If there is one good thing technology has done for organizations, it is opening up the global talent pool. Geographical boundaries are no longer a restriction when it comes to hiring talents.
Of course, this comes with a plethora of benefits. If your team is fully remote, you don’t need an office space. You get to save on rent and office overheads. In addition, your chances of landing top most talents are heightened as it doesn’t matter which corner of the world they are in. Also, allowing employees the flexibility to work when they are most productive enhances their productivity and performance.
However, amidst these benefits also lie some challenges. Managing people spread across different geographical locations is no mean feat. Managers must find ways to make them feel connected even when working in isolation, promote teamwork, and enhance productivity.
That being said, here are some tips to help you manage your current or future distributed teams.
1. Have a laid down communication rules
Communication is the number one rule when managing people who are not working in the same room. It is practically blood life for virtual teams.
The only way to know how your workers are doing is through communication. Managers issuing instructions, feedback, and updates, and employees asking for help when stuck, this is all communication.
If clear communication lacks in a remote team, it can cause a hurdle to the smooth progression of work. As a manager, you need to have a laid down communication policy for your distributed team. The policy should include things such as how your employees can reach you in case of an emergency, what they can do in case they can’t reach you. It should take into account time zone differences among other things. In addition, decide on the best communication and collaborative tools depending on the needs of your team.
2. Hold regular meetings
Besides having a communication policy in place, you should ensure that you hold virtual meetings on a regular basis. Bringing team members together is essential in fostering a sense of belonging and teamwork. Employees work better knowing that they are a part of a bigger picture.
You can start by having meetings at the start of the week to discuss the week’s tasks and goals. Have another meeting in the middle of the week to discuss the progress, and probably another one at the end of the week to wrap up. In addition, use these opportunities to know and connect with your employees better. You can have the first few minutes of the meeting as a session to discuss non-work matters.
3. Facilitate knowledge sharing
Knowledge is a crucial resource for any organization, whether with a remote team or not. Managers need to facilitate knowledge sharing, as it is one way to pass expertise across teams and support learning for employees. Thus, it should be a consistent practice as well as transparent and accessible to each of the team members.
While it can be easy to share knowledge where employees work in close proximity, managers of remote teams have the task of finding the best ways to do this effectively. Thankfully, technology has made it easy to share knowledge easily. For instance, RAR files allow compression of files, which makes it faster and easier to upload and download them. Team members only need to have a RAR opener to access the files. Members can utilize such a tool for faster sharing of information.
4. Allow employees to follow their own schedules
In a traditional office, managers tend to measure employees’ productivity with the number of hours they see them at the office. What they don’t know is that an employee can be there the whole day and only be produced a fraction of the time.
When it shifts to a remote setup, managers need to get rid of this mentality. Allow the workers freedom over their schedule so that they can work when they feel most productive. Remote working setup is purely based on trust. You need to trust your workers that they will deliver, and only measure productivity with the results they give.
5. Hire the right individuals
How easy your time will be managing distributed teams depends on the individuals you choose for your team. Not everyone is cut to work in a remote team. People who thrive in a remote setup are self-driven. They don’t need someone constantly on their throats to complete tasks. They are also built to work in isolation and are good at finding their own motivation to charge through the day.
From the onset of setting up a team, you should be looking out for these extra skills on top of the job qualifications. Ask questions such as how one stays motivated during the day, or why they chose to work remotely among others in that line. That is how you will be able to determine the right individuals for remote setup. After onboarding, ensure that you state clearly your expectations so that you can start off on the right foot.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for managing remote teams. Each team is unique depending on the type of work and the challenges they face. The above tips give you a starting point. However, you need to know the needs of your team and refine your strategy as it evolves.
Martha Payne is a Personal Growth Coach with 10 years of experience working as a business development professional. She is truly passionate about nurturing talent and ideas that evoke transformative change in individuals, teams, and organizations. Her focus is to help organizations develop leaders for the future – unleashing the full talent, passion, and potential of individuals (in particular Millennials) through tailored leadership development and coaching programs.