With the advent of high-speed Internet and tools that make remote connections as easy as possible, many companies have been able to recruit their best talent scattered geographically far and wide.
Yet managing remote teams still proves to be a challenge requiring forethought and planning.
Without strategies in place unique to remote teams, managers may find that their team becomes relationally disconnected and therefore less productive as it functions with impaired synergy. The following tips can help keep remote teams connected and functioning as a cohesive team:
Build Rapport with Your Team
Don’t just focus on the meeting and leave right afterwards. Try to build in a little connect time before or after the meeting for small talk. Although for some personalities, chitchat can feel like a waste of time, it actually helps build stronger teams through increased trust, which leads to increased productivity.
Use Video as Much as Possible
Although technology allows us to connect to other human beings in a myriad of ways, such as texting and emails, we are still hardwired to need to see one another’s faces for the most accurate communication, especially for reading emotional subtext. As well as we might write and even speak, team members will likely only get part of the intended communication, and worse, may misunderstand intentions.
Video communication helps mitigate this issue by allowing you to see each other’s faces. Use it as often as you can. If you can’t use video, don’t forget emoticons for your email and other text communication. They may seem a bit silly, but adding the appropriate emoticons to your email missives can avoid misunderstandings.
When you can, try to connect with various team members one-on-one. This increases trust and makes them feel valued. Never cancel a one-on-one you had scheduled–it can do great damage to your relationship with individual team members, making them feel you don’t value their contribution to the company.
Pull Them into Your Company Culture
Even though you may be separated geographically, there’s no reason your remote team can’t feel like a cohesive part of the company culture.
Make sure your remote team understands your company core values (if you don’t know what they are, make sure you develop clear communication about them as soon as possible!). When you meet, take a few minutes to highlight one of your remote team members and how they exhibited the core values you’re all striving for.
When you get company “swag” (company branded t-shirts, jackets, pens, etc.) make sure to send them some and throw in some for their family members, too–it’ll help your remote team member be a better employee when their family is excited about the company they work for, too.
Make Face-to-Face Meetings Happen
It might be tempting to let your remote team stay remote, but it will pay huge ROI dividends to get everyone together face to face at least once a year. Humans still need that kind of interaction, at least occasionally, with the people they work with and for.
Set it up well ahead of time and make sure to prioritize it. Don’t forget to invite your remote team to other company events, too–you never know when they might be near your geographic location and can drop in.
Managing a remote team has its upsides and its challenges, but with forethought and consideration of the human element, there’s no reason why it can’t be the most cohesive and productive employee team you’ve ever coached.