“Out of sight; out of mind” is a philosophy that works well for old sporting goods or a pile of assorted junk living in the guestroom closet, but it’s the voice of doom whispering in your ear if you are a manager applying it to an outsourced or remote team.
Fortunately, as more people and teams work remotely, technology has risen to the challenge of keeping the lines of communication open, so managing your far-flung team is easier than ever before. As a manager of a remote team, you have new tools and methods available that can ensure your team’s success.
Communicate More, Not Less
Managing a remote team is a communication challenge. Without those casual water cooler conversations or impromptu hallway meetings, the subtle clues about what’s going on with an employee or project are easily missed. It’s up to you to bridge the gap. Make the effort to talk to each team member at least once per day, preferably twice. You can call to chat, to help plan projects or to check on a status, but whatever the reason for your call, each employee should be reachable daily. Email and instant messaging don’t replace actual voice conversation, although they are great supplements to help employees feel connected.
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement has been a major enabler of improved communication for remote teams. Since employees are using personal devices to access work resources, they are more likely to have the device with them during off hours. This makes communication easier if your team crosses multiple time zones.
However, since employees are accessing company resources with personal devices, there is a need for substantial mobile security measures to ensure company assets and networks remain safe. Recent eWeek research shows that while 80 percent of companies agree BYOD is here to stay, only 45 percent of companies have a strong security procedure in place to protect company assets.
Some companies have turned to BlackBerry for phones employees can use for both work and personal use. BlackBerry’s new Z10 is available at major providers like T-Mobile, and comes with BlackBerry Balance, a function that sandboxes work data and personal information. You never have to worry about proprietary company information getting hacked into due to user negligence, and employees can feel secure their personal photos and texts are for their eyes only. BlackBerry also offers mobile device management tools that support iOS, Andriod and BlackBerry phones and make security operations simpler for the IT team.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
Many companies equip remote employees with VoIP phones that allow them to be accessible at a single number, even while traveling. VoIP is also less expensive than traditional telephone services, making the cost of multiple phone calls to team members a non-issue. You can purchase standard desktop VoIP phones from your telecommunications provider, or for road warriors, you can utilize smaller, portable devices that are readily available from Amazon or other e-tailers. Users can even make VoIP calls from their PC’s built-in microphone or a simple USB microphone.
Instant messaging shouldn’t replace daily phone conversations, but it is good for simple questions or updates. Many managers find that requiring remote team members to use and be logged in to instant messaging while working improves productivity. It also is handy for quick questions or updates that wouldn’t require a long conversation or formal email.
If the budget allows, plan for quarterly on-site team meetings. The bare minimum for face-to-face group meetings is once a year. On-site meetings help keep the team connected and build camaraderie that would develop naturally if the team were centrally located.
Share the Wealth
Make sure every team member gets credit for his or her accomplishments, and ensure each gets a chance to work on high-visibility projects. If you are the only member of your group at headquarters, the rest of the organization may assume you are doing all the work. It’s incumbent on you to share the accolades and opportunities with your team if you want it to be successful.
Author: Tony Zimmerman is a digital marketing manager who spends more time with digital devices than with his dogs.
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