As technology continues to expand and take on a larger role in different industries, more and more businesses and nonprofits are evolving beyond the traditional office mold. Instead of having a team solely based in the same physical office, managers are now working with employees and colleagues who live in different states, or even different countries.
Remote teams can save an organization substantial travel and operational costs, but they can also create new challenges. Managers must still focus on productivity, organizational goals and employee skill development, but they must also learn to build a cohesive team without regular face-to-face contact. Hiring and managing a virtual team can be difficult and unfamiliar at first, but with time and practice, you will become accustomed to it.
Conduct a rigorous selection process when hiring a member of your remote team. Fly final candidates to meet with you in person if your organization can afford it, but if not, get a good sense of each candidate’s personality, strengths and weaknesses through multiple emails, phone interviews and video conferencing calls.
- Pay particular attention to how each person communicates through each medium. Is she quick to respond to emails? Does she seem engaged in phone and video calls?
- Check references and examine past work experience. Has the candidate had success working on a remote team before? Does he have a strong independent work ethic? Is he interested in a long-term commitment? Do his skills match what the job requires? Does he show a history of continuous employee skill development?
- Be vigilant in looking for red flags ” href=”http://www.odesk.com/blog/2010/07/hiring-remote-workers-5-red-flags-to-never-ignore/” target=”_self”>red flags that may predict problems in the future.
Create Open Communication
Communication can be the most challenging part of managing a virtual team, especially when you have employees in different time zones. Establish a foundation of good communication methods from the beginning to avoid any future problems.
- Set regular meetings, via telephone or video conferencing, to check in with your remote team as a whole, as well as individual check-ins with employees you manage directly. Clearly define the hours you’re available to them, and make a point to communicate with them in some way once a day.
- Utilize web collaboration tools ” href=”http://lifehacker.com/5373339/top-10-web-collaboration-tools-that-arent-google-wave” target=”_self”>web collaboration tools such as instant messaging, wikis, web groups and online workspaces to share documents and communicate quickly and frequently throughout the day.
- Ask for project updates regularly from each team member. Get an idea of what each person’s daily schedule looks like, how he or she best accomplishes goals and offer support as necessary. Address problems immediately as they arise.
Support Employee Development
Since you don’t see members of your remote team every day, it might take more initiative on your part to offer opportunities for employee skill development. Don’t forget about your far-away employees, and take advantage of chances to help them grow within your organization.
- Set up a virtual mentoring program ” href=”http://blog.employeedevelopmentsystems.com/bid/49617/Build-a-Mentoring-Culture-Boost-Employee-Development” target=”_self”>mentoring program to build skills and morale.
- Encourage employees to suggest classes, conferences and other learning materials that would help them improve their work performance.
Do you have experience managing a virtual team? What suggestions do you have for those new to remote management?
Learn more about our Communicating to Manage Performance ” href=”http://www.employeedevelopmentsystems.com/p-157-communicating-to-manage-performance.aspx” target=”_self”>Communicating to Manage Performance course.
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