11 Essential Tips for Managers Managing Remote Teams.
Often managers find it overwhelming when their assigned teams are geographically scattered. It get more daunting with linguistic and cultural differences. Being cut off from the grapevine, remote workers often feels isolated or feels compelled to work more to compensate for the absence.
Let’s get the ball rolling :-
- Us Vs Them feeling – Geographically distributed teams often grapple with this issue that impacts the overall team output. It fundamentally stems from the lack of shared goals and context. A shared context could lead to a greater shared understanding of What, How and Why things are done the way its done. This experiential take-away helps remote employees to align themselves to the company goal.
- Manage the distance – Distance do not change the goal of the business. What gets everyone on the same page, is the consistent articulation of objectives, right at the beginning, during the project and how these objectives are tied to the overall goal. Constant communication helps the team acquire a greater sense of shared identity and purpose towards achieving the overarching goal.
- A daily standup meeting – will help sync up all the team members from all locations. It also helps the manager to get a sense of the overall direction of the project, to then be able to intervene quickly for any red flags. With online collaboration tools like Slack/Asana/Jira, managers can create and assign tasks whilst team members can update their status of their assigned tasks which can be seen by everyone. This brings in documented visibility of completed, in-progress tasks or red flags for project managers.A meeting with a following agenda will get constant alignment towards the stated project goal
(i) What I achieved yesterday?
(ii) What were the impediments faced?
(iii) What I plan to achieve today?
- Instant Communication – Group Messaging on Skype for instant feedback or clarifications. It might not get anywhere near non-verbal cues but using emojis can help share what you are feeling and thinking. This could help a bit to manage the cultural and social distance. It needn’t be all text all the time, switch on the Video/Screen Sharing to make more sense.
- Code Reviewing System – Adherence to coding conventions brings in uniformity towards an attempt to writing clean code to aid ‘code reviews’ which are essential for maintaining the overall quality of the code. Configuration management tool such as GitHub/BitBucket/GitLab/Sourcetree helps to effectively manage the code being developed and integrated.
- Creating a Virtual Water-Cooler – Its OK to share some hilarious GIFs and have some daily banter. Set aside some time exclusively to share personal goals, holiday plans or charity projects to find common ground and shared values. Research indicates having friends at work have fewer incidence of absenteeism and sick leaves. Time set aside for virtual Team-bonding should be a priority and not a secondary task. Smart managers will understand that even though this investment of time will pay off many times over, despite not being directly linked towards work
- Team Retreats – Meeting once a year for a team-bonding exercise and fun is worth every penny of the investment. Retreats are also a reward and celebration of the team success towards completing projects whilst working remotely. As opposed to knowing someone by his email ID, knowing in person dramatically increases the trust and a sense of mutual support for each other. Such relationships are crucial where teams members collaborate remotely.
- Respecting Work-Life Balance – Its important for the manager to recognize the timezones of his team members. It is better to hold off sending emails and chat messages after work hours unless its absolutely necessary. Using a scheduler to send emails to coincide their work hours would not only be seen as considerate but more effective.
- Hiring process for Remote workers and Regular workers can’t be the same. A regular team meeting or otherwise may require a remote team member to be up early or stay late. It then becomes the case of hiring people who are flexible and has the right attitude and commitment to making the arrangement work, even when its less convenient.
“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” ― John Wooden
Ideally remote workers should have good written communication skills, time-management skills, self-starters with attention to detail, values continuous learning and being a self-manager. Interviews should be tailored to test these skills in addition to the skills required to do the job. Unlike regular jobs, CVs with typos and poor presentation cannot be given a benefit of doubt for remote working jobs.
- The Onboarding process – This phase is a crucial phase where employees often form a lasting impression about the company. Create a solid onboarding program for your remote employees to provide a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and how it ties into achieving the company goal. Have a Wiki, where new employees can find out the various the tools and identify the owners of documents/information. Video tutorials, screencast can also provide a quick visual reference. Encourage new remote workers to update the Wiki if they feel the information was inadequate. This instantly builds up a culture of ownership and recognition.
- Feedback – Managers should set aside time for a one-on-one Video call on a regular basis to let remote employees know about their progress and understand their concerns. Such as a session will provide valuable feedback. A START-STOP-CONTINUE method could be a simple method to encourage the positives and root out the negatives.
If you feel, I have missed out the all important tip, then please feel free to add your tips/experience in the comments below:-