Managing teams of employees in different locations, different time zones and from different cultures can present challenges, but that doesn’t mean that business objectives can’t be met and productivity has to suffer.
One of the biggest misconceptions about managing remote teams is that it requires a different skillset. Not true, say the experts. Remote teams are just like those based at your location—working to get objectives met and the job done. And making them feel connected, appreciated and an essential part of the team is key to keeping projects on-track, within budget and running smoothly.
Take at look at the following best practices for managing remote teams. Whether your teams are located throughout the country, across the world or around the block, these pointers will help you get going in the right direction.
Set Expectations, Goals and Objectives
The importance of having clear goals and objectives is priority one, as it gets your teams focused and on board with what is required for a project from beginning to end.
At the start of your project, take the time to set expectations, to create processes on how the team will interact and to put the appropriate tools in place to make it all happen.
Also important is taking the time to learn how things work at a particular site—such as ensuring that all team members have access to the same tools and technology, identifying obstacles that may lower the project’s priority and what are the working hours, the working environment and cultural considerations that may present challenges or perhaps provide opportunities.
Select the Right Technologies and Tools for Team Interaction
Communication and collaboration are only as good as the tools you use. To be truly effective, a remote team will have access to the necessary remote work tools, including live video, file-sharing, email, an instant messaging platform, screen sharing software, project management software and any other tools or resources specific to your industry.
Make sure to keep your team up-to-date on the tools and technologies they use—both hardware and software—and test them out on a regular basis to ensure they are performing to your specifications.
Creating open communication channels is key in making remote teams feel like they are not stranded on an island. To that end, it is important to establish how quickly team members need to respond to an email, the follow-up steps to take and on which days and at what time check-in calls need to occur.
Also important in keeping the lines of communication open are frequent team meetings. Considering time zone constraints, it is best to set up meetings on a rotating schedule to accommodate team members from different geographical regions. And by all means, encourage the use of online collaboration tools and apps to keep teams in touch and on the same page.
Develop Effective Team Dynamics
Managing relationships between team members is challenging enough when they are co-located. With remote teams, you have the additional challenge in that you can’t look for the typical body language signs between team members that could mean trouble. Plus, you can’t gauge the morale of remote team members.
What you can do is be on the lookout for warning signs so you can quickly handle a potentially negative situation that could send your project sailing off-track. If output is reduced, if emails are short and abrupt, if there is reluctance to communicate or participate in calls or video conferences, something is probably up.
Create a Positive Team Environment
Promoting an open team culture based on respect and trust, providing feedback and allowing remote team members to provide feedback are important factors that can help remote teams feel valued and motivated.
To ensure feedback is fair and consistent, you may need to set aside time for one-on-one calls with remote workers, as the more isolated they are, the more attention they may need. Stay in contact, so they feel appreciated and not forgotten. And always reward performance.
Additionally, keeping remote teams up to date with company news and happenings, helps build a sense of belonging that makes them feel like an important part of your team—we’re in this together and together we will accomplish our goals.