Technology has created a world in which we don't need to come to work in order to actually get work done. This means that managing remote teams is a new reality for most leaders. In 2016, it's expected that nearly 63 million workers will do some form of telecommuting. Companies like AMEX and Aetna report savings of $10-75M due to remote workers alone! Not only is this a significant shift in the way businesses operate, but making this shift allows companies to increase their profitability by making the jump to a remote workforce.
So the question becomes, how do you lay the foundation to create an effective remote workforce environment for your company? At Delegate, we intentionally built our company to operate 100% virtually and have over 8 years of experience managing a national team of remote workers. Below are five tips that we can share as you consider moving your staff "out of the office."
1: COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Effective Communication - Managers of remote workers must be proactive communicators. This includes investing in technology that allows your team to remain connected to their work and their teammates. For example, we utilize tools like Skype and Zoom for our meetings so we are always face to face. Tools like Slack or Google groups allow teams to quickly communicate via chat and our favorite tool Asana allows our team to simply manage projects through streamlined communication.
2: ALWAYS BE GOALS-FOCUSED
Set Clear and Attainable Goals for Their Work - In order to be successful, remote workers must operate as self-starters and will thrive with goals-focused direction from you. Provide metrics around the stated goals and projects, and clarity around how they are producing in relation to each goal. If your team is collectively working towards a shared goal, provide an online portal or hub where they can view the team's overall progress against the goal and encourage one another. And remember, it's always critical to provide context around how each person's contribution fits into the overall goal. Check out ROWE for good context and strategy on how to implement this in your company.
3: SHIFT TEAM VALUE TO FOCUS ON RESULTS-BASED WORK
Modify Management Techniques - Remote workers will not base their value in clocking in and out, but in the results they are able to produce. They have the ability to develop their own scenarios to tackle the demands of their job because of this value shift. As employers we must set them up for success with clear expectations around work, in conjunction with results-based goal setting plans. As leaders we will need to evolve our value mindset to find new and creative ways to track employee engagement and productivity as a component of our bottom line. Great resources like Flexjobs can help you find team members that already have this mindset in place at the time of hire!
4: PROCESSES ARE CRITICAL
Your processes are the differentiator of your business. The more you can document repeatable parts of the work your staff is completing, the less room for errors or questions. Make it part of your team's responsibility to consistently document steps and notes for any recurring work they do for clients or the company. This allows your team to easily hop in and cover one another without missing a beat. Having these clearly laid out also reduces your management oversight time on a daily basis. It also allows you to view pieces of your business that can be potentially outsourced to a remote support team and off of the plate of your overwhelmed team. Tools like Asana allow you to create replicable templates for ongoing projects that recur each week/month and helps everyone stay accountable to their contribution.
5: CREATE ACCOUNTABILITY STRUCTURES
Ensure they know your expectations and communication chain. As you lay this out, it's also important to develop a communication check-in protocol and regularly reach out to remote workers to continually sync up on issues or priorities for their work that align with business objectives. We utilize tools like Wufoo and Toggl to view team time details and for our team to report in on their activities. We also have a video training program introducing all of our key staff, their roles and contact info. Providing these details from the start can eliminate much of the confusion related to management issues.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.