Are you currently working with a virtual team whose members are located in a different state or country? If yes, then you know how challenging it can be to manage the team. Sometimes it is impossible for you to understand what the employees are doing and that can cause anxiety and discomfort to any small business owner. You might have also noticed that remote employees have fluctuating work efficacy. They perform excellently during particular periods and at other times deliver low quality work. What’s more, virtual employees can quit their job suddenly leaving you frustrated for not being able to properly engage them on why they are leaving especially if the quitting team is the most productive. Here are some strategies that you can employ to keep, motivate and connect with your virtual team.
The distance between you and your remote employees means you do not have the opportunity to engage in face-to-face chats during coffee breaks or lunch hours and that makes special the kind of communication and channels you use to connect with them. Do not apply a single style of communication throughout. Mix styles of communication depending on the message and the personality of each employee. For the employees who prefer quick communication via emails, use more of that with them because if you decide to engage in phone calls or video chats, they are likely to feel uncomfortable or avoid connecting with you regularly. However, that does not mean that you keep entirely off other forms of communication, use them when they are appropriate for the situation. For example, use chat programs like Google Hangouts and Skype for engaging the whole team in a discussion. Alternatively, you can use a platform like Slack to enable all employees to communicate throughout the day regardless of whether they are in-house or remote. When you are dealing with emotional issues like a drop in performance levels, use the phone. In the office setting sensitive matters can be discussed privately in the meeting rooms but for virtual workers you can use the video chat since it enables you to have a view of the employee’s facial expressions and body language.
The communication tools discussed above are not only meant to pass on work-related messages, but you can also use the same tools just to find out how an employee is doing. It is the same as passing by the desk of your in-house employee in a co-working space and saying “Hi” or having a chat about football. Such discussions break away the work tensions and make the workers feel that they belong to the organization. It can even be more worthwhile to build a personal relationship with each employee, know something about them that you can often bring up during the light discussion moments. Remote employees may dread receiving your messages or calls if all you do is ask work-related questions, give assignments, complain of poor quality work or even threaten to punish them for going against work standards. Remote workers are humans too, and they need to connect with others and with you, therefore, foster that virtual friendship. Include fun in the communication to keep the remote workers feeling like they belong to the company. For example, you can include brain teasers for everyone and use that to enhance connections and build work relationships.
Giving employees the freedom to choose when and where they work is one way of inspiring productivity and retaining employees that many small business owners are applying today as long as the flexibilities are suitable for the business and customer needs. Remote working has the advantage of allowing employees to work flexible hours. However, when you have many employees working virtually, it is essential to keep some consistency. You may be in need to conduct a meeting with all employees at a particular time, and since there is no physical conference or meeting room where you will meet the employees, you must set the specific time when all employees can be available for the video conference. You can also ensure that there is a specific time of the day or night when all employees are online, so you can easily share and collaborate.
Flexible working hours can also tempt you to keep communicating with employees round the clock. That can be tiring, instead set specific times for passing messages and avoid other times like the late night hours if it is not on the employee’s scheduled to be working that late.
Many employers presume that tracking work output is meant to identify the non-performing workers and correct them or lay them off. Measuring productivity can also be an efficient way of determining the excellent performers and acknowledging their excellent work. Give positive feedback to specific employees when recognizing outstanding contributions. You can also offer rewards to remote employees whose job is great but ask first what they would value instead of just sending a gift card to a worker who would have preferred something else. Remote working is different from an office environment where you can easily tell who has come to work and who has not. Furthermore not very many people are self-motivated and rarely perform well in the absence of a supervisor. You can use tools like SalesHandy for tracking the activities of a remote sales team. Furthermore, if employees are paid based on the hours they work, it is advisable to know how many hours in a day each person works. There is also a time tracking software that allows you to see the hours each employee works, when they are on a break, and when they are chatting on social media.
Monetary reward is the most significant employee motivator. Do not assume that since many people are willing to work virtually, it is just fine to offer them lower payments. What will make the employees become self-starters and dedicated to work is the amount of money they get in reward for work done. Therefore, to avoid losing the best performers and to ensure the team works smart and hard, just pay them well.
Keep Remote Workers Informed About Developments in the Company
It is easy to forget about including the virtual team into the on goings of the company because of the distance between the manager and them. However, just like the in-house workers, the remote employees also need to know that they are valued in the organization and that they need to make contributions towards the development of the company. Keep the employee updated on the changing skills of the organization so that they can make the necessary adjustments to remain part of the company’s future. Moreover, when employees feel that they are part of the group without being physically present in the office, they are highly likely to feel motivated and increase productivity.
Having a remote team means incorporating diverse cultures in your company. You may have employees working from different regions of the world with different time zones and varying cultures. Learn not to only impose your culture on them through your communication and other interactions. Instead, find out one or two things about each employee’s culture and strive to respect that when dealing with them. For example, the communication style and cultural ethics of the Chinese are entirely different from that of the American people. If you have employees of Chinese origin and most especially working from China, you may be forced to appreciate reciprocity in business popularly known as guanxi. Moreover, knowing your employee’s cultures can help you choose gifts that are of significance to the recipients when acknowledging distinguished contributors.
Businesses run virtually are not the same as those run in an office. In the office, it is possible to discuss complex issues within the same room and identify the way forward. But for the virtual team, the distance between members can cause them to develop different procedures and processes which do not fit together. That is why it is best for you to develop a standardized way of operating the business that each employee can refer to. The failure to use a regulated operating system can bring your business to a fall.