Remote work is the present and the future. Managing remote teams isn't something they teach you in business school. And it's likely not something you have a ton of experience with since it's an emerging business phenomenon.
Fortunately, you don't need to figure it out all on your own. We're a distributed workforce ourselves here at Foundr, so we've learned a thing or two about how to manage remote teams—and we're sharing everything we know in this complete guide to managing remote teams in 2022.
Whether your business is temporarily working from home or you're leading a remote team, these tips and best practices will help you overcome obstacles, improve collaboration, and blow your key performance indicators (KPIs) out of the water. The premise of "how to motivate employees" can be difficult. That's because inspiring employees can be unique to each individual. However, there are some common leadership strategies to improve your remote team management.
Ways Leaders Can Effectively Manage and Motivate Remote Teams
Motivating employees require strong leadership and vision. However, there are some practical tactics to help you get more productivity out of your remote team.
Businesses succeed when employees are able to work together efficiently to solve complex problems, execute new initiatives, and share knowledge. With many teams now working remotely full-time, it's more important than ever to ensure teams who are working from home have access to the tools that enable effective and efficient collaboration.
With collaboration tools like Slack and Zoom, remote employees can get quick answers from peers and hold real-time conversations from anywhere. But when covering the details is critical, and a live discussion isn't necessary, most of us still spend hours typing up lengthy emails, slide decks, and documents — complete with explanations, screenshots, step-by-step instructions, and more — to make sure others understand.
It's time to stop typing and start recording. Think about how much additional information you can share in a 2-minute video than you could in an email that takes 2 minutes to read. And also, consider how much longer it takes you to write a detailed email than it does to show and tell simply. Video contains an abundance of data in each frame, which all work together to improve a viewer's ability to understand and remember the details presented.
Video can easily add efficiency, clarity, and consistency to many aspects of remote business operations, including:
- Recording and documenting meetings
- Training employees at a scale
- Onboarding new hires
- Engaging audiences in corporate communications
- Enabling sales teams
- Educating customers
What's more, recording videos is now easier than ever and far faster than writing. Most video conferencing solutions enable people to record meetings, training sessions, and more with just a click. And online screen recorders do quick work of capturing a presentation, walk-through, or message in a sharable on-demand video.
While the perks associated with remote work are numerous, there are downsides as well. Remote employees are more likely to work in isolation and experience burnout in the absence of frequent workplace interactions. Engaging remote workers is a challenge that most organizations using flexible work face. It is also where technology can make a big difference. You can leverage technology by using training programs to keep employees engaged and more valuable to the company.
Continuous Learning Programs
The current workforce, whether remote or not, considers training and development to be critical for long-term employment with a company. Providing ongoing learning opportunities to employees can improve their engagement with the organization.
Hosting live virtual training sessions and webinars for remote employees is a great way to engage them. Make learning interactive by incorporating interactive elements such as videos, infographics, and immersive learning technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
Take a "show, don't tell" approach to employee training. Leveraging technology tools like live demos and screen sharing can engage employees in real-time and enable two-way, interactive learning sessions.
Remote employees value mobile experiences. Breaking down learning into small, bite-size segments that remote employees can consume on their mobile devices while on the go can amplify your engagement efforts.
Mobile applications are a great way to offer customized learning experiences for your remote team. Recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning can give your learning applications an added edge by making customized learning offerings to every employee based on his or her individual goals and preferences.
Effective communication is one of the best ways to maintain a productive and motivated team. Since there'll be a lack of face-to-face interactions, communicating with your team effectively will compensate for this lack.
Being available and responding promptly to your team members will not only improve the team's efficiency but also retain your workers. One of the best ways to improve employee engagement is by contacting your team every day.
Use the Best Communication Tools
If remote team communication was a house, tools would be its foundation. Without technology, it would be impossible to collaborate from different locations at different times. Tools provide platforms for file sharing, project management, and conversations to take place. They boost team productivity, provide visibility, and enable collaboration.
There are a lot of different options to choose from, but the essential tools for remote work fall into the following categories:
- Project management tools: Choosing the best project management tool can help your team keep up with projects, track progress, and share information. Hive is a great platform for teams of all sizes.
- Video conferencing software: Use Zoom to host video calls and collaborate in real-time.
- Team communication apps: Every team needs a chat app such as Slack, where conversations happen and important information is shared. Even better if you can connect your Slack to Hive.
- File sharing tools: Sync and share files safely with team members with cloud storage apps like Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Screen recording apps: Apps like Loom and CloudApp let you record your screen while you share knowledge, explain problems, and give directions.
Importance of Keeping Employees Motivated
An unhappy workforce isn't a business owner's only concern when it comes to remote employees. If your staff who are working from home are not kept sufficiently motivated and engaged, this can lead to a loss of productivity and issues with time management.
There are a few different reasons why negative feelings could be present among remote workers, such as:
- Communication is limited
- Appreciation isn't made evident
- Participation is not easy
If any or all of these ring true for your remote employees, they will feel undervalued or even forgotten about. And every team member needs to feel valued and connected in order for them to want to deliver their best work.
Leadership Strategies to Motivate Employees
Whether you've been promoted to management recently or have been at it for ten years or longer, one thing never changes: Human nature, as in that of your employees, is often unpredictable. Knowing how to motivate each person on a team can be so frustrating and challenging.
But it can be done if managers have a basic understanding of human behavior, such as what makes people tick. At the heart of employee motivation is receiving positive emotions. We are wired for it in our creative design. Therefore, managers must acquire the knowledge of what truly inspires loyal human beings to perform at a high level enthusiastically. Here are several strategies to help managers create the right atmosphere for motivating others.
