How to successfully manage a remote team
Outsourcing has a number of advantages, but when it comes to managing a remote team, you need to exercise caution and execute discretion. The main reason is because you cannot see the team members in flesh and bones, and thus, the interaction level is less when compared to working from the same office.
If you are looking to leverage the benefits of outsourcing, then success lies in minimising the disadvantages and maximising the advantages of outsourcing. Workforces are of different kinds: inhouse (where you have the entire team working from your office), hybrids (where you have a collaboration of both in-house and remote team) and remote teams (from various geographical areas, depending on the nature of project & expertise required).
1. Videoconferencing technology
Technological brilliance is very important if you are to manage a remote team effectively. When you add new members to the team, you can invite them for a videoconferencing, whereby you can introduce the new member to the rest of the team members, and give a virtual tour of the office.
This can also be followed by “get-to-know” emails and phone calls so the frequencies between the team members can be matched. Continue this collaboration by having regular meetings every week, so they can figure out ways to work together in the most effective manner. Regular and scheduled team meetings can make the remote workers feel as part of the team. Once the feeling of alienation disappears, they feel connected, constantly.
2. Talented program managers to spot the skills
Hire a skilled and experienced program manager who can easily handle remote teams. He should be able to spot competencies and assign tasks accordingly. The team members and the project manager should not be invisible to each other, wherein the team worry about the “out of sight, out of mind” feeling. And all the while, the project manager will battle with the worry regarding the productivity of the team. If technology is good and continuous, then the project leader need not worry about not being able to physically oversee what is happening and how the project is moving. However, it is important to set up goals, and assess their work from time to time, so leaders can accurately measure the performance of their team members. However, the manager has to be more organised because they are dealing with a team that doesn’t function like the traditional team. They may come from different cultures, work at different hours, so it is important to create a sense of teamwork and community to effectively manage them. It is important to treat each member of the remote team in a consistent manner.
3. Hire only the right people with the right traits
Working from home is easy, but working with commitment is not, because distractions come from various directions. It takes tact to find people who can work productively from home. They will enjoy working with focus and will deliver on time. If you can find people who are “self-starters”, it is half the job done because you can find the following traits and skills in them
- Communication skills
- Adaptable to company requirements
- Experience in prioritizing works
- Will be self-motivated
- Possess commendable work ethics
Pay attention while hiring recruits and assess their language skills by communicating through different modes like Skype, phone and email. Each of these mediums would highlight the different ways of communication and portray how well a person can form sentences and write coherently. Mails would be the perfect indication of how well (and how frequently) the person would respond in the future. The phone call is important because it showcases the person’s verbal skills and use of pronunciation.
4. Keeping open communication lines
It is important to have communication between the remote team and the team at your office. Ideas, or changes in plans should be communicated instantly through chats, emails or telephonic means daily.
Encourage your remote team to be innovative, and inspire them to reach out with new ideas. Make sure you are appraised of the progress of the project each day; and keep your expectations straight. Being mindful of how things work while your team is remote solves half the problems, and set realistic goals. Being mindful involves knowing when to work, which communication lines should be kept open, when to start dialogs with the team, how to announce holidays (people are different cultures and beliefs).
Here is a small tip on how to use various communication channels:
Emails – When you want to communicate something that should be officially recorded.
Chats – Whatsapp or Hangouts can be used for group discussions and informal talk among members
Skype – When you need to discuss something with the team members and need their direct input; Skype discussions can take lengthy routes if the need persists
Phone – When you want to communicate something really fast, and typing takes up time; also make sure the message is clearly communicated. A lot can be communicated through the tone of voice.
5. Give the employees the benefit of the bird’s eye view
Often the remote employees are at the receiving end, and they fail to get the bird’s eye view of the project. Even though each member of the team is working towards a long-term goal, they tend to get isolated because they have no idea how the entire project is expected to look like. Websites like Trello or apps like Cove would be useful in listing out the team’s long term and short term goals, and then specifying each person’s assignments. This way, the entire team will know what the other is working on.
Working remotely is a great solution to hire the best talents in the industry, irrespective of where they are situated. Additionally, it can also reduce commuting time, so employees can put in more productive hours. Proper management of work ensures that employees are healthier, happier and productive.
The success of virtual work setting can be ensured once you communicate to the team what is expected. So it is important to articulate the goals and objectives to all the remote workers so they get the message as intended. And when you conduct online meetings (which should done in a more regular manner than traditional office meetings), address each employee by name, and give them a chance to raise questions or ask doubts. This way, any ambiguity regarding the project can be mitigated.
Flickr.com / neel nk, Uitleg & tekst, Prakash Bhosale