Are you getting the most out of your remote team members?

In his excellent article, Rob Rawson, of the Time Doctor website.  Rob lays out 25 tips for high-performance remote teams.   In this episode of the  IT Provider Network Podcast, I am going to go through the article and give you my take on how to get the most from remote teams.

Since 1994 roughly half of our team has been remote.  Always full-time W2 type employees but with the freedom to work wherever they lived.

  1. Compensate for the fact you aren’t bumping into each other. Find a way to facilitate conversation via chat and screen sharing. Don’t forget to make these members feel like a member of the team, even though they aren’t there in person.
  2. Have a chat room open at all times. You could use Skype, Teams, HipChat or Slack. Keep the Chat channel open.
  3. On that same note, don’t overload team members with chat or email. Make sure they aren’t subscribed to too many channels.
  4. Choose the communication style that is right for that member. This comes into play with homebased employees or foreign employees. Is an email, phone call, chat or video call most appropriate? Use tools like loom.com and screen sharing tools such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, etc.
  5. Video conferencing is also important. It brings the remote employee into the work space and they get to collaborate in real time with peers. This also makes everyone in the call stay more focused.
  6. Set up a daily huddle with that team member. Weekly meeting and monthly meetings are also important. Set up a communication structure for effective communication.
  7. Use tools to collaborate on documents and spreadsheets. Microsoft Office 365 or Google tools are great tools to get a document up and collaborate on it.
  8. Use a project management system. Make sure you are using it and are holding your employees accountable while ensuring they are using it and using it your way.
  9. Make sure you have systems that drive everything people do in your company. You need a standardized way of doing things that you are following and always improving that you are working with.
  10. Allow some degree of flexible works hours but have some consistent hours. People working from home typically want some flexibility in their work hours. That’s okay but you have to keep core working hours that your whole team can be working, including that remote employee.
  11. Track their work output, whether the team is working virtual or not. Measure productivity in your team. What are the indicators of success? Make sure you have communicated what you want to have done and what the measurable goal they need to accomplish is. Don’t just track it but check in regularly about the progress of their work. You might be really disappointed if you wait until the deadline. If you check in during the process, you can help negate any issues and get the team member on track, if need be.
  12. Rescue Time is a tool that can be used to track how much time you spend doing certain things each day.
  13. Organize a system of overlapping for communicating in different time zones. Have time, a good chunk of your day, where the entire team is working at the same time.
  14. Do a quarterly review to see how your team members are doing and coping with working remotely. If your company is not doing a good job of making them feel like they are a part of a team, it’s easy for them to become lonely, possibly start feeling irritated and isolated.
  15. When you are hiring new employees, always try to get a ‘try before’ you by period. Give them a short project to complete before making a commitment. Some people lie on their resume or have the ability to tell a good story in the interview process. In reality, they may not have the chops. Try to test them first and are really a good fit.
  16. Make sure you pay your virtual employees well so they will stick around and work hard for you. This is true even if this is an overseas person.
  17. It’s important to make sure they are the right fit for your company, for the work and to conduct work remotely. Some people can’t sit in their house and work. Some people need to go into the office. Distraction and isolation can be issues when working from home.   Take a listen to episode 28 of the IT Provider Network Podcast – Taking A Good Look at your Team
  18. Have a standard onboarding process and education system for your new employees. Pay attention to the first 90 days of your virtual employees onboarding.
  19. Put some effort into trying to make friendships with your staff and your remote employees. Spend some time and money putting together cultural team building type exercising that can work remotely. There are plenty of them out there.
  20. If possible, get your team together at least once a year to meet in person.

 

 

Special Thanks to the team at ID Agent for including me in their “This Week in Breach” newsletter.   Get in touch with them if you want to add a great prospecting and cyber-s

Referenced in this podcast

ID Agent  Dark Web Monitoring

Robin Robbins CyberSecurity Marketing Roadshow

UseLoom screen and video email extension for Chrome.


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[0:00] I am welcome to take two of the it provider Network episode 38 on managing remote employees.
I’m having a rough morning here getting the podcast put together but I did want to thank a few people.
Let me start with the folks at ID agent who were kind enough to list me in their weekly security breach newsletter I think it’s called this weekend breach.
Under The Heading podcasts were listening to so thank you Kevin Lancaster and the team and ID agent I do appreciate the support,
[0:33] I also want to thank you for writing in and giving me some great comments and feedback some reviews on iTunes I met some nice new people this week.
We had a new listener from Scotland who I was happy to talk to.

[0:48] And it’s those cards and letters that make this a lot easier to do at 6 in the morning.
I also wanted to say that I’m heading out to the market opiates for you to grow conference tomorrow so if you’re heading down to Clearwater Florida hopefully around this hurricane that’s coming.
I’ll be down there I’d love to run into you so make sure you look me up also I’m heading out to Robin Robin’s cybersecurity marketing Roadshow in Boston.
In a couple weeks and I’ll be happy to meet with anyone out there.

