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5 Essential Tools For Managing Remote Employees

Published March 24, 2020

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Many members of the modern workforce have suddenly found themselves to be remote employees. This impacts almost every part of the typical workday, but the challenge can be especially painful for those who are responsible for managing remote teams. Managing a team in person can be difficult on its own, but with the added variable of distance and the lack of easy communication - it can feel like an insurmountable obstacle! However, it doesn’t have to be that way. 

There are a lot of resources available that discuss the best ways to manage remote employees. However, that’s a lot of noise to sort through - and you want to be sure you’re getting your information from a trusted and knowledgeable source. 

To best describe what it takes to effectively manage and engage remote employees, the employee engagement experts here at OrgLynx have identified the five pillars of effective remote team management (we might be biased about tools, but we know the industry!). Each one serves a specific purpose, and they all rely upon one another for a comprehensive and cohesive approach to managing your remote team. 

Communicate

Communication is critical for managing a remote team. Not only should communication be clear and consistent, it should also happen frequently. Email isn’t enough to keep the lines open, so many companies have incorporated instant messaging into their communication protocol. Doing this allows them to maintain a more on-demand and informal method of communicating, and it decreases the cognitive distance between the sender and the recipient (in addition to being much more conversational). The addition of chat, when managed well by clear expectation-setting about response times, can be a very good thing for all involved. If you don’t already, use a chat service like Slack or Microsoft Teams to facilitate convenient communication between individuals and groups, and help facilitate collaborative efforts on shared documents and projects. The added bonus of many of these tools is that they go beyond simple chat communication - they were actually designed to be productivity tools, which includes communication, collaboration, and workstream consolidation. 

Connect

Connecting takes communication to the next level - you want to feel connected to your remote teams, so they feel supported and seen by you as their manager. Audio teleconferencing only takes this so far, as much is lost when you can’t see the person or people to whom you’re speaking. Leverage one of the many available videoconferencing tools to ensure your team has audio and video streams for all meetings and conversations. Not only is it nice to connect face-to-face, it helps ensure effective communication by including all of the nuances of body language and keeps participants focused on the conversation (and not on other distractions that easily sneak in when calls are conducted via audio only). Set the tone and expectation that all calls will be video, and you’ll soon notice that people start to prefer it to audio alone. 

Engage, Develop, Gamify

Once you have the basics of communication and connection, it becomes easier to engage and develop your remote team using gamification!  If you’re not familiar, gamification is the process of bringing some fun into standard workflows by introducing fun incentives and rewards (often digital, which is perfect for a remote workforce). Employees love it, and it’s a great way to get them to engage with your organization and available professional development resources in a low-risk setting. The best way to do this?  Use an app designed by the experts to deliver you and your employees a best-in-class gamification experience and get the buzz going across your team. As engagement increases, you’ll notice more employees taking advantage of resources to help them and their team perform better (even when remote!). 

Assess

Evaluation, or assessment, is a critical part of an employee’s path through the organization, and this is even more true when employees are working remotely. As a manager, you need a way to track and manage performance (and the more objective and qualitative the tool is, the better). If you aren’t already, use an app to help with this process of setting goals and tracking progress towards those objectives. Particularly for a remote population, tools that help with assessment create a transparent and consistent way of getting everyone on the same page and working towards the same goals. 

Feedback

The other half of the assessment process is feedback. If you aren’t open to communicating feedback to your employees in a productive way (or asking them to communicate their thoughts to you), you could run the risk of alienating them, particularly when they’re remote. There are a number of tools to help facilitate feedback (which is best when given on a consistent basis), but think about how consolidation can benefit you in this instance - some of the other tools you use for the other four pillars could have built-in mechanisms for delivering feedback like this (for example: OrgLynx has an integrated tool designed to give continuous feedback to employees). Keep the lines of communication open, and you’ll be able to build a solid foundation of trust as you manage your remote team. 

Using the five pillars outlined above, you can take your remote team management efforts from zero to hero in a relatively short time. Don’t be afraid to assess and change your approach either; often the best parts of the process come from learning from past mistakes. Managing a remote team is part art, part science, but focusing on the elements above will get you off to a great start.

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