By Susan Friesan
Whether you have a few people that telecommute to the office or a huge virtual team, remote employees are now the norm.
It can be a challenge not only to find reliable remote employees, but also to effectively manage your team from afar.
Employees and leaders need to understand their roles, be motivated to work hard and communicate with other team members. It’s also essential to understand that certain industries lend themselves better to remote opportunities.
For example, an insurance company may have Customer Service Reps, Claims Specialists, Auditors, Underwriters and more working successfully from anywhere in the world while pharmaceutical sales reps may need more face-to-face interaction with clients.
Here are 5 ways to develop your remote leadership skills and make managing your team less stressful:
1. Schedule regular meetings
If you have contractors or employees, having meetings once a week or once every few weeks lets your remote team provide updates and ask questions.
It’s a great way to get to know your team better and encourage an open dialogue. You’ll get a sense of how your leadership development plan is unfolding and be able to make changes that benefit your company.
Worried about long-distance telephone charges? Use a tool like Zoom, a free video conferencing tool that makes it a breeze for everyone to connect.
Here, we use DISCORD for team communications.
2. Don’t forget your company culture
Just because you don’t have an office full of employees doesn’t mean you can’t have a strong company culture.
Share your company vision, mission statement and goals with your employees. Let them contribute as much as possible to your corporate identity and value their skills and strengths.
You may even notice that some of your employees have leadership qualities and you can help them pursue leadership training if they’re interested.
If your employees live close enough to connect in person, organize a company event. Whether it’s a barbecue, bowling or holiday party, you’ll get to know your people better and give everyone a sense of inclusion and company culture.
3. Set clear expectations
Employees in an office have a clear idea of work hours, rules and guidelines but remote employees may not. Adding to the difficulty: your remote employees may be in different time zones.
As part of your leadership development plan, consider your business needs and think about what you can reasonably expect from employees. For example:
• All emails must be responded to within 24 hours
• Employees don’t need to respond to emails or work on weekends
• Weekly hours must be submitted by Thursday evening for payroll
4. Use a time-tracking tool
As a small business owner you need to focus on maximizing productivity. A time-tracking tool will help employees stay accountable and let you review their performance.
Not only that, but a time-tracking tool such as AccountSight or Hubstaff will make doing payroll much easier. You’ll have to-the-minute data of how much time each employee is spending on tasks.
Time-tracking tools also help employees by saving them the hassle of manually tracking time and helping them focus on one task at a time rather than getting distracted.
We use Toggl to track our time when working on client projects.
5. Be organized yet flexible
While you have certain expectations of your staff and need them to meet deadlines, respect how your employees work best.
Some people need to ask more questions than others. Some employees like to brainstorm with other team members, while others like to work alone. Some contractors may benefit from leadership training, while others aren’t interested in expanding their role.
In addition to weekly or bi-weekly meetings have simple ways your remote employees can reach you – whether it’s by text or online messaging. Encourage communication and make it easy for your employees to get a hold of you with questions or concerns.
This is a learning process for you too! Consider it on-the-field leadership training. Managing your remote team can be hard at first and there will always be challenges along the way.
If something isn’t working, change it. Listen to your employees’ feedback and use it to improve.
About the author
Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence.
If you are new to Social Media and online marketing or find it overwhelming and confusing, my monthly group coaching program, AMPLIFY! Business Academy http://amplifybusinessacademy.com/ is a perfect way for you to incrementally learn the best strategies and tactics to help you grow your business online