14 February, 2018
We wrote previously about the benefit of outsourcing your workforce by using cost effective services like our virtual office or virtual receptionist to make sure all your basic admin needs are taken care of. However, as your business grows you’ll probably find the need to bring on additional members of your remote workforce.
For instance you may need to hire website developers or someone who specialises in e-commerce implementation. But whether it’s the person who handles your mail or the project manager who gives the signal to “go live”, you’re going to need to develop an effective team. Doing that remotely brings its own challenges, so here are five tips for you to consider when managing your remote team.
This might be an obvious suggestion if you have employees you see on a daily basis. But this is even more important if you have a remote team who you don’t see everyday, possibly not even every week. As they’re not in the same room as you, they won’t pick up things in passing or see your wire frame on a whiteboard or have a conversation over coffee or pick up on the non-verbal part of conversation. Really all they know will be what you tell them.
When you’re communicating remotely it’s therefore particularly important not to rely on the non-verbals but instead be far more explicit with what you say. Of course this doesn’t mean be nasty or impatient or negative, it means you have to spell things out more than you would normally.
Once you’ve done that, then make sure you create an environment where your workforce are quick and comfortable with asking questions. That means having a lot of patience because when they ask something you think irrelevant or unimportant, if you show your frustration or annoyance and impatience they will learn not to ask questions and when they really have something important to ask you, they won’t. So be patient, create an open fear-free environment where everyone is able to communicate and ask questions confidently.
Running your business means you’ll do things your way and part of that means having some guiding principles. You won’t be micromanaging how someone types (that’s up to them) but you do need to define the pillars of what makes doing business your way ‘yours’ and then enable your staff to feel invested in that mission.
This is particularly difficult if you don’t see each other face to face and naturally have conversations on the bigger picture. But one way to do this is to create a guiding document that helps employees understand your guiding principles, a manifesto. Then you could also create a social “space” where you can discuss the bigger picture and overall goals and mission of your business. For the Hoxton Mix if we’re not seeing each in person this can happen inside groups set up in Slack. In fact a great combination of tools for communicating with your remote team while managing projects is Slack and Trello.
Working together effectively is the difference between a great team and a mediocre or failing team. And if your team are failing to work together then it’s only a matter of time before your business fails.
This means you need to do things that encourage and reward collaboration as well as making it easy. With a remote team you still need a focal point for conversation and “meeting”. As we said above we recommend Slack for this, although there are plenty of other social messaging channels you could try too.
But you also need to find ways to reward your team for collaboration, help them understand how highly you value this. If you’re working on specific problems make sure you have group brainstorming session or if you’re working to Agile principles make sure that a remote stand-up has everyone present.
As your business grows you’ll likely have more people working on a project and you’ll have people both internally and externally with a steak in the progress and quality of work. This is where you’ll need to keep a good track of progress. If you don’t already understand the basics of project management it’s worth investigating the fundamentals of Agile project management but you’ll also need a project management tool like Trello to help you keep it all organised.
For many, the point of working remotely is so that they can have a much more flexible approach to when work gets done. This doesn’t mean you do away with deadlines, in fact it might be even more important to define deadlines but then within the context of the key timeline points you have to understand your teams different working times and time zones.
The most important element of this is to plan much further ahead and make it clear that agreed meeting times or deadlines are rarely negotiable. Because you’re not in an office together it’s literally impossible to walk over to someone and say “Hey, Bob’s just got in shall we look over those figure now instead of later?” or “How about we put the meeting off till lunch and chat over things while we eat?”. You just don’t have that flexibility because no one is right there with you.
Finally, understand that as you grow and run your business it is an opportunity for constant learning and improvement. Use feedback from your team to see if they think there is anything you can improve. Don’t be afraid to try new things out or to just stop doing something if it’s not working out. And always remember it’s a journey, now just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Let us know how you got on and what you tried or if you do something different to run your remote team.