1. Set Clear Goals & Expectations
To understand how work contributes to the big picture, a clear system for tracking and planning work is necessary. By setting clear expectations and providing clear instructions, remote team members can reserve their energy for being productive rather than figuring out what they need to do.
Designating specific communication channels for different types of tasks and messages facilitates information sharing and keeps people on track. You can help your team judge their productivity for themselves by setting individual and departmental goals with measurable outcomes.
Try encouraging collaboration by holding interdepartmental-strategy brainstorming sessions as well. This way, different groups can see how their work fits together. When there are adjustments to a process, you can schedule training sessions to keep everyone up to date.
Remote work is inherently flexible, so imposing a certain amount of structure via routines is helpful and creates a culture of reliability. When expectations and processes are communicated clearly, it makes it easier for employees to achieve small goals that contribute to the bigger picture.
2. Strategies for helping your employees reach their goals
Goals don't have to be daunting, cumbersome, or confusing. Armed with the right coaching and supportive techniques, you can guide your team to achieve their goals and enjoy all the rewards that follow.
Try time-tracking tools
You'll need time-tracking tools when you're running a remote team. Because you aren't working together in one place, where you can visibly track the time everyone spends working, you will likely need tools to track that information digitally. Monitoring the hours your remote employees spend working is very important to make sure you are paying everyone accurately and holding employees accountable.
Time-tracking tools can also help you figure out why employees are not producing the output they're supposed to produce in a day. Many time-tracking tools also allow you to see the specific activity of remote employees during work hours. This lets you understand if there is a justified reason for the delay, allowing you to make necessary adjustments to improve remote team productivity.
Since members of your team are dispersed across locations, it's critical to have standardized processes in place to ensure productivity. In addition to standardizing your workflow, it's important to make them as short and simple as possible as well. A complicated workflow defeats the purpose of standardizing work in the first place.
So how can you shorten a complicated workflow? Start by making a list of the processes your team follows to complete their work. Then just check out which steps can be eliminated to ensure faster delivery of the output. If you're struggling to cut down a long chain of processes, you can also use workflow management software to automate these steps, saving time that way.
3. Share Company Results and Show How They Contribute
But there are downsides too. Studies show that 70% of remote workers can feel 'left out of the workplace. Humans need a connection to thrive. Make sure this happens more thought when there's a lack of shared physical space to meet face-to-face. Plus, some workers now work in remote teams with people they've never met in person, making authentic connections more challenging, and leading some people to feel excluded from company culture.
Keep people updated
It's essential to keep your remote workforce updated in a frequently changing landscape to contain any uncertainty or anxiety they may be feeling. Make it part of your business communication plan to share company news with people before announcing it publicly to give employees a chance to ask questions and provide feedback.
Help people feel empowered
The way events are unfolding is out of our control, so it's vital to help your remote workforce feel empowered wherever you can. For example, give them a sense of autonomy, be flexible about working hours and patterns and let them take charge of the small stuff, like asking if they prefer video or audio calls for catch-ups.
Help them feel part of the company culture
Company culture can be hard to pin down. And with the rise in hybrid working, frontline managers may struggle to virtually communicate the essence of the culture or find it challenging to make sure remote employees feel part of it.
For greater inclusion, encourage remote workers to feed into your company values and think about how those values are evolving in the current landscape. You might need to put a stronger than usual emphasis on company values across your communication platforms rather than relying on a subtle 'feeling' - that tends only to work when everyone is in the same location. For example, start each weekly meeting focusing on one core value and ask people to describe how they've demonstrated it recently. And try to have ways of recognizing or rewarding efforts, like small gifts or prizes.
4. Provide Coaching & Feedback
When staff members are working remotely, all types of communication are vital to success. However, giving feedback to remote workers in a virtual workplace is one of the most critical—as well as often overlooked—components of communication in a business that utilizes remote workers.
Get specific about praise.
It's rarely helpful to give vague or ambiguous feedback to remote workers, whether it's positive or negative. While it doesn't hurt to tell someone, "You're doing a great job," it's far more productive to let the remote worker know exactly what performance traits you want them to continue. Examples of good specific feedback include things like:
- "That report was really well researched and organized. It will help us all to implement more efficient strategies this year!"
- "I saw that your latest marketing mailer generated 7,200 new sales leads. That's twice what our previous one did. Great job!"
Specific details make a comment more meaningful and help to deliver messages of how they can continue to be successful. Try to keep all feedback personal and unique. Standardized messages will lack impact even if you're doing them regularly.
Provide more positives than negative feedback
Not all feedback can be positive, but it's important to note that negative feedback has a much bigger impact on any worker. As managers, we tend to be busy and often don't take the time to reach out until there's a problem. However, this type of intermittent and negatively-weighted communication will leave remote workers frustrated and less productive.
When you're providing negative feedback to remote workers, use the sandwich method. Start with a positive, then give the negative, and then end with another positive. The key is to not end the conversation with the worker dwelling on the negative.
Also, keep all feedback constructive. Just like a positive comment, "You're doing a great job!" doesn't give enough specifics; poorly worded negative feedback won't deliver the results you want. Remote workers often miss out on the smaller impromptu meetings. You'll need to guide and teach them through your constructive feedback continuously. Keep in mind it's your job to make sure they're achieving their goals, and giving them useable, constructive information will ensure success for both of you.
If you're looking to get more out of your remote team or want to branch out and hire a remote team, Universal Creative Solutions can help. We offer strategy consulting, meaning we provide business leadership guidance to help you implement the right processes, tech stack, and advice based on your specific business. Schedule a consultation and let us help you improve your business.