With 50% of the workforce today telecommuting in at least some capacity, there’s a good chance that some of your team are –or may soon be operating remotely as well.
While overseeing a remote workforce may seem difficult if you’ve never hired a virtual worker before, the truth is that it’s no more challenging than managing a workforce in-person. True, there are plenty of aspects of remote management that are unique –like finding the right tools for collaborating remotely and working to ensure that everyone’s on the same page, but these challenges can largely be mitigated ahead of time –by establishing protocols and ensuring that systems are in place. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the benefits of hiring remotely –at least for some positions, generally far outweigh any challenges. For one thing, it’s a great way to gain productive workers, who are self-motivated. For another, it allows you to side-step many of the challenges that come from employing an in-house team –including the expenses of office space and having a team on-site.
If you’re thinking of outsourcing some of your work to a remote workforce, here’s a look at some ways that you can do it –successfully!
- Hire Smart
First things first, hire smart. You don’t have to hire someone full-time right out of the gate. Instead, consider starting your potential hires out by giving them a trial project. Then when it’s done –and you’re sure they’ll be a great fit for your company, you can move them onto bigger projects or more consistent work.
- Set Clear Expectations
Next, just as you would with an in-person team, when it comes to a remote workforce, it’s important to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. This means setting clear expectations from the start, to make sure your team understands exactly what you expect to be done, the processes they should use (when applicable), and the preferred methods of communication. The more prepared you are, the better your team will be able to perform –and the happier you’ll be –so it’s worth taking some time to get this right. It’s also important to remember that quality standards vary considerably across the board, so make sure you’re clear on your expectations, and provide feedback with their work to ensure that it meets your standards.
- Maintain Open Lines of Communication
It’s also important to inform your team that you welcome any questions they might have. The ability to ask questions and seek clarification on any aspects of their projects or assignments that they may be unclear on is crucial to their ability to complete tasks to a high standard. While it may be a bit frustrating, to spend time communicating when you’re looking to save time by outsourcing, keep in mind that once your team is fully on-boarded and familiar with their job requirements, they should be able to do their job largely on their own –with minimal feedback and assistance from you or other team members.
- Be Clear and Concise
When communicating with your team, look to remain clear yet concise. Brevity is always the best approach since too many words will increase the risk of misunderstandings. Seeking to be as concise as possible will also save time –both yours and your team’s.
- Treat Them Fairly
While it’s unlikely that you’d intentionally treat any one of your remote workers unfairly, it’s important to ensure that you extend the same treatment that you give your in-person team to your remote workforce. Thank them, give them positive feedback, and always treat them politely and courteously. A little respect will go a long way towards boosting worker satisfaction and keeping everyone happy.
- Get the Right Tools
When it comes to successfully managing a remote team, you’ll want to ensure that you have the right tools in place to help make everyone’s job easier. In some cases, the ability to share calendars –using a tool like Google Calendar can be helpful –as it allows everyone to see, at a glance, when everything is due and makes it easier to manage workloads. Additionally, a project management tool –like Trello or Asana is another good idea –especially if you have multiple team members all working on the same project. You’ll also want to have a tool like Skype for meetings or video conferencing.
- Implement Systems
It’s a good idea to ensure that you have the necessary framework in place for your team, so look to create systems for assigning work to them, and in some cases, protocols for them to follow as well. Standard operating procedures (SOP) will allow you to easily assign projects, while helping to manage expectations and ensure quality. Particularly when it comes to interactions with others, having a documented way of doing things –including tools to use, systems to follow, and communication protocols also mean that it’ll be easier for your team to work together as well. Don’t forget to revisit your procedures from time to time. This will give you a chance to refine your processes –continually perfecting them to overcome potential challenges, and as you discover new and better ways to do things.
- Avoid Micromanaging
While systems are important, equally important is knowing when to step back and give your team some degree of flexibility. Fight the temptation to micromanage the details of how your team does their work, and instead pay attention to outcomes and deliverables. For example, unless you’re hiring for positions that require your team to be on the clock, in most cases, it will make sense to give your team members the freedom and flexibility to design their own schedules and workdays. It doesn’t really matter how –or when, they do their work –as long as they’re able to get their assignments in on time! Unless it’s a job requirement, consider giving them some flexibility with their hours, and allowing them to make their own schedule.
- Help Them to Feel Valued
While your team isn’t on-site, they’re still tremendously valuable –so let them know. Keep them up-to-date on important happenings with your company, thank them for their work, and inform them how what they do fits into the bigger picture. You may also want to ask them for their opinions on decisions and aspects of your business that may impact them. Asking your team for input can also be a great way to gain insight into issues that they’re facing, and potential solutions.
- Avoid Interruptions
In many ways, working remotely can make for a more productive team. One of the reasons for this is because your team will be able to make their own schedules, and work when they’re at their most productive. Another reason is a lack of interruptions. To help your team do their best work, consider your method of communicating with them. Instead of texting or calling them –consider communicating via emails or contact them during designated time-blocks. Likewise, save time yourself by establishing a protocol for your team to communicate with you as well.
- Check In
You’ll also want to check in regularly with your team –to show them that you value them and to make sure everything’s going well. Touching base can also be a great way to easily identify issues –such as frustration and burnout that may be difficult to gauge otherwise –giving you a chance to resolve potential issues before they escalate.
While managing a remote team is different from having in-house employees, in many ways it requires a very similar approach. The same basic tenets of common courtesy, communication, and goal-setting still apply –and your team will still want to feel valued, and have their contributions recognized. Set yourself up for success by establishing processes and procuring the tools that you need from the start, then give your team the flexibility to do their job the best they can. Make yourself available to answer questions in the beginning, and work to refine your processes –taking into account the performance and feedback from your remote team. Soon you’ll have your own remote workforce, working hard –and contributing to the success of your company.