COVID-19 has accelerated the concept of remote teams, creating a revolution like never before. With more and more businesses jumping on the bandwagon, the global workforce is now part of the ‘new normal’.
If you’re in charge of managing a remote team, especially for the first time, you’re probably going to experience some challenges along the way.
In this piece, we’ve compiled five skills that remote team managers must adopt in order to manage their workforce effectively.
1. Rapport building
The State of Remote Report (2019) showed that roughly 10% of the respondents said that the biggest struggle with working remotely was staying motivated. And that’s understandable — after all, you don’t get to meet your colleagues or hold interesting conversations with them in person. However, this can be eliminated by building the right rapport with your team.
As the manager of a remote team, it is your responsibility to acknowledge that every single employee, irrespective of where they’re located, has a massive impact on the overall success of your business. Simply recognising and acknowledging this will automatically motivate them to do better.
Unfortunately, most organisations are oblivious to the needs of their workforce, unless their employees explicitly ask them for something. You don’t have to provide your team with a hefty allowance or an extended vacation. All you really need to do is to make time to engage with your employees. Talk to them about topics that are not work-related. Ask them how their weekend was. Find out if they’re unhappy with work or if they have any issues with the team. The answers to these questions are more crucial than you think they are because at the end of the day, people don’t quit difficult jobs; they quit difficult bosses.
If you want your remote team to shine, you need to be transparent and communicate with them. As The Scalers mentioned in their article about tips how to manage a remote team, ‘’By practicing transparency at every stage and implementing it as a part of your team culture, you not only gain the trust of your remote employees but also ensure that they aren’t hesitant to come to you with any questions or concerns.’’
Find opportunities to establish social connections, even if it’s something like a “virtual happy hour”. You can even create a Slack channel for your employees to talk about their interests, hobbies, etc.,
Practice a virtual open-door policy where your employees can reach out to you, even if it’s for a quick chat that isn’t work-related. What matters is that it should be voluntary and non-specific.
2. Share results and achievements
When working with remote teams, you can’t possibly stop by your employees’ desks to see what they’re working on. This makes it all the more challenging to measure results and achievements. The most straightforward way to overcome this is to simply measure tangible outcomes and trackable metrics that are specific to your business.
For instance, if your sales team is selling your flagship product, success would be determined by the number of products sold and the corresponding client satisfaction. In other scenarios, it may be the number of features built, the number of views on a particular video — it can literally be anything. The key here is to track the metrics that influence the growth of your business.
Correspondingly, hold review meetings with your virtual team to monitor these parameters and their influence on the business. When your team has been successful, celebrate the wins — both big and small. Achievements are often overlooked when working in a remote setup, so take the conscious step of giving credit where it’s due.
Personalised messages, public shout-outs, gift cards, shopping vouchers — they all matter, because a little recognition can go a long way.
3. Utilise the right tools at the right time
A decade or two ago, the lack of digital communication and collaboration tools significantly impacted how geographically distributed teams collaborated. However, today, all that has changed.
The numerous technological advancements, tools, and software at our disposal have made global communication a piece of cake. Studies have indicated that over 60% of all communication is non-verbal, which means that communication over a screen can be challenging. That’s why it’s crucial to implement the right tools at the right time.
Here are some simple communication tips that you can follow:
- Engage with your team at least once a day, even if it isn’t all about work.
- Use instant messaging channels such as Slack and Skype to communicate quick messages and updates. For longer meetings and brainstorming sessions, video-conferencing tools such as Zoom work best.
- Schedule weekly or bi-monthly calls with your virtual team to discuss the progress on projects, workflows, and any roadblocks along the way.
- Implement cloud-based task tracking tools to ensure that your team is aware of what everyone is working on. This also improves visibility and prevents confusion regarding tasks.
- Invest in project management tools.
- Use cloud-based project management tools such as Wrike, Trello, Basecamp, etc., where you can plan, monitor, and collaborate on different stages of the project. These project management tools also come with Kanban boards, fully-integrated customisable dashboards, and cloud storage.
4. Avoid micromanaging your team
A survey that was conducted showed that over 60% of the respondents wanted to change their jobs because their manager micromanaged them. In fact, over half of them actually ended up changing jobs because of the same reason!
Micromanagement can completely change the dynamic of how your remote team works. Research has also proven that 71% of employees believe that micromanagement negatively impacts their performance.
Given that your remote team is not in the same physical space as you can, it is natural that you want to monitor their work — sometimes, a little too much. However, doing so will only make them feel like they lack freedom and autonomy. And before you know it, you’ll be facing lower productivity, motivation, and, eventually, your employees will move on to other jobs.
Micromanagement is a big no-no.
5. Plan a company retreat
Working with remote teams comes with its own set of challenges, and can get overwhelming sometimes. And that’s why, it is recommended to plan a yearly company retreat to get to know your remote team in person and build stronger connections with them.
A workation/retreat will allow your team to get together and share their ideas on different projects, and set goals for the future, and bond beyond work. Your team members feeling connected to each other will improve their collaboration skills, in turn, enhancing the quality of work they produce.