Challenges & Opportunities for Managing a Remote Workforce
If your growing business relies on a remote workforce timely access and communication
can pose a huge challenge. Working in an environment where you do not see your team everyday can lead to feeling a lack of connection and even uncertainty about what work is actually being accomplished. It becomes important to be very specific, early on, about what is expected of the team with regard to productivity and how success will be measured.
In addition to being clear about what the company will provide (office equipment, supplies, etc.) it’s extremely important to think about how to keep all team members connected — working toward a shared goal — Communication is key!
Set up a regular communication plan
- This can include formal check-ins and meetings as well as informal day-to-day communications. Remember that people not physically in the office do not have the ability to learn about initiatives and/or changes in direction in a casual manner. They are not having those important “water cooler” conversations.
- A colleague once told me one way she connected her remote team was by instituting a once a week “lunch” meeting. Everyone would connect via a video tool, and depending on the time zone differences, bring their lunch or early morning or evening snack. The only rules were they couldn’t talk about work and they had to commit to no emails or other distractions. Basically using the time to relate to each other, on a personal level, helped in developing stronger working relationships.
Let your team members know what your expectations are
- Provide follow-up and also ask for feedback on how they think things are going — they may not always be the same.
- Assign someone that the team can trust and feel safe with to be available to answer questions or serve as a sounding board to all team members — especially those new to the organization.
- If you have a new team member joining the group make sure all significant organizational materials are made available to them. If there is information on the corporate website or other internal sites, make sure you not only tell them about it but also explain how to gain access to it. After all, some may not be familiar with the vernacular of the organization so you will need to be sensitive to those needs.
Technology is a great tool
We are all used to email and instant messaging to get work done. These still hold true with remote staff, although they become a more important tool to success. You may want to consider implementing some additional tools that can be helpful when working with remote staff.
- Google Docs, or a similar product, is a great way to share information easily.
- There are also IM type products like Slack that promote themselves as a product that works extremely well with remote teams, allowing easy access to online conversations as well as document sharing via the web.
- Video discussions are a great way to have some face-to-face time. Keep in mind if you have not supplied phones, not everyone has the same ability to use certain applications so using your company issued computer is the most efficient way to go.
In the End
It comes down to what I’m calling, conscious communication. Try a variety of tactics, as each team is different. Make sure you are open to suggestions from the team since they will be the best and most direct way to learn what works. All in all it’s about being thoughtful and making a conscious effort to reach out and include your remote team on a day-to-day basis.
HR Expertise On Demand
If you’re a small or emerging business and would like some expert, on-demand guidance on managing a remote workforce or help as your business grows, we’re here for you. Schedule an appointment today at Mercer PeoplePro — we’re standing by and ready to assist, help is only a click away.
Written by Mercer PeoplePro Growing Your Business specialist, Ruth Baylis