How to Effectively Manage Employees Remotely
Managing employees is hard. But managing employees who work remotely is even harder. Not only are you unable to physically see them and notice their attitude and productivity in person, but they may even work across different time zones, come from contrasting cultures and speak foreign languages.
It’s very easy to get suspicious that someone isn’t working if they don’t respond to your Skype chat within five minutes, but unless you want to spend 24 hours a day glued to your computer screen, you’re going to have to learn to loosen your grip and trust that you’re assigning the right tasks to the right people. If social media isn’t your forte, trust in the expertise of someone else; if you don’t know what an SEO blog is, make sure that’s handled by someone who does.
A Positive Attitude is Important
The Internet may be an undoubtable revolution in communications; in fact the whole raison d'être of your .com business, but with it come a whole host of potentially frustrating problems that you need to learn to deal with calmly and positively. If you outsource your programming to staff in the Philippines or India, understand that connection speeds are not what you’re used to in the States and that they can go down during storms or power-outs.
You may find that your site goes offline, your shopping cart stops working, or the changes you requested to be updated still haven’t been done. You will come up against cultural nuances that sometimes seem at odds with your own. Accept that there is always more than one way of doing things and that, just because you can’t see the work being done, doesn’t mean that your team aren’t putting the hours in to fix the problems. Staying positive, giving thanks and keeping up your enthusiasm at all times will help you deal with the technical issues that come your way.
Ensure Effective Communication
The best way to keep everyone connected in spite of distance is to be as transparent and available as possible. Make sure that you choose the communication tools that work for you, whether you prefer Gchat, Skype, or Asana and, if possible, try to meet with each employee or manager, as regularly as possible. Remember that if you communicate a lot by chat, the tone in which you read someone else’s writing may not be the same tone that it was intended with, so be sure to clarify anything that you think may be misconstrued. Also, be aware of using local jokes and humor, as these may be culturally incompatible in other places. Be flexible when it comes to meeting times if you’re working in different countries, so that the same people aren’t always forced to pull a graveyard shift.
It probably goes without saying that your team needs to be able to communicate with one another, so they should all speak English at least proficiently enough to be able to use chat. Depending on their role, it’s important to hire people who can express themselves politely and professionally through their written communications, as this is the only way you can assess their personalities; and remember, the way they write for you, will be the way they write to your customers. Don’t ask your programmer to communicate with your clients; make sure that your project manager is tasked with this.
Don’t Cut Corners
You may be trying to keep costs down (and the globalized community gives an unrivaled opportunity to do this) but don’t cut corners when it comes to your website design or content. Remember that this is your shop window and, in many cases, your client’s first impression of your company. Make sure you hire a native copywriter or an expert in content marketing and search engine optimization, such as BrightEdge.
Trust Has to be Created
This is the hardest thing to establish and it works both ways. You need to learn to trust in your employees, and they need to learn to trust in you and know that, just because the job is online, that doesn’t make it any less of an opportunity for career advancement. Set them goals, make them accountable, and give them rewards. Their results will always speak for themselves. Take on new staff for a short trial period before offering a long term contract.
By using the right platform, assigning people with the tasks that they are qualified for, measuring progress, setting goals and creating trust, you can successfully manage employees and ensure that your company is working, even when you are not.
Michael Peggs is the founder of SEO agency Marccx Media, where they specialize in white hat link building, SEO and Content Marketing. Before Marcxx, Peggs worked at Google in business development, forming digital media and advertising partnerships. He is also a blogger and podcaster, hosting the iTunes Top 10 New & Noteworthy podcast You University – The Personal Branding Podcast.