Telecommuting and leveraging a remote team. It’s not a trendy buzzword thrown around by startups and millennials anymore. It’s quickly becoming the new norm for much of the global workforce. And it’s definitely the must-have for any company hoping to attract top talent.
However, building (and keeping) a strong remote workforce isn’t as simple as offering a work from home option.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a jaw-dropping stat: On average, over 3 million people voluntarily quit their jobs every month. Yes, this includes the flighty teen who quits McDonald’s to go work with friends at Taco Bell, as well as the movie mogul who voluntarily steps down after spurring the #MeToo movement. But most of those 3 million leave for all sorts of other reasons.
This begs the question: How do companies create loyalty among their remote teams?
Here’s where to start:
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” — Henry Ford
The leader of a remote team can develop a strong rapport by thinking like a coach, rather than a manager. And great coaches always have the right equipment.
Offer employees the tools they need to streamline workflow, collaborate, and stay on task. The latter may be one of the biggest challenges when working from home. With no one around to encourage accountability, it’s very easy to get distracted. Like office-based employees, people working at home sometimes cannot avoid interruptions. And it’s well documented that interruptions can be detrimental to productivity.
This is where time tracking and employee scheduling apps become invaluable. Don’t look at this like some “big brother is watching” tactic. (Remote managers don’t have the luxury of spotting an empty cubicle to know Mr. Jones didn’t make it to the office.) These types of tools reinforce the accountability factor.
Accountability is a key to progress in the remote world. Progress produces productivity which, in turn, breeds success. You’ll also find that a scheduling app is useful for keeping track of vacations (reminding you why Mr. Jones wasn’t “at his desk” this week).
Providing access to (and training on) cloud collaboration platforms like Zoho Projects, Trello or Slack is another step towards success. Whether you want to manage workflow, keep multiple projects organized, or encourage discussion there’s a collaborative app for that. These apps are basically productivity platforms. They encourage teamwork and guarantee that team members can access everything they need to be successful.
“To successfully work with other people, you have to trust each other. A big part of this is trusting people to get their work done wherever they are, without supervision.” Richard Branson, CEO/Founder, Virgin
A key element to building trust is communication. But in this situation, I’m not talking about the “Call me anytime, day or night” type of open-door communication.
Remember, when working remotely your employees aren’t awarded the occasional unannounced “door-peek” followed by “Hey, that was a really great point you made at the meeting today.” They aren’t afforded the opportunity for a chance elevator ride with a manager who offers some impromptu praise.
Leaders of work-from-home staff must be masters of praise. Reward and recognition need to be taken to a new level.
When a company’s main focus is on following rules and meeting benchmarks, employees feel that vibe. Achieving 100% employee buy-in is harder to reach. To build trust (and loyalty) sometimes the bottom line needs to take a back seat. The challenge here is finding ways to show you care about the person sitting behind the laptop — and maybe across the globe.
One effective way to accomplish this is to elicit honest, open, and thoughtful feedback. Start by asking “remotees” what challenges they face when working from home. These answers offer insight into what tools and support are missing. And when managers provide solutions to problems, fostering trust opens more doors for change-making dialogue.
“One of the secret benefits of using remote workers is that the work itself becomes the yardstick to judge someone’s performance.” (Office Not Required, Jason Fried)
One of the major ways a workforce finds success is through reaching set goals. The challenge in the remote atmosphere is monitoring progress. Leaders don’t have the ability to pop into an office to ask, “How’s it coming on the so-and-so project?”
As the work-from-anywhere business model becomes more prevalent, companies — through trial and error — are finding what works. Many have implemented enterprise project management (EPM) systems, especially those whose remote teams are largely composed of freelancers.
EPM differs from standard project management systems in that it offers more robust monitoring and managing features. It’s more than assigning tasks, gauging progress, and tracking deadlines. According to Wikipedia, an EPM is “a way of thinking, communicating, and working, supported by an information system.” It gives management both a detailed and big-picture view of progress.
Keeping your team on task helps them achieve their goals in an efficient manner. This leads to those satisfying feelings of accomplishment. And when accomplishments are being made, loyalty follows.
Organization and productivity, communication, and vision. These are the foundations that help build a strong, loyal, and driven remote team. According to the State of Remote Work — a report created by Owl Labs with support from TINYpulse –, it’s worth the effort. Businesses offering remote opportunities have a 25% higher retention rate than companies that don’t.
Have a remote team success story? What tools and processes do you use to create success, build trust, or monitor progress? Help someone improve their remote team by sharing in the comments below.