Managing remote teams is a new art. Most managers were caught off guard when suddenly their office was evacuated and they were forced to manage their teams remotely. Worse, team performance needed to be at its peak in order to deal with one of the worst times to manage and sell in staffing history. Dealing with a recession had been done before but dealing with a virus had not been done since 1969 when few of us were in the workforce.
Everyone knows that weak management means poor team performance. Any contemporary manager knows that it’s not about counting hours worked but about results. How can a team continue to produce expected results without the personal interaction that most teams are accustomed to?
First, Daily Check-in’s are imperative. Ideally, these are face-to-face utilizing one of the many video conferencing tools available today. Today’s companies have the upper-hand because there are so many great tools available to video conference. Most companies have utilized some type of video conferencing already, so it should already be a familiar tool. Some teams may require two daily check in calls. Possibly one in the morning and one at end of day. Managers should look at their teams and identify team members that struggle in a WFH environment. Some may require regular one-on-one time.
Communication is extremely important. Teams need to be able to communicate throughout the day so a tool like Microsoft Teams® is a good choice to maintain a collaborative effort. There is a built-in chat; ability to share documents and even a call and screen sharing tool. You can utilize email and text messages but that is really a short-term solution and will not offer a platform that provides a strong collaborative ecosystem.
Full Access to the ATS cannot be compromised. People are so used to working with staffing software that it will be impossible to work remotely without full access to the tools that they normally use to staff, market and sell. This is especially critical when it is important to maintain those important client and candidate relationships. Likewise, managers require performance reporting tools so that they can deal with performance shortcomings. It is difficult for a manager to manage if they do not have access to activity reporting. Team documentation is non-negotiable. All team members must be asked to document all of their activities. If it is not documented then it did not happen.
Documentation is of great consequence. Managers and employees that have difficulty with the written word will be challenged. The ability to express thoughts in writing is extremely important in any remote environment. It is a major form of communication.
Outline clearly what is expected. Goals and strategies must shift during any challenging time. It is extremely important that the new goals and expectations are clearly communicated. It is not “business as usual” and you are inviting failure if you act as if nothing has changed. Write up clear target points and review them with the team. Be honest and encourage questions. The team needs to understand the level of performance that is expected in order to meet expectations.
Plan some one-on-one time. Periodic one-on-one time is important so that managers understand the emotional status of their team members. People handle change in different ways and some members of your team may be struggling with more than the new work environment. Lack of social interaction may have a strong impact on certain individuals. It is important to recognize this and provide help. Perhaps your insurance company offers a mental health program that employees can use to deal with new emotions that they may not understand.
Talk about layoffs and furloughs. If there have been layoffs and furloughs you should speak about them. Your team may be wondering if they are next. If this is not a concern, reassure them that this is not the case at present so they do not unnecessarily worry. If their position is in danger of a layoff or furlough but not imminent, assure them that the company is doing everything they can to avoid this.
Management training is important. So, what about the managers? Managers will need training to understand and work in a remote environment. Managers have emotions too and it is just as difficult for a manager as for employees to adjust when drastic change comes about quickly. Suddenly, what they know is different.
Managers need technology in order to manage effectively. It is essential that managers are provided the tools that they need to manage remotely. Reporting, a strong ATS and team collaboration tools are valuable investments that must be made if a manager is being asked to meet company goals.
Avoid hiding behind technology. It is important for employees, managers and chief executives to align technology with results. Technology is a tool to help bring about expected results, not the entire means by which results can be determined. Human influence is imperative. Make those phone calls. Talk to employees, clients and candidates. Use technology to manage and supplement those interactions rather than solely relying on technology to be the total interaction.
Remote teams have become a part of almost every company and it is crucial that this new way of working be embraced. Companies need to understand that technology plays a major role in ensuring that teams continue to collaborate. Technology can be used or abused so recognition of this issue will be important in order to establish a fulfilling and productive long-term remote team environment.