With the new normal for teams and managers including remote and outsourced staff, there are challenges on both sides for people working and managing teams remotely. For managers, they are dealing with communication challenges or gaps, insufficient team, or team engagement, and of course the lack of personal interaction or contact. For remote team members, the challenges might be practical, like a lack of dedicated area to work (separating life at home from work), a feeling of work isolation (fear of missing out) and added stress on their performance to remain remote. For outsourced team it is typically a feeling of lack of belonging to the team.
There are positives on both sides as well, for managers, there are costs savings not having to house their entire staff, there are several studies proving that remote workers average higher productivity such as A study by Standford of 16,000 workers over 9 months found that working from home increase productivity by 13%). And outsourced remote staff is even higher at about 28% vs in-house staff productivity. For the employees, there are huge time savings to include an average of 8.5 hours more of free time due to eliminating the commute. There are many more, but this article is about the musts for managing remote staff not the positives of negatives of having remote or outsourced team.
So, what are the musts?
Communication to the point of possibly over-communicating is an absolute must for the success of managing a remote or outsourced team. This is in the form of IM communication tools, calls, check-ins, video calls, and productivity management tools. The key here is to communicate, not micromanage. The difference is providing useful detail and data, not using the communication as a tool to “big brother” your team. Trust your team, they want to win too!
Part of this communication is setting clear expectations and a written tools for reference as to what steps to take to get answers to questions, updates, and needs. Be clear as to how and when you expect them to check in with you as this is not a one-way street. The open-door policy is part of this must!
Lastly, plan for 1 to 1 regularly scheduled meeting, converse and agree with your teammate as to how often this should take place, create an agenda together so that everyone gets the value they are looking for with the time invested, and make sure to use this at least a segment of this meeting to update your remote teammate on the goings on in the company to keep them included in the culture.
2. Ensure the tools you are using are the right tools and are reliable
This is a two-fold must, the tools you provide and the way the team uses the tools. Do these tools need to be the latest and greatest on the market? Absolutely not, in some cases it can be as simple as a shared spreadsheet, an outbound online dialing tool, and a communication tool like Slack. Obviously, there are more sophisticated online tools out there and some are extremely easy to implement, but it does not need to be complicated.
The bottom line is that it must work and be easy for your team to use. Otherwise, it gets overwhelming, and your team will not be as efficient as you would prefer.
So, look at your current communication tools, is there a way to streamline and make it easier on you, if so, act on it. If nothing is currently in place, try tools that offer a free or low-cost trial and see if you can adjust to using them. Your outsourced team will use what you instruct them to use, so that is not the issue.
3. Track Progress
This must is a bit of a balancing act. You must track progress and create success markers for your team. However, the balancing act is to track but not micromanage (again, we know). Some of the best practices for tracking is to start with setting the expectations with your team and the individuals. Set the expectations with minimums, goals, and stretch goals with timetables as a key indicator in all three scenarios. Set these expectations as a team and in some cases as individuals. Obviously, the minimums are to be set by you the manager but explain why and more importantly how these minimums benefit the team or the individual as well as the mission! Remember, tracking progress should be an affirming management tool and a huge opportunity for growth for everyone if the key goals are falling short.
Remember this is an ongoing must. Setting the expectations and the progress indicators is a must that will and should change regularly. Just make sure everyone in involved in the process.
4. Clearly include your remote or outsourced staff
Several areas fall into this must. Including:
Inclusion in information. Be sure to take the extra steps to include your remote staff in office information, team updates, and even some of the social aspects of what is happening in the office. (Obviously, not the gossip).
Collaboration options. Whether it is as simple as a shared living document or formal meetings, including the opinions and options of your outsourced staff can introduce new and even more efficient means to operate and team cohesion.
Listen. Really listen, there are several studies that state the remote and outsourced staff suffer from a feeling of being disconnected and more importantly not valued or heard. Go out of your way to make options available for these team members to be heard by you. Whether written or in video calls.
5. Share in the success.
You must go out of your way to invite and include your outsourced and remote team in the success you are seeing! Even those little victories where the office team may get to hear about it but remember the outsourced and remote team has no way to get involved in those celebrations. Make it a point to involve them too, everyone wins!
It’s easy to think of the outsourced and remote team on the big celebrations, but it is just as easy to leave out the outsourced and remote team on the little wins!
If there are prizes or awards, make sure everyone is included and if your remote or outsourced team have stepped up their performance and should be recognized, then treat them as if they were in the room! Video calls have made this a lot easier.
Finally, we are aware, there are many situations where your company is a bit unique or has circumstances that are unique, but if you follow these 5 musts and tweak them to fit your culture to manage your remote and outsourced team, you will find those individuals may exceed your expectations! Just like the team in the office, remote and outsourced team want to feel included and valuable. It is a bit more on your plate to ensure that happens, but even based on the statistics above it is well worth the effort!
Happy team, happy company!