Working independently and remotely at the same time for numerous clients, agencies, and businesses over the years have taught me a thing or two about how to make sure I am connecting with the teams I put together for short and longer-term projects. Unfortunately, what I have learned has come from a lack of interaction or overly-intense busybodies.
Going Remote Has Some Serious Advantages
Even larger organizations are seeing the benefits of having downsized in-house teams. The number one cost-saving is office rent and operational fees. Many business owners have ditched the idea of having a huge office or having an office at all.
Just because you have managerial experience in an office situation, it’s wise to realize that not all of those skills will apply to managing people at a distance.
And while some companies and agencies seem intent on keeping remote workers in the dark, there are better and much more effective ways of managing distance talent. I am not talking about using freelancers through workplace markets. I am talking about being a better remote manager so you can get the most out of your people by tweaking your management style.
If you are looking to build your company around those who work online, there are major pitfalls to avoid and significant efficiencies to be gained.
Building a Team for The Long Term
The number of outsourcing websites to find independent workers have proliferated in a few years, from only being a few that dominated the space. Finding the right marketplace is time-consuming. Instead of working your way into each one, read up one what they specialize in and what they are going to cost you.
You might be saving by outsourcing your project, but those fees add up fast, and with some sites charging 15-20% commission either paid by you or the freelancer, someone ends up paying anyway. The direct result is a drop in quality, or you take on the extra expenses.
How does that work? Well, if you are not paying the fees for the freelancer, you are paying for someone who is going to produce work that is 20% substandard. What else can you expect?
It’s either that or you accept consistently paying 15-20% more than you want to, or you find an alternative. It’s a lot of money to be paying for freelancer platforms considering you went remote to save money.
The alternative is that you manage to keep someone earning less than they deserve, and effectively ensuring their unhappiness. Nonetheless, hiring individuals or teams through freelancer/outsourcing websites is going to be costly in the long run without any of the total fees you have been paying going towards building your team.
Direct Approaches to Finding the Right People
Posting offers using online classifieds, social media, digital nomad groups on Facebook, and the like an investment in your operations. Candidates will still need to prove their worth when making an application and references are a staple that can go a long way. It’s interesting that most employers either gravitate to using outsourcing websites or advertising for non-remote positions. There is nothing stopping anyone from advertising for short term projects or long-term remote positions. Independent professionals do like a stable ongoing contract or two.
Digital nomad groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are perfect for finding those who might be great for a specified amount of work per week. Try people out, give them a chance because you never know what gem might uncover.
There always direct references. There is an immediate sense of intimacy and responsibility that comes with direct personal introductions.
Knowing the True Identity of Who You Hire
Are you sure you have a verified freelancer you are hiring? What happens if a hidden script strikes your ecommerce website? What about when a credit card company comes down on you? What happens if the only common denominator is fraudulent charges and your ecommerce site? How are you going to find out who could be responsible?
In response to freelancers with multiple personalities, most platforms are demanding identification verification. Let’s not ever imagine ID checks are foolproof. And to be sure of that, and with no more details, I can tell you I have proved it is possible myself.
Identifying someone is straightforward if they have all the usual payment methods and matching documents. That is something to think about seriously. Make sure you know who is talking to your customers.
Minimizing Noise with Group Collaborative Documents
Internal social communications are all the rage, and all they have done is create distraction and noise. So you have 50 people who are now talking to each at once. It’s not rare for the bitrate of chat communications to slow to pre-human language in terms of understanding. The number of times one can get stuck in chat only to go backwards and forwards for what seems like an eternity happens all too often. And that is no exaggeration.
Collaborated documents are a much better way to communicate without drowning everyone out. A task is complete, and details are updated for everyone to see. Communicating tasks complete instead of spending half the day on in-house social comms. Communications can be integrated into shared documents to shutdown any need for an internal company Facebook feed wasting time and merely confusing people. More often than not, it the first directive that the sender assumes the intended recipient understands. As with most chat-limited communications, assumption makes up the majority of the exchanged information. There’s not much to prove because chat is mostly in the head.
Getting People On Board
Building a remote team is a little different from creating an in-house team. It is common to see extravagant position responsibilities for in-office positions; a method that does not always translate well to managing remote workers.
Based on experience managing and being managed poorly, being told a list typical office-style list of responsibilities doesn’t translate too well for remote workers. An office environment continually introduces and reminds individuals of their responsibilities. Terminology is another issue. In the office, clicky company terms are often adopted, but when you’re global, globally accepted terms are essential for precise and proper communications.
Basing the scope of work to be carried out by a remote worker by tasks is much clearer for everyone to understand. Mapping a task flow clearly defines a process or project. Break up responsibilities into tasks for new remote workers to take on with little clarification.
Over time, as your relationships and trust levels increase, you can teach and delegate task management.
Adding Value to Your Organization with Detailed Operations
Hiring someone to take over segments of your work is the best way to start building a team. An excellent way to communicate what that work involves creating task lists with detailed workflows. New employees will know what to do. Simplify labor cost management by allocating time per task. You only need to it yourself a few times to find out.
You grow your business by expanding and getting most of any tasks that you may already be executing. There is an enormous advantage of creating task-based operations that won’t be apparent for some time. But when it does, it’s a windfall. Detailed task management tied to cost control will add considerable value to your organization should you ever want to sell.
Good Remote Team Management
Positions involve performing collections of tasks over the idea of responsibilities. The best remote workers work best on the time that is best for them and not the scheduled operations of a traditional office. Implementing office hours for your remote employees should be avoided at all costs. If your business relies on timing with clients, for example, a call center, run it 24 hours with the right people on the right time zones.
Independent professionals work more efficiently on their own schedule. It more than likely you are relying on a group of people who live on different timezones. Instead of stressed deadlines, allow your operations to gather a natural groove. Get that groove, and you will soon find the actual time it takes to produce quality products or services.
Deadlines that don’t provide more than enough time result in inferior quality products and services. The smart way is to know your timeline and then add time to it. The best statement I’ve ever heard from a director when I was working independently regarding my task was, “Take exactly the amount of time you need to do an excellent job.”
Performance Reviews and Upward Movement
Task-based management allows for objective evaluation. Defining quality standards, errors, process times (without being intrusive,) and overall performance is pretty straightforward.
Giving people feedback is very important. Not just from a business perspective but from a human perspective. Give people a pat on the back when they’ve done well. Remote workers need this support too. There’s a balance, of course. No one wants to have audio or video daily.
Don’t Forget Meet-Ups
A failing of many remote managers is gradually slipping into the idea that remote means far off and not touching base enough. Eventually, your people become disconnected, which contradicts the idea of having a team.
Holding regular video conversations can add information quality to future messaged communications. Monthly or bi-monthly meet-ups to say hello, talk about what is going and talking to each other will add an extra dimension of understanding to your everyday communications. Short messaging and fast comms severely lack the completeness of traditional human interaction – talking face to face. Those meet-ups will help enhance message-based communication understanding. Half the reason why so many fast comms go back and forth endlessly is due to a lack of clarity on both sides. It’s easy to assume someone else understood that five-word directive when they didn’t.
Outsourced workers are not robots. A little human interaction and frequent social communication, as in an office, will help to build that warm fuzzy feeling indicative of steady, stable, and dedicated teams.