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Remote work has become the norm nowadays. That said, not all companies are working under a remote work model, as some are simply dealing with the task of managing teams in multiple locations. As a manager, handling all the processes involving your employees and their productivity and managing a decentralized workforce can seem like an insurmountable challenge at times.
The communication, the collaboration, the culture, all of this falls on your shoulders and all processes rely on your experience and expertise.
And we didn’t even mention the challenge of onboarding new employees remotely or without your direct oversight.
All of this is a challenge, yes, but there’s nothing you won’t be able to achieve with the right tech and the right tactics. As a leader, you need to manage your workforce but also provide the guidance and assistance your employees need to maintain productivity and achieve better results.
Let’s put all of this into perspective and take a look at the best practices for staffing and managing a decentralized workforce.
Let’s get one of the most painful tasks out of the way first. Hiring the right people is difficult enough during these trying times, especially if you’re doing it remotely, but onboarding them can be a completely different challenge.
The problem is that you’re not there to personally welcome them into the company and use your experience to make them a productive team member from day one.
When you’re onboarding people remotely, you have to rely on technology. Onboarding automation is a good way to get people acquainted with their new job. You can use tutorials and in-house apps to provide them with all the resources they need to get settled in quickly.
That said, it’s not just about the tech, as you should also pair new hires with your veteran employees at that location, and use the buddy system to your advantage. The newbie will be able to shadow the veteran and learn the ropes quickly to become a productive member of your collective almost immediately.
The more an employee collective is decentralized and disseminated across multiple locations, the more they need a centralized work environment. While you can’t provide them with a physical workspace where they can work together under one roof, you can definitely build a digital workspace. Again, you should use the right technology to facilitate communication and collaboration between remote teams.
Don’t rely on email or a messaging app to get things done, instead, invest in a comprehensive project management tool that will provide all employees with a centralized workplace on the web. On your project management platform people can easily:
The functionalities of a cloud-based PM tool are too numerous to count all at once, but the point is that it takes a lot of the pressure off your shoulders and allows you to focus on managing other aspects of your workforce.
One of these other crucial aspects of remote employee management is, of course, engagement. Engagement is not just about checking in on your employees during the day, it’s about using the right employee engagement tools to communicate with them in real time through the channels that suit them best. It’s also about having a bird’s eye view of your entire collective.
You need to know where your employees are at all times, whether or not they at the right location, doing the right tasks, and handling the right processes. If you’re managing a decentralized workforce, you can only do this with the right software that allows people to clock in remotely, reach you on a moment’s notice, and know exactly what their job for the day is through the rosters you make in your shared engagement app.
Of course, you can’t just rely on the digital tools to fix all your managerial problems. If you want to ensure seamless and effective communication both vertically and horizontally, then you need to build a communication hierarchy.
Having a communication hierarchy is paramount to the success of remote teams, because people working from various locations can easily get confused and send the wrong information to the wrong person. If people don’t know exactly where each communication lane goes, then you can rest assured that all emails and messages are going to wind up in your inbox. After all, you’re the boss, you probably have all the answers anyway.
To prevent wasting time and effort of forwarding all information to the right people, make sure to create a communication hierarchy that tells everyone whom they report to, where every piece of information should go, and how best to communicate to prevent bottlenecks.
Finally, not everything is about optimizing the managerial processes. If you want to run an efficient and effective remote employee collective, then you have to focus on the well-being of the individual. Make sure to check in with your employees on a regular basis, not to see if they’re working, but to see how they’re doing.
A big part of being a good leader is being there for your employees, at least digitally, and focusing on their needs. By asking how they are doing and if there is anything they need, you will identify the employee’s pain-points and you’ll be able to help every member of the collective.
This will ultimately lead to higher employee happiness and productivity, and it will help you retain the top talent over the long term.
Managing a decentralized workforce is a difficult task, but it’s far from impossible if you have the right tools at your disposal. Use these top practices to become a better leader, and create a happier employee collective that will take your company to the next level in 2021.
Jacob Wilson is a business consultant, and an organizational psychologist, based in Brisbane. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for Bizzmark blog.