How do you build a successful remote team? This is a question my clients often ask me. They want to take the plunge and hire from a global pool of talent, but they don't know where to begin or what this team would need to be productive.
How can you know that your people are making the most of their day? That they're correctly prioritizing their work and getting answers to their questions in a timely fashion? That they're able to access and upload business documents into a secure portal? It's not about simply answering these questions but having tools and technology in place to facilitate this process.
The luxury of an office environment is that you have face-to-face access with your people throughout the workday. Arranging an internal meeting is quick because all your people are present and accounted for.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for your remote team, and yet, this doesn't need to impact their productivity negatively.
These three life hacks can help to maximize the productivity of your remote team.
1. Use online tools to create the structure of an office environment
Centralized offices allow us to interact with our people continually, which builds camaraderie. Arranging a quick team huddle or organizing a meeting requires little effort, and can be done at a moment's notice.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for remote workers. We don't have the luxury of gathering at the water cooler to catch up on the day's deliverables. We can't lean over to a colleague's desk to request that all-important file or pop into a conference room to whiteboard ideas.
We have to rely on communication tools like email, instant messaging, conferencing software and cloud computing to do our job.
Here are three things that have paved the way for my remote team that you should do too.
Find the right project management tool.
Gone are the days of writing out to-do lists on scrap paper. Technology has changed how we do business, and every company should invest in a project management tool. Astoundingly, only 22% of organizations use one, which is insane. If you want to build a productive remote team, you need to be able to delegate tasks to your people and track the progress of each project. Tools such as Asana, ClickUp and Trello give you an overview of what's in your system. It allows you to prioritize work, upload and access documents, add due dates, ask questions about tasks – should I go on? So, really, it's key to building an efficient team.
Organize a central communication hub.
Security is non-negotiable when working with remote teams. You need to know that your business documents are only accessible to your people. I like to use G Suite. It's the center of our team communication. It gives us calendar and email capability, the ability to create and share documents, but most importantly, it provides a central place of authentication.
Invest in instant messaging for your business.
How often do you step out of your office cubicle to ask a colleague a question? At least a couple of times a day, I'd guess. Remote workers need to feel like they can reach out to you and receive a response quickly. I get hundreds of emails a day, and I don't have time to sift through and identify emails from my team. With Slack, they can drop me a quick message. I get a notification immediately and can attend to it. We can also share documents or links to videos, which everyone can see and comment on. So it's a great way to build strong connections and maximize productivity.
2. Make goal-setting a collaborative approach.
Too often, managers or business owners set unachievable goals for their teams. This can be frustrating for you, but for your people, it's completely demoralizing – especially if increments, bonuses, or commissions are tied to their goals.
Goals need to be clear, relevant, measurable and trackable, but most importantly, they need to be achievable.
If you continuously set ridiculous goals without input from your team members, your people will become unmotivated. Here's where the domino effect comes into play. Their productivity plummets, and they don't put in the extra time they would have if their goal was within their grasp.
This is when people stop caring and start looking for work elsewhere. Finding people who are good at what they do and great to work with is tough. If you don't want to lose them, you need to make goal-setting collaborative.
Here's what I've found to work best:
Involve your team in setting their goals.
Ask each individual in your team to share what they believe their goals should be. If you've hired good people who are honest and who know what they’re doing, they'll set reasonable goals. Some might be a little overambitious, but, in general, you'll receive thoughtful responses that might require slight adjustments.
Review their goals.
Ask yourself, "Is this achievable?" Believe me when I say that you want your people to hit their targets. It needs to be a bit of a stretch but attainable. This motivates them and drives them to succeed.
Circle back to goals once a quarter.
It's essential that you continually review goals, because a missed goal may be the result of extenuating circumstances. Perhaps there is a bottleneck holding up the process, or maybe the timing was off. On reflection, you might find that the initial scope of work was lacking, so you need to be flexible when it comes to setting goals.
3. Check in regularly.
Communication is essential to the success of a remote team. This is evident in Igloo's 2019 State of the Digital Workplace report, which noted that 70% of remote employees feel left out of the workplace.
Before you tell me that email is a means of communicating, it's not the same as meeting face-to-face with your people. It can be quite cold and instructive, and it's also challenging to convey personality in an email or build relationships.
That's why I recommend a virtual team meeting at least once a week, even if it's only for a quick check-in. My team uses Zoom, but there are other solutions – Skype, Join.me, TeamViewer and GoToMeeting – as well. Online conferencing allows you to assess the overall health of your team. Pay close attention to their body language and tone of voice. If they're upbeat, you know things are going well. If they avoid eye contact, and it seems like no one is home, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed – quickly. Remember, unless someone tells you in an email that they're not coping, you won't know. [Looking for video conferencing software? Check out our best picks and reviews.]
Here's how I keep my team motivated and happy.
Celebrate successes, no matter how small.
It could be onboarding a new client, getting a brief mention in a publication, adding 100 LinkedIn connections, whatever. Celebrating our wins builds team morale and strengthens bonds.
Create a fun and positive work culture.
As a leader, your attitude and energy set the tone for the rest of your team – it can positively or negatively impact work produced. If you want to build a happy and productive team, encourage your people to share their ideas and tackle new challenges. Believe in their abilities, listen to their concerns and make sure they're not overwhelmed by their deliverables. You don't want your people to be chronically stressed out.
Help your people to level up.
For me, I want the people who make my entrepreneurial vision a reality and to take away more than just a paycheck at the end of each month. I want them to take away the skills and experiences they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives. That's why creating a culture of learning is so important. By upskilling your people, you improve the capability of your team, but you also give them a reason to stay. Not many companies invest in their people, and it's such a shame, because most workers want to expand their knowledge; they want to grow. I find it incredibly satisfying to be mentioned in someone's success story, and so should you.
The bottom line
There's no doubt about it: A happy team is a more productive team. So focus on building camaraderie. Give your people the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively and invest in their success. Upskilling your team will benefit your business in the long run.