[1:25] Music.

[1:42] Did I want to talk about managing virtual teams and some tips that you can use to do that I found a great article on time dr.com.
Talking about managing a high-performance virtual team so let me just go through some of these suggestions they make.
So the first one is compensate for the fact that you’re not bumping into each other
and I think this is a really good one you know what in a real physical office you have people bumping into you in the lunchroom walking down the corridor stopping in your office to say hello that doesn’t happen with the remote team member so you need to find ways to facilitate that
remotely chat is a good way to do that,
collaboration tools are a good way to do that screen sharing is a good way to do that if you want to share a concept or problem with the remote team employee.
The big thing to remember is to remember that they’re there right to include them as part of your team.
The second thing that they talk about is having a chat room open constantly so that’s pretty easy for us whether you Skype or teams or slack or hipchat.

[2:46] Keep the chat channels open we use teams internally for most of our people but we also use another tool called sococo which
our development team uses not uses the concept of different rooms so you can actually see where your employees are in the room everything in the lunchroom or maybe you weren’t there in the war room or in the particular project room.

[3:08] Very helpful if you see they’re deep in the project room are there in the stealth room we call it and you don’t want to bother him but if they’re in the lunchroom then you know you can go and have casual chat with him.

[3:19] Searching you want to be aware of is that you’re not overloading them what that shot or email.
Make sure that your team members if you use slack or teams they’re not subscribed to too many channels you know to make sure they’re not involved in everything they won’t be getting anything done,
to be leery of that.
The fourth thing is choose the right communication style for that member now this really comes into play a lot with home-based employees or,
or foreign please right so you want to be careful about the communication style use because some of them won’t be appropriate
or certain people at certain times to let me give you an example,
I email if you want something quick use email if you want if you needed instant you might use a chat if you’re doing a meeting I would recommend a video chat or a video of the meeting,
obviously, phone calls are good anytime and other times you might want to just create a recorded video and send that off so that the person can listen to it.
When it’s convenient for them.

[4:23] You some tools to do that you know the one I like right now is use Loom u s e a l o o m.com totally free,
right now anyway Chrome extension that you can use to quickly record a video with your camera and your screen share and shoot a write off in an email use loom.com.
I also want to use screen sharing tools so if you need to share screen maybe use TeamViewer or join. Me or go to meeting or Zoom or.
Connectwise disconnect tool was just the Name Escapes me right now.

[5:01] The other thing you want to do is use video conferencing so every meeting we have in our company we use video conferencing it does two things one it brings the remote employee into the workspace that get to see a face with a name I get to collaborate in real-time with their
their peers and also makes everyone on the call stay much more focused,
because they have a camera on them they’re not fiddling with their phone and not typing on the keyboard or looking at another screen I highly recommend use video conference calls whenever you do a meeting.
Speaking Beauties want to set up a meeting you want to have it at least a daily huddle with that remote team member,
hopefully with the team but if not you can do a one-on-one and then I talked about this before but I like him eating rhythm of a daily huddle quick,
stand-up 10-minute meeting a weekly meeting that in our group is usually about 30 minutes and then a monthly meeting for either the entire company or the entire division,
that has some training component to it so set up a meeting rhythm.

[6:05] You also want to use tools to collaborate on documents in spreadsheets you know you can do this with the Microsoft tools now or Google Drive.
Either way, you use a tool that you can actually get a document up on the screen and collaborate with it if you can collaborate in real-time in the same document.
At least use a screen share where you can see each other screens,
one of the things that drive me crazy is my senior guys tend to rescue they’re their junior people but they don’t share the knowledge when they’re doing it use that same time that you using to fix the problem,
to educate someone that’s it more Junior in your team you get a double whammy for it well worth the time.
Make sure you use a project management system so hopefully all of your using some sort of PSA or project management system,
make sure you use it make sure you’re holding your remote employees accountable to using your system and your way.

[7:00] Speaking of systems Implement systems make sure you have systems that drive everything people do in your company you need a documented standardized way of working that you’re constantly working on and.
Moving forward with you also want to allow some degree of flexible work hours but
have consistent hours so what I mean by that is people working from home typically won’t want or need some flexibility in their working hours whether or working mom or someone that has
you know someone at home they have to have to take care of her young children doesn’t matter
often times they need some flexibility in their working hours and that’s okay but I think you really still have to keep score,
working hours that your whole team can be sure that that remote employee going to be working.

[7:56] Tractor work output whether or not your team is virtual not you need to measure productivity in your group
so what are the key indicators of success what’s the clear outcome that you’ve communicated to them that you want to get done
what’s the measurable goal that you need them to accomplish
and I encourage you not to just track it but make sure you make sure you’re checking in regularly about the progress of their work because if you wait till the end when the deadline is is approaching,
you might be really disappointed and how do you check in once a week,
follow the progress of the of the work being done maybe you could have nipped it in the bud and got the employee on the right track.

