Having distributed teams is equitable and necessary for organizations today, and research shows that about 43% of U.S. employees work from home at least occasionally. And, Forbes recently reported that 53 million Americans – roughly 34% of the population – work as freelancers.
Suddenly, managers are faced with a dilemma: how do we manage all of our distributed teams effectively?
Shane Pearlman, CEO of Modern Tribe, says in his Leading Without Seeing presentation that the foundations are the same: treat people well, and expect greatness from them. But as any great manager knows, effective management is all in the details.
Let’s take a look at some of those details, below:
1. Start with the Right People
You could have an employee that performs exceptionally well in the office, but without the structure of face-to-face daily interactions and a corporate environment, he or she may perform poorly. Employees working on a distributed team should have skills and talents – just like the rest of your employees – but what sets them apart is that they must also be highly accountable individuals.
2. Designate a Trial Period
Let’s build off the point mentioned above. You may have an employee or candidate who appears to demonstrate high levels of accountability, but before he or she actually begins to work for you remotely, how will you know for sure that things will work out? You won’t. So, a trial period is a win-win: it lets the freelancer or employee show off their skills to prove their value to you, and it also grants you the insurance of know that you don’t necessarily have to keep things going this way if it doesn’t work out.
3. Stop Relying on Emails
When you’re not working in the same office building, you’ll obviously need to rely on technology to communicate with your team. Yet, even if your freelancer or employee has a designated work email address, there needs to be a separate outlet through which you can communicate regularly. Email is frustrating and difficult to sort, and endless threads are irritating for everyone involved. Instead, choose a system that allows you to chat. Slack is a great option that we use right here at Atiim. You can designate specific topics, and add the appropriate team members to each room.
4. Manage Goal Progress
For managers, this is perhaps the most complex aspect of managing distributed teams. But it doesn’t have to be. Because you’re already relying heavily – and in fact, completely – on technology for all other aspects of managing distributed teams, managing their goal progress is no different. The key to success, however, is finding the right OKR software (such as Atiim “Pulse OKR”) which helps you set clear objectives for distributed teams, align these teams and track their progress effectively. It keeps everyone focused on your business’s key drivers, despite the fact that each contributor is working on something unique. Managers can observe success from a distance, and step in when risks are identified early on. With enterprise goals software, managers achieve a healthy balance of managing their remote teams with a touch that’s light-handed enough to avoid thwarting creativity and innovation, yet still structured enough to encourage high performance and measurable progress towards company goals.
5. Encourage Self-Sufficiency
By nature, distributed teams must be self-sufficient. Any contractor or work-from-home employee should have a keen ability to work independently. With that being said, there are certain tactics you can use to further promote employees’ sense of self-sufficiency. One such tactic is implementing a weekly pulse report. By encouraging employees to outline their accomplishments and identify any obstacles via a brief weekly report, you’re fostering employees’ independence but still enforcing accountability.
6. Hold Virtual Meetings
This goes without saying, but meetings are still essential even for distributed teams. Pick a tool that works for you and your team – whether that’s Skype, GoToMeeting, or Google Hangouts – and stick with it. Give team members plenty of advance notice, or designate a regular time each month (or whichever interval works best for you).
7. Be Respectful of Time Zones
Even if your business operates globally, you can’t expect employees to make themselves available for a 3 a.m. Skype chat. If your team has significant time differences, try to schedule meetings within a window that’s as fair as possible for everyone. And, always encourage team members to plan ahead by taking into consideration others’ time zones when deadlines are approaching or for anything urgent that may arise.
8. Recognize Wins
Just like your regular employees, individuals working on distributed teams should be able to partake in the celebration of small wins – or completion of major milestones. Designate a room on Slack specifically for recognizing positive work-related events, from feedback from happy customers to blog mentions.
Do you manage a company or teams (either as a CEO, a senior executive, a middle manager or even a front-line manager)? Do you set and track objectives? Does aligning employee performance to business goals matter, and are you responsible for driving results? If so, please check out a live demo of Atiim OKR & Goals Management Software and we’d love to hear what you think about it. Thank you!