How To Manage A Remote Team Effectively
For budding businesses, hiring remote workers (usually freelancers) brings plenty of advantages. You’ll be able to bring on the best talent regardless of their geographic location, as well as reduce or eliminate office and other operating costs. Additionally, remote workers were found to be 29% more productive than other employees.
But, as I’ve found myself, there are clear challenges associated with managing a remote team. Their distance and lack of centralised physical connection means that day-to-day management is a challenge.
In a scaling business, remote teams are a bonus and a risk – but through good management you can overcome said risk and scale with confidence. Here’s my guide on how to manage a remote team in a better way.
Your main challenges from remote teams
Hiring remote teams can take many guises, depending on what kind of person you are and what business you want to run. You might choose freelancers who work remotely but live in the same city as you, or you might end up with an international roster. The challenges associated with these teams will vary depending on your set-up, but are generally:
- Lack of direct management supervision
- Reduced or non-existent face-to-face communication
- Less buy-in to the company culture
- Harder to track results and productivity
- Social isolation and distraction associated with home working
I’ve encountered every single one of those problems in my role as a Fractional Operations Director, so let’s borrow from my secret book of operations management to see how you can solve them…
Remote teams need trust to be productive. You can’t breathe down necks and expect good output – you’ll accelerate any negativity against you or the business and either push the employee away entirely or slow them down even more.
Try to build trust and instil company culture through collaborative work environments. Using project / task management software such as Asana or ClickUp makes delegating tasks super easy for remote teams. You can build in recurring tasks as part of your SOPs (standard operating procedures) and you can easily see the workload of every team member, tracking progress on tasks and projects.
Other digital tools such as Slack and Zoom make it easy to interact directly with all members of the team. Build a shared understanding of what the business is doing, where it is aiming to go and how each individual can help you get there and ensure all team members, no matter where they are, have a way to feel like they’re part of that.
Make onboarding exciting
Onboarding a new employee is harder when you’re managing a remote team. There’s no sense of shared space or physical camaraderie – the employee will be in their own chosen workspace trying to grasp your culture and systems.
I wrote quite a bit about onboarding a team member in point 4 of my blog about the 4 Common Mistakes Small Business Owners Make When Hiring (or Outsourcing).
Use video tools like Loom to record introductions to certain technologies or processes as part of your onboarding plan. Document your most important processes and keep them in a shared environment so that employees can reference them whenever they need to, especially if they’re in different time zones and don’t want to disturb you or your team.
Encourage video conferencing (such as Zoom or Google Meet) to introduce the individual to the team. This is also an excellent way to share your businesses goals and vision so the new hire can understand the role they play in growing your business and so they can better grasp your company culture. This is way more effective than just sharing a presentation or documentation.
Consider weekly check-ins
Instead of tracking everyone’s workload individually, schedule a simple weekly team meeting. You should run through any important business updates but then each team member can share what they are working on and you can provide input or suggestions as you need to.
Not only will this help ensure you know what everyone is working on, but it adds a sense of urgency to task management for employees as they know they’ll be expected to demonstrate their goals for the week ahead.
It should never be a punitive measurement, though. Keep meetings light and fast – most remote workers can ‘check out’ easily in video conferences, so try to minimise the time on call and prioritise action and collaborative working.
Set clear KPIs
I love a good Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Not because it’s a punishment – because it’s a clear and trackable metric that helps keep a worker on track, no matter where they are or how they work. The KPI itself must be customised to the worker’s specific role and, going even further, should feed into the business’ overall goals.
For example, if a current business focus is to increase customer acquisition and you know that the majority of customers come from your email marketing, one of the business goals should be to acquire x number of new customers (within a certain timeframe). This would then mean a KPI for your marketing team member to grow your email list with ideal customers by x (number or percentage).
For remote teams, KPIs should always focus on the output rather than the activity itself. Trying to govern HOW a worker might achieve the outcome will suck hours of time or energy away from you and the employee. Track their output, as that’s what matters to your business. If they can achieve their output targets, how they reach them doesn’t really matter (as so long as it’s within the businesses set processes and in line with company values).
Well-managed KPI setting encourages success, not forcing workers to hit arbitrary targets to satisfy management.
Remote workers can suffer burnout as a result of loneliness and disengagement. If you’re managing a remote team, keeping motivation levels high is about trying to encourage a collaborative, social online environment where even the most remote employee feels like part of the team.
Following the tips I’ve given above will help you do just that – but it’s important to think of the specifics of your business and how you can offer unique ways to make employees feel engaged. An ecommerce business could send every employee a new product and ask them to share thoughts on a video call. A marketing agency could get each team to come up with a campaign idea and then play them against one another.
There are endless opportunities to encourage communication – it’s about being creative with the amazing technology we’ve got access to as of 2022.
If an employee is showing signs of burnout, encourage them to take holidays or any other form of break and then keep the line of communication open to show them they’re welcome back with as little pressure as you can.
Is it really so different?
Honestly, the whole concept of managing a remote team is not as complex as it sounds. Modern workplaces are already divorcing themselves from classic micro-management styles and overbearing task tracking. Remote work is just another step towards this, using the same concepts as you’d expect in an office but utilising technology to achieve it.
Once you recognise the idea that output is the most important metric, you can build a more effective operation around that. Build your company culture, keep employees engaged and track the results of their work and you’ll be on a great pathway for scaling success.
If you need support in coming up with the best strategies to scale your remote team, why not work with me? Click here to get in touch.
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