[8:37] So can just track everything that they’re doing you know
one of the other things we use internally and it’s not for a big brother micromanagement thing but we use a tool called rescue time and it’s just really for the employee but it’s the understand what they’re spending time doing every day
how long did they have their e-mail open how long were they on a social media site how long did they spend in connectwise,
take a look at rescue time try to get your culture and your employees to have a culture where there are cognizant of the time they’re spending on their computer and what they’re actually doing and getting done.

[9:13] So the next step is too organize a system of overlapping times for communicating in different time zones and I talked about this a little bit you need to have time.
Hopefully a good part of your day where the entire work staff is working so for us it’s pretty easy we have employees from New Jersey to California that’s three time zones,
we just make everyone work East Coast time so if you have to if you’re in California you have to start your day at 6 in the morning sometimes 5 in the morning.
But you’re done at 2 in the afternoon so you’re working 9 to 5 or 8 or 8 to 5 or 9 to 6 East Coast time,
but you have your afternoons to yourself so that’s kind of the trade-off we make with our employees not to a little bit harder if your employees in India or the Philippines,
they’re typically 12 hours apart or up to 12 hours apart I guess I should say so you have to find some overlapping window and won’t be the whole day but it can be some part of the day.

[10:13] Next step is to do a quarterly review see how your team members are coping with working remotely you know it’s it’s a lonely sometimes when you work remotely from home and.

[10:25] If your company is not doing a really good job of making them feel like a team member and making them feel like part of the team.
And it’s very easy for them to get frustrated and feel isolated so make sure you put a calendar invite on your calendar to check in with them quarterly.
Just more of a you know hey how you doing kind of call nothing formal but just to let them know that you’re you know there that you’re there and they can feel the love.

[10:52] The other thing that’s important to remember is when you’re hiring new employees.
Always try to get specially when the remote always try to get a try before you buy. Or give them a short project to work on before you make a commitment you know some people.
Flat out lie on the resume some people can tell a good story and they’re in the resume in the some people can tell a good story in the interview but in reality they don’t they don’t have the chops they don’t have the work product so it’s always best to try to
try to test them first and make sure they really really have the chops.

[11:29] You also want to make sure you’re paying well you know we pay our virtual employees the same or more than anyone else so make sure you pay them well and will stick around and work hard for you this goes to.
This is true even if it’s is an overseas person you know I recently just lost one of my great guys that I had in the Philippine he worked for me for 9 years.
So you know he didn’t work for me for 9 years cuz I was treating him like a second-rate citizen he worked for me for nine years because we treated him like a team member we paid him well and.
You did a good job for us that’s all I want have anyone that works with us so treat your virtual team members well.

[12:11] We also want to make sure that they are the right fit for your culture and they’re the right fit for virtual work,
not everyone can sit in their house and work you know frankly I can’t I have to go into the office I like that ability to mix it up every day to see what’s going on too,
I distract myself by going to the lunch room I’m not sure I’m cut out for working home so you have to make sure that the people you hire are actually cut out for that you know do they have a quiet place to work,
do they have children in the house it’s going to distract them.
Do they have a noisy environment that they live in you no distractions isolation these can all be issues when you’re working from home.
You also want to create a standard onboarding process and education free new employees just like anyone that’s working in your office you want to.
Pay attention to the first 90 days of your remote employees onboarding that can really mean the difference between a successful employee or one that doesn’t fit.

[13:13] And lastly I would say that you definitely want to put some effort into trying to create,
friendships with your remote employees with your staff so spend some time and money putting together cultural.
Team building type exercises that can work remotely and there’s plenty of them you don’t have to be in person all the time.
Bill the team but it is if it is helpful so I would say not only build those virtual relationships also.
If it’s at all possible get your team together at least once a year to meet in person fly Mall in put them up in a hotel.
Rent a conference room whatever you have to do but get everybody together for a day or two to take photographs to go on a team building exercise to break bread and to get to know each other it’ll be well worth your time.

[14:00] So I hope that’s helpful.
As always I thank you for tuning in I know your time is valuable and I know you have a choice in what you listen to so I do appreciate that you’re listening to the it provider Network.
If you could do me a favor please leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher wherever you listen to your podcast.
And share this episode with some of your MSP friends if you know anyone that would benefit from listening to the podcast that’s really the only way I get to spread the word since,
you know I don’t do interviews or have anyone out there plug-in for me,
it’s only by you the listeners and my efforts that the word gets out about the it provider Network so I do appreciate it.
Have yourself a great day today is September 11th 2018 I would be remiss if I didn’t remember the terrible tragedies that occurred here in 2001.
I remember it like it was yesterday and my heart goes out to all the Fallen people that died that day the First Responders that were so brave.
And to the terrorists go screw yourself have a great day.