Cultivating a Remote Team for Your Organization
All indicators point to remote work growing stronger in 2019. If you’re a manager, though, the growing trend of remote work poses new challenges – like maintaining satisfaction and ensuring productivity.
When you share an office space, for instance, gauging employee satisfaction and effectiveness is fairly straightforward. By interacting with your team on a regular basis, both verbal and non-verbal cues shed insight into employee happiness and productivity.
When your team is distributed, however – sometimes across thousands of miles – monitoring employee happiness and ensuring productivity can be difficult.
So what can you do to ensure your remote employees remain satisfied and productive?
It Starts – and Continues – with the Interview
An interview is still one the best ways to judge a candidate’s suitability for a position. But with remote positions, it’s not always as simple as a sit-down in-person interview.
For an interview regarding a remote position, incorporate video chat into the process. Your interviews should reflect company processes, and incorporating video chat at an early stage allows you to judge candidates’ familiarity and comfort with tech that they’ll use regularly.
You also need to know that employees can manage the mental challenges of working remotely. So aside from the standard job and task-related questions, it’s imperative that you gauge whether a candidate can:
- Meet their need for interpersonal communication with connections outside of work
- Depend fully on themselves to organize their day
- Focus and remain productive without direct supervision
Make use of assessments during the hiring process. In addition to job skills, assess personality traits and then measure the results against successful remote employees.
Consider giving prospective hires job and task simulations. Not only do you get the opportunity to judge their performance, but they gain situational insight into their workload.
The interview, however, isn’t just a barometer by which you measure a candidate’s job fitness.
Stay interviews, or one-on-one interviews between you and your employees, are valuable tools to help you engage your team, as well as elicit beneficial feedback regarding their satisfaction and productivity.
Conduct them once per year and consider asking questions like:
- What made you want to work here?
- What makes you want to stay?
- What would make you leave the company?
- What would you change or improve in the company?
While remote work is inherently flexible, clear guidelines and expectations help you avoid a free-for-all environment which can impede communication and wreck productivity.
To ensure consistent communication and performance, craft a thorough remote work policy, and be sure to define:
- The flexibility or rigidity of your remote employees’ work hours
- The timeframe in which your remote workers are expected to react to a coworker or management
- The productivity measurements by which you’ll gauge employee effectiveness
- The IM tools which your remote employees are expected to utilize
Reinforce Your Onboarding Process
A well-structured onboarding process is key to setting the stage for success from day 1. Without it, your remote employees could struggle to find their place in your organization.
A peer-to-peer unlimited size file transfer allows you to securely and efficiently distribute your remote work policy, new hire forms, and company and product manuals; as well as collect the necessary forms for record keeping.
After the remote team member has reviewed the material, schedule a video chat to discuss the materials, any questions, and job descriptions and duties.
In addition, have established chat rooms for:
- Team introductions and welcoming of new employees
- Questions, issues, and ongoing discussion of the onboarding process
Consider a 30-60-90 day plan to streamline the new hire process, relevant trainings, assignment and performance evaluations, and feedback.
Not only is it less overwhelming this way, but if you consistently stick to the timelines, it allows you to regularly gauge employee success, happiness, and productivity; as well as halt any bad habits or negligence from the start.
Cultivate a Culture of Communication
When it comes to managing a virtual team, communication is critical. Importantly, that not only means communicating frequently, but through a variety of channels.
Interact often with your team through text chat and group chat rooms. Establish regular check-ins, but also reach out at random intervals just to see how they’re doing. Checking in over voice and video chat adds context, sincerity, and authenticity to the interaction, while moving the discussion beyond the scope of work provides insight into employees happiness.
Create a buddy system whereby a pair of remote team members check in regularly to discuss not only ongoing tasks, projects, and progress, but challenges and difficulties, as well. Not only does this connection create a reliable support system, but it boosts your remote employees’ health and well-being.
Crucially, involve your team in goal-setting and problem-solving and then clearly communicate results, successes, and inefficiencies. Involving your team in goal-setting ensures targets remain attainable, while transparency and openness establish trust and cultivate collaboration.
Prioritize Employee Development
Boosting your ROI is more than just streamlining processes and workflows. Your team is your most crucial piece of the puzzle, so provide them the tools and resources to sharpen their skills. As a result, you’ll boost engagement, improve retention, and save and earn money in the long run.
For true team happiness and productivity, you need to focus on more than task-related skills. Team-building, for instance, has been shown to improve problem-solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills – all critical to effective and efficient team functionality. Consider team-building exercises tailored to remote teams.
Forge Real Connections
While more and more individuals are seeking remote work in an effort to boost their work-life balance, the lack of human connection and challenge of switching off can impede productivity and impact health and well-being.
To best avoid this:
- Make time for small talk – Upon checking in with your remote employees, move the discussion beyond tasks, projects and deadlines. Inquire about weekend and holiday plans, hobbies, family, and importantly, what they love about remote work. Doing so sets the stage for a sincere and fruitful relationship, and helps you ascertain their satisfaction or frustration.
- Initiate face-to-face contact – Instant messages, chat rooms, and video chats are no replacement for the value of in-person communication. Extend the effort to visit your remote employees, or provide them an opportunity to visit the office from time to time. Such goodwill gestures establish real human connections and further reinforce your commitment to the team.
- Provide balance – When you work where you live, it’s harder to switch off and thus you run the risk burning out. Advocate flexible schedules. In addition, monitor your employees’ paid-time off and encourage them to use it. Employees who feel valued are more likely to remain engaged and satisfied.
Ensuring your remote workers remain satisfied is a win-win. By following these steps, not only are you more likely to retain loyal and hard-working employees, but your team is more likely to remain both effective and productive.