Leading a team that does not share a physical space with you can be tough. How do you impart values, standards, and behaviours to people who are on the other side of the world? How do you get different team members to bond and collaborate with each other when they never get to meet?
As the nature of work changes, and 25+ Fully Remote Companies That Let You Work From Anywhere, it’s important that business leaders understand the different ways in which they can inspire remote teams, and adopt tactics that span the globe, not just the workshop floor.
We asked guest author Victoria Greene to tell us more about how to keep remote teams in the game. Victoria told us that “having a virtual team at your beck and call is an awesome business asset, but you have to stay on top of your employee engagement strategy in order to inspire them to work hard.
Reassure people that you care about their needs, and that you are genuinely engaged with their ideas. It’s important to encourage cohesive social bonds in your team as well, so don’t be afraid of adopting online chat channels!”
Here are Victoria’s 8 ways you can inspire your virtual or remote team
1 – Adopt clear values
Organisation’s Get the Organisation Culture They Deserve!
In an office environment, certain behaviours and values are easily normalised. Remotely, people need to focus on the bigger picture to feel connected to the company and its values. A clear mission statement, outlining company values, beliefs, and behaviours, will keep everyone in the team on the same page, reducing ambiguity. Values and mission statements need to be easy to understand, preferably with an emotive punch.
Keep reminding people of them on a regular basis: you may want to include a tagline in email signatures, on the company intranet, or on social media, so that the values feel truly embedded in people’s everyday lives.
2 – Have regular check-ins
It’s important that each and every team member gets regularly monitored and checked up on. Even capable senior members of staff are likely to need check-ins to ensure that they are still on track, and aren’t feeling lonely. Check-ins work best when they scan multiple platforms and timeframes. Here are some suggestions:
- Daily check-in messages via Slack or Basecamp (these can be automated and can function as a to-do list)
- Monthly one-hour phone calls with a line manager in order to discuss any niggles or worries
- Social media groups for social chat: a few messages a week to keep the conversation going
- Formal reviews every quarter to assess performance and progress: video chat
- Ad-hoc phone calls and chats when problems arise.
Communication with remote teams shouldn’t feel disruptive or invasive, but regular check-ins help ensure that everyone is on track and motivated to do their work. Time-tracking software and desktop-recording software may seem extreme, but both are pretty common practice in the remote industries.
3 – Buddy them up
Giving remote team members access to people at head office, or pairing up remote team members with each other, is a great way to encourage on-the-ground collaboration and training. Having a ‘work buddy’ will help create crucial social ties, and allow people to vent and let off steam in a non-disruptive way.
Buddy schemes can also work as mentorships between people, allowing junior members of the team to grow.
4 – Emphasise the importance of inspiration
If the actual work never factors in creativity, inspiration, or motivation, then you aren’t going to be able to instil these habits in people. It’s important that the work has in-built mechanisms that consider individual agency. Right from the beginning, ask people how they feel about their work. What elements inspire them? What do they think about the latest company developments? Have they got any ideas on how things should be done?
These probing questions can lead to interesting insights, and will allow your people to do some much-needed ‘blue sky thinking’. You can put these questions to people over the phone, in an email, or in a chat. Just make sure that you are ready to listen when people have had a ‘light bulb’ moment: this is when they need you to reassure them that they are being heard.
5 – Streamline their workflow
Inspiration won’t flow if the work doesn’t either
Clear processes and procedures will give your team the structure they need to work, even if they are more of the ‘creative type’. Creativity itself doesn’t always flourish in chaos, and people will soon start to lose interest if they have to spend two hours every day rooting around folders in order to find things. Simple, cloud-based file sharing is a must-have, as are clear roles and job definitions to help deal with any crossover.
The importance of consistency cannot be overstated, as you will need to ensure that everyone is literally on the same page. Regular training and updates to your filing system and processes are recommended. Founder of A Book Apart, Katel highlights the importance of scaling and growing with freelancers: a foundational step in building out a fully remote workflow.
It’s important to create processes that scale well, but that aren’t also over-engineered and clunky. Especially in ecommerce, when customer experience is at stake, transparency is essential.
6 – Meet face-to-face
Even if it seems like a big company expense, a face-to-face meeting with everyone is probably a worthwhile annual investment. If budgets allow, you could make it into a mini-festival, with workshops and events designed to allow teams to share their knowledge and experiences with everyone. A big away day might not be feasible, but even a bootstrapping start-up can probably afford to get everyone in the same city for a day. A meeting like this can be a great way to fire everyone up for the year, and ensure that everyone goes off feeling inspired about the company mission.
A face-to-face meet is a great time to launch a new initiative or mission, but don’t blindside people: give them time to prepare for change.
7 – Encourage independent thinking
The type of person who works remotely is probably already an independent thinker and entrepreneurial type. They have waved goodbye to the office environment, preferring to work at home and in coffeeshops. Therefore, you need to encourage their independence, not stifle it.
Allow your team members to collaborate, have side projects, and generally engage with the company. Use talented people to help you drive your company’s research and development initiatives, and create an open channel where people can play around with ideas. At the same time, you need to establish clear boundaries about what is acceptable, and how much time people are allowed to spend on ‘non-core’ activities.
Timetabling in some training, research, and development time on a bi-weekly basis is a good idea, as remote team members won’t benefit from a bustling, morale-boosting office environment.
8 – Rewards and recognition
Out of proven 5 proven remote staff engagement strategies, the implementation of an official rewards and recognition scheme should be one of your priorities. Having a staff intranet, bonuses, performance reviews, perks, expressions of gratitude: all these can help improve people’s motivation and job satisfaction levels big time.
Something simple like LinkedInLearning or vouchers can help people feel like the company is really taking care of them.
We’d love to hear your views on remote working, or even engagement in work as an employee or team-member, so do please go right ahead and leave your comments below.
If you are interested in guest blogging on Charlie Helps and Co Ltd’s blog, do get in touch, we welcome all thoughts!
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Victoria Greene is an ecommerce and branding expert who loves to help businesses grow in new and exciting markets. She’s a freelance writer and runs her own blog at Victoria Ecommerce. She’s also big fan of the digital nomad and remote working scene.