their duties well without direct physical supervision.
Hold Regular 1:1 Meetings
One-on-one meetings are an essential part of managing a remote team. These small check-ins provide a forum for managers and team members to discuss performance, address issues, and give feedback — as well as to connect on a more personal level as coworkers.
Make one-on-one meetings a routine part of your organization’s work culture by setting up an initial conversation between the new hire and their manager at the start of their employment. This time can be used both to discuss upcoming goals and to get up to speed on current projects and plans. By holding regular meetings, each member of the organization has a clear understanding of the overall goals, the tasks at hand, and the parameters for achieving success.
These check-ins can also be a great time to discuss employee progress and performance. After all, most employees appreciate being told what they are doing well and what they could improve on more than once a year during annual reviews. Use this time to also ask employees about their overall happiness with the work environment. This will help gauge employee satisfaction and support a positive company culture.
Get the Technology Right
It is possible to successfully manage remote teams remotely so long as you have the right tools, practices, and people on board. Since remote work makes regular face-to-face meetings difficult or impossible, organizations need to have tools in place to allow remote employees to communicate with each other effectively.
The first step is to identify your needs for the team and then choose appropriate technology solutions. For starters, invest in video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype. This is especially important if you have employees who spend a lot of time in meetings with clients or colleagues who live far away from their offices. Video calls provide a more personal and flexible communication method than phone calls or emails. Video conferencing tools can also improve efficiency because they allow employees in different locations to share ideas instantaneously.
Companies may also want to invest in messaging software to help team members better collaborate with each other on specific projects. Chat applications like Slack allow instant communication between team members regardless of where they are located geographically. At its core, Slack allows users to create conversations on a variety of different discussion topics that are relevant within particular projects or topic areas. This means anyone with access rights can join any conversation taking place in the organization at any time, which makes it easy for everyone involved to stay connected and up to date, no matter where they're located.
For project management and task tracking, tools like Trello or Monday can be useful. By keeping all conversations on a specific task collected in one place, these tools make it easy for all team members to see the latest status of any project.
Finally, Google Docs and other cloud-based programs can help workers collaborate on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets in real time. Multiple users can access and edit a piece of work simultaneously, allowing for the flexible development of projects.
Invest in a Collaborative Space
If a number of your employees live close to each other, consider investing in a dedicated office space where employees can meet face-to-face, whether occasionally or frequently. This can help create stronger ties between coworkers and offer a useful environment that brings people together as needed.
Communication is key to managing employees remotely. When employees are located in different cities, states, and even countries, organizations must take special care to ensure everyone is kept in the loop about important company news, changes, or decisions.
It's important that expectations are communicated clearly and that workers are given a chance to ask questions and share their opinions. A top-down mentality that only informs employees of company decisions after the fact without involving workers in the decision-making process can make workers — especially remote workers — feel dismissed, unimportant, and disconnected.
Make Sure Managers are Present and Accessible
Good remote managers are available to their team members. Ensure all employees can easily ask questions, receive feedback, and seek direction from the people they report to.
Employees also need to be able to contact human resources with ease, should personal or work-related issues come up. To ensure this is the case, members of the human resources team need to provide efficient ways to allow people to contact them, whether by email, Skype, phone call, or other methods.
Invest in Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is a critical aspect of remote management. According to Gallup, engaged employees are more likely to be productive, happy, and loyal — and less likely to leave the company.
Employee engagement is affected by many factors, but one outsized influence is the behavior of managers. Micromanaging bosses, for example, can drive even the most motivated employees toward disengagement. Great managers give employees room to do their jobs while offering support, leadership, and mentorship as needed. Managers who take an interest in their staff members' lives outside of work also tend to have higher levels of employee engagement than managers who don't.
Engaged workers are likelier than disengaged workers to have positive attitudes about their jobs and work well with others within their organization. When people feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves as individuals, it creates a sense of purpose that can positively influence the way they approach their jobs each day.
Stay Connected With Your Team Wherever You Are
Remote teams are becoming more common in today’s digitally-connected world. Thus, it’s vital that organizational leaders use best practices when managing remote teams. From hiring self-motivated employees to offering technologies that make remote collaboration simple, organizations have many different creative approaches at their disposal to foster strong performances from their remote employees.
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