Management is nothing more than motivating other people.
- Lee Iacocca
In an organization, a conference call was going on between the different team members, some of whom were located at the headquarters, while others had joined in from remote regional offices. The manager kept on distinguishing between the people working from the headquarters and the regional offices by using the phrase "us and them" throughout the call. This led to bias among the team members. A good manager would have ensured that all the team members were treated as equals and addressed in the same way.
Managing remotely located employees can be a task in itself. Not only is it difficult to keep a tab on the work of the remote employees, the assessment of their performance can also be tedious. Often, remote employees harbor emotions of distrust, demotivation, perceived unfairness, and lack of appreciation for their efforts.
As a manager, you will have to ensure that you engage remote employees, and encourage them to approach you with their problems. You should let go of your fear of 'what are they doing at work?' as long as they achieve the desired results. This Buzzle article intends to make you aware about effective remote employee management.
Tips for Effective Remote Employee Management
Communicate Your Goals
It is important that all employees, whether at headquarters, a remote location, or working from home, be aware about the goals of the organization, and the teams they represent. If this is not clear, they may not feel motivated to work collectively towards the accomplishment of the goals. This is especially crucial for employees working from regional offices or home, as they should be aware about the long-term and short-term goals of the organization.
Be Result Oriented
It is important that you have a result-oriented approach when dealing with employees who are not located near you. Whatever the task you allot them, you should ensure that it gets completed before the deadline. For this, you may ask them to report their progress to you every day. This will not only help keep a tab on the completion of work, but also allow you to give feedback from time to time to reduce re-work. Also, gone are the days when managers dictated the employees to work as they pleased. Accord them the freedom of working creatively, as long as they achieve the desired result.
It is important that all the team members are on the same page. Hence, it is crucial that there is effective communication between all the team members. This can be done with the help of video conferencing, teleconferencing, email, chat, phone messengers, etc. You can also share files easily through Skype. There are various software which will help assign tasks to the employees. This will not only allow remote employees to stay in touch with the rest of the team, but it will also foster clarity in communication.
Clarity in Responsibilities
If you expect the remotely-located employees to read your mind, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. Give them a clear picture of your expectations. There should be absolutely no ambiguity in the roles and responsibilities of the remote employees, because they are not present at headquarters. Any misunderstanding in duties can cause a delay in the completion of a task. Hence, it is important that they have clarity about their duties and responsibilities.
Insist on Collaboration
It may so happen that employees located at remote locations may be left out during meetings and discussions. Hence, you will have to ensure that there is some collective interaction of the team through a conference call every day. It can be sharing of innovative ideas, or something related to work. It is essential that there is regular interaction between the entire team so that the company benefits from the collaboration.
Translate Organizational Culture
All the employees, including the remotely located ones, should be aware of the organizational culture. They should know about the values, policies, and work ethics followed by the organization. Newsletters, magazines, employee engagement, and announcement emails, etc., of the organization should reach these employees as well. As a manager, it is your duty to make remote employees aware about the organizational culture, which should be uniform throughout the entire organization.
Make it a point that you appreciate the efforts of the remote staff from time to time, to engage them and build trust. Express your belief in their talent, values, and work ethics. This will help strengthen the bond between both the teams. Not only will it motivate the remote employees, but it will also encourage them to put in their best efforts. Whenever possible, try to reward good work executed by remote employees. This will help you to build trust.
Give Regular Feedback
As these employees are at different locations, there may be chances that the work may not get completed as required. Hence, it is advisable to set objectives, monitor the executed work, and give feedback for it. By giving suggestions or feedback, you will be able to control the flow of work as well as its accuracy. Moreover, timely feedback will ensure that the work is on the right track.
Whether it is policies, procedures, or processes, ensure that they are standardized throughout the organization. You cannot be biased when it comes to policies. If an employee who is working at a remote location gets warning about being lax at work, the same policy should also apply to people working at headquarters as well. Also, if you have the work flow or process documented, it will help remotely-stationed employees to follow the process and hierarchy. This will help in smooth functioning of the work.
While in an office you can always stop by an employee's desk and have a chat with him; this may not be possible for a remotely located employee. Schedule a telephone call, or send an email every now and then to inquire about him. Don't let distance lead to 'Out of sight, out of mind'. Whenever the employees need your help, you must be available-by phone, email, SMS or video conference. As the employees are located at a distance, it becomes even more important for you to be available for them whenever they need to consult you for flawless completion of tasks.
Help them in Networking
While water cooler conversations are not possible in case of remote employees, it is important that the team members network with each other to improve the strength of the team. This can be done through the company's social intranet or get-togethers, which should be arranged every few months. You can even set up an intranet team page or build a virtual team room. You can celebrate e-birthdays, share photos, personal information, etc. You can even use webcams to communicate with each other. This will also lead to some informal conversation and bonding among the team members.
Detect and Resolve Problems
Sometimes, you may observe a drop in the performance, lack of motivation, unresponsiveness, dissatisfaction with work, improper tone of communication, etc., in a remote employee. All these are indicators of a problem. You will have to interact with the employee and inquire about his problems related to work. Many times due to rumors, like the employees in headquarters being given a higher raise or better opportunities for career advancement, there is a general dissatisfaction and feeling of injustice among remotely located employees. You will have to speak to them and resolve their problems and issues.
The key to managing remotely-located employees is to engage them. If the employees speak in a different language, ensure that the others talk slowly during the conference call. This will help them to comprehend the language. Be sensitive towards their language preference. Ensure that you are always in touch with remotely located employees. You must make them aware that their contribution is important for the growth of the organization. Give them performance-based rewards, and appreciate their good work. Many times, remote employees feel isolated and lose motivation; you will have to inspire them to work efficiently by using your leadership skills.