Guest Post by Gina Abudi
There are many challenges for leaders today. Trying to manage individuals who are located all over the world or who just work from their home office and rarely show up in the office is certainly not easy and takes great skill. As a leader you must have trust and confidence that those who report to you are actually doing their job. You also must have processes in place to help you better manage and support virtual employees.
Follow these simple best practices to better manage virtual employees, making both your job and their job easier.
Get the group together: At least twice a year get the entire group together to socialize and discuss upcoming projects, what’s happening with the business, etc. The goal is to keep a connection between your employees and yourself and keep them connected with the business. Alternate locations if your business has a number of different locations.
Use a collaboration portal: In between getting together, use a collaboration portal in order to share information as to what individuals or teams are working on, problem solve, have discussions, and generally keep in touch with each other. Consider this a “gathering place” for all employees to share information and support each other’s efforts.
Keep in touch: Schedule weekly one-on-one phone calls to catch up with your employees on an individual basis. While e-mail is certainly a good way to communicate, a phone call enables for a better conversation, especially when you cannot meet in person regularly. It also helps to keep you connected with the employee and ensure they are getting what they need to do their job. Additionally, encourage the use of video calls (such as through Skype) and provide your employees with cameras as part of their office equipment. You’ll see early on and be able to address small issues before they balloon into major problems. Consider also the use of instant messaging for urgent messages and to reach an employee, or the employee to reach you, immediately.
Use mentors: Provide each employee a mentor, someone who can guide them and provide them support in their role. Since you are not co-located with the employee, having a mentor who is available and in the same location provides the employee someone to meet with should an issue arise or should they have some general questions. This mentor is able to provide the employee guidance you may not since you are not there.
Use newsletters: Have a company electronic newsletter. An e-newsletter enables those employees working virtually to stay connected with the company and learn what is going on in various parts of the organization. Have various employees contribute to the e-newsletter on a regular basis so they might share what they are doing within the business. Consider social media for the same purpose. For example, you might set up a company group on LinkedIn for employees only.
Ensuring that your virtual employees remain connected with the business enables for:
- Developing stronger teams
- Increasing employee engagement
- Building trust and confidence
- Ensuring open communications
- Increasing sharing of knowledge
- Maintaining commitment to the job, to the business and to each other
Those are just a few ideas to get you started in providing leadership to your employees in an increasingly virtual world. Often, even in the smallest businesses, employees are working virtually.
Remember leadership is as much about reading body language and developing a relationship with employees (especially in a virtual environment) as it is about communicating and directing tasks of employees.
She has worked with clients on a variety of strategic initiatives, including conducting Business Impact and ROI studies for training programs and process improvement initiatives, project management, developing strategic learning and development programs, assessing skills, and developing mentoring programs.
Photo by Hilde Vanstraelen / www.biewoef.be