“Hire a remote team,” they said, “it’ll be fun,” they said.
But what if it’s not? Imagine you decide not to hire a project manager and run the process on your own. Nobody explains what to do next after you get your virtual employees, and no one tells you about all the challenges.
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Let’s take a look at what can be done in order to overcome these challenges and manage a remote team efficiently and smoothly.
1. It all starts with hiring
You are responsible for choosing the right people for your team. Regardless whether you enlist an outsourcing vendor to find and interview the candidates for you, or you take on the responsibility of recruiter, you need to define what kind of people you feel comfortable working with. Even if technical demands, expertise, and experience are relatively easy to describe, selecting the needed soft skills and personality traits is not as simple as it seems.
Too many employers copy similar job descriptions from their competitors hoping to find the “one and only” candidate. And then they get irritated by the template CVs they receive. Ridiculous! If you want to hire a unique expert in your niche, take time and make an effort to find out what kind of people YOU want to work with.
Here are some general tips on how to find a decent remote worker:
1. Although it’s popular to look for team players, remote work doesn’t always require these sort of people. What traits you really need are independence and self-management. The person has to be able to organize his/her working day without constant control from your side. Being independent also means being responsible and trustworthy.
2. Look for people keen on self-development. While working in the office, employees share their experience and teach each other, but it doesn’t work like that when you manage a remote team. So, don’t forget to find out if your candidates enrich their knowledge and expertise if they are registered for any online courses and which ones they have completed so far.
3. Find people at peace with solo-working. Lack of communication can be the strongest point of demotivation when it comes to remote workers. Consider hiring people with hobbies – they are more likely to fight loneliness.
4. Pay attention to a candidate’s previous experience in freelancing or working remotely. These people definitely understand how to organize their work process and portion out the workload.
2. Plan, meet, ask
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I could have padded out these tips into three extra points but all of them are aimed at presenting and delivering your business idea/message in the right way.
When you manage a remote team, you have to plan everything more precisely and be able to put your ideas in written form. Hire a person good at written communication and expressing his/her thoughts consistently, as most of the time you will communicate by text. You have to understand each other without additional text explanations and repetition.
Besides chatting in messengers, you also have to meet with your team online. Firstly, it will rally your workers and boost morale as well as team spirit. Secondly, seeing a plan doesn’t equal to understanding a plan. You will all read the same words, but due to the unique life experience of every participant, you will all understand them differently no matter how precise your instructions are.
That’s why you should discuss your plans, let your team ask questions and finally ask each of them to repeat what he/she needs to do during the meeting. This is a way to clarify the details and avoid misunderstandings and ambiguity. I know, I know, it takes time, but it’s far better to spend an extra minute or two on planning than correct the mistakes when the deadline is approaching and the project is about to launch.
One more thing about meetings. They don’t always need to be official, remote team building activities are welcomed too. Being their employer and leader, you also become a unifying element of the whole remote team. Don’t distance yourself from them. Even if you won’t become best friends (however, why not?), create a friendly atmosphere and encourage both work and life-related questions.
3. The fewer, the better
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Successful and efficient performance greatly depends on the tools you use. Generally speaking, you will need three types of tools for managing a remote team – apps for communication (messengers and video chats), workflow software (screen capture apps and collaboration documents), and tracking tools.
Technology makes our lives easier, but on the other hand, it takes some time to learn how to use it. That’s why my personal advice is not to stuff your work process with a variety of different tools, choose only the most necessary ones not to waste your time on mastering everything.
One more advantage of choosing a few tools (especially when we talk about communication channels) is the issue of storing information. It would be easier for both you and your team to keep everything in one place. If you communicate in one messenger, you won’t miss any updates, questions or remarks. Thus, a single instrument for each purpose optimizes your workflow and makes it faster.
When you come up with a decision, make sure your team knows how to use the technology. Dedicate some time to show them how the app works with the help of screencasts or suggest watching tutorials or reading guidelines.
4. Caring comes in different forms
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“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Richard Branson
Here I’d like to draw your attention to the issue of equality. Surprisingly lots of entrepreneurs forget that remote workers are still their workers, and they deserve the same amount of respect as people working in the office. If you count on long and fruitful cooperation, you have to be interested in motivating and retaining your employees. What can you do for your remote staff?
1. Provide equipment
Make sure they work in comfortable conditions. Provide your workers with the necessary tools and workstation and kill two birds with one stone – increase productivity and boost loyalty.
2. Perks and bonuses
It’s a pleasure to work in a beautifully designed office, have fun at pizza parties, and rest in lounge zones, but all these things are of no importance for a remote employee. However, you can get creative with how you compensate your remote employees. An office coffee machine can be replaced with a Starbuck’s membership, the fancy workspace with a place in a coworking office at the company’s expense.
Depending on the interests of your remote team members (yes, you should know them!), you can also offer them a gym membership or paid courses.
So, will it be fun to hire a remote team? I’m sure it will when you know and apply these simple but important rules to the management process.
Guest Author: Julia Kravchenko is a Partner and HR Vice President of an IT staffing company Qubit Labs, with 10+ years of experience in hiring software development talents. She dedicates her free time to reading tech news, writing articles about outsourcing, costaffing, remote working and internet marketing.