Managing a Remote Team: 4 Rules You Shouldn’t Ignore

During the last several years (since around 2010) remote work has been perceived as a chance to reduce a company’s costs, increase employee productivity and reach a global talent pool. Especially in the IT sector, where there is a constant demand for software developers, remote work gives many companies opportunities for growth through cooperation with contractors or remote development teams.

It’s definitely worth taking advantage of remote collaboration, however, it requires establishing some rules and having clear communication. When a remote team is improperly managed or certain issues are not discussed in detail, it may lead to delays in completing tasks, conflicts, or a decrease in motivation among employees. Also, one of the obstacles that managers must overcome is to change their mindset by accepting that if they don’t see their employees it doesn’t mean they aren’t working.

Continue reading to get to know 4 of the most important rules managers should follow while managing any remote team.

How to manage a remote team?

Rule #1: Focus on the progress instead of tracking time

One of the common mistakes while measuring developer productivity is focusing on how many hours they spent on accomplishing tasks. It may seem a proper metric since employers often settle accounts with them on the basis of working hours, but this does not mean that the project development is heading towards the end. The same rule actually refers to any work that requires not only producing a physical product of work as lines of code, articles, tables, etc. but also planning or creative/analytical thinking. As Tim Ferries, listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People”, says “Being busy is not the same as being productive.”

That’s why a better idea is setting up realistic goals or KPIs that you want your team to reach until a specific time period. You can make a checklist of things you’ll need them to do to get closer to the endpoint, and once a week sum up with all team members what are the obstacles, challenges, and next steps to take. Prioritize parts of your plan to make it more manageable. By deciding which project will deliver strategic value to your organization you increase the success rates of these projects. It also clears doubts for the development teams when faced with decisions.

Rule #2: Build your remote team based on skills

Building a remote team based on skills instead of the number of permanent employees means you will be working with people who are experts in their domain and they don’t require micromanagement to push the project development forward. 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers. The main reason behind it is that skill-based management allows firms to place temporary workers in a team where their skills will significantly affect the progress of a given project. When you build a team of highly skilled employees you have immediate access to their knowledge and expertise. The shift from headcount to skill count also means that you can be more agile.

You can hire IT Experts who have specific skills to complete only a part of the process and mix resources from both inside and outside of your company to achieve the best results – i.e. staff augmentation service from a trusted company. One of the long-term benefits of a collaboration with outsourced developers is their contribution to the project. Their skills very often lead to increased speed and efficiency of the project development which translates into a sooner launch of a product. A well-managed remote team, built on skills, also allows all members to collaborate more easily because their experiences are often complementary and thus they can mutually support each other in solving obstacles.

Rule #3: Set up feedback sessions with remote team members

Constructive feedback is an essential part of a healthy work environment. It also positively impacts communication, interactions between team members and can boost teamwork results in any field. Feedback is also extremely valuable while managing a remote team because it prevents making the same mistakes by a specialist that can slow down the work of the entire team, and helps to save time in solving encountered difficulties. 4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback and 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week.

Above mentioned data proves that feedback is a powerful tool, however, it requires creating open communication culture and mutual trust. Feedback should be intended to help the receiver improve or grow – never in the form of cold criticism. For managers, it matters to remember that feedback often doesn’t come naturally to us since we all tend to avoid stressful situations. That’s why it’s worth setting up dedicated feedback sessions that happen regularly. Feedback requires giving examples to lead to positive outcomes and it’s easier to recall all the issues monthly than annually.

Rule #4: Don’t underestimate the onboarding process

One of the common mistakes while working with remote employees is assuming that daily stand-ups or meetings are sufficient for the new person to understand the workflow and project itself. This leads to misunderstandings about tasks and expectations and, as a result, to stress and a decrease in the commitment of the new person. The main goal of any onboarding process is to provide information to new employees or project members in order to help them get acclimated to their new role, quickly understand the scope of work and expectations. There are many ways onboarding can be conducted.

Some companies assign a mentor or a buddy from the same department who serves as the main source of knowledge and who can be contacted in all matters. Others prefer preparing workshops or written documentation of the new hire’s responsibilities, company internal rules, tools, and the way of operating. Onboarding also reduces time to productivity which some define as the time required for new employees to have all of the information, skills, and equipment necessary to perform their jobs at a productive level. The world’s highest-performing organizations that have implemented onboarding initiatives report 62% higher time-to-productivity ratios, and 54% higher employee engagement.

Summing up

Remote work has permanently entered the way of working in companies all over the world. In The 2021 State of Remote Work, we can read that 45% of the respondents were being pushed to work from home in 2020 because of the pandemic, however, 55% were working in the same model even before when that wasn’t the case. What’s also interesting is that 16% of respondents claim that difficulties with collaboration and communication are the biggest struggle while working remotely. Managing a remote team firstly requires planning and engagement, secondly, smart implementation.

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