We asked our friends at Talent Plus, Inc., for some insight on the other side of being a remote worker – managing and setting them up for success! Here’s what they had to say…
Talent Plus, Inc. (30-year-old assessment provider with role and industry-specific solutions, as well as the developmental solutions to layer on to the outcomes of our assessments. www.talentplus.com) has its headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, an office in Singapore and colleagues in locations around the world.
Remote Workers are an Extended Community
We have employed remote workers since our inception in 1989 and it completely works for us and our “extended community” members. One of the things we did first was to ask those individuals what they wanted to be called knowing words shape a culture – whether deployed, extended, remote, etc. Our associates who work out of the office liked the term, Extended Community. As well, we have tried to find ways so that they know something before our associates in our corporate headquarters.
One year, we let them in on Talent Plus’ news that we were going to be on the Great Place to Work list – letting them make the announcement to the rest of our associates once the media embargo was lifted! We use Teams and ask colleagues – inside the office and outside the office – to share information with one another.
Some tips we’ve used:
First, ensure your technology works appropriately. After you have had some conference calls where most of the participants are together in one location or Skype etc., talk to your leader about how it felt to participate. If there are company meetings or team meetings, do the same. This dynamic can be massaged from the leader both with the remote employee(s) and with team members.
Ask for a team onboarding activity and time you can spend with each team member one-on-one. We have found that a structured get to know you exercise can help facilitate and jump start relationships. Onboarding is different — hallway chatter and meeting at the water cooler don’t happen when you work remotely. Ask your leader to help you find ways to help engineer this from the very beginning – virtually.
When company announcements are made or there are changes, if your leader doesn’t reach out to you and ask if you have any questions – be proactive and reach out to them and have some questions prepared. Remote associates often experience ‘out of the loop’ feelings more intensely – even if in reality they know just as much as everyone else.
Moreover, consider asking a team member located in-house to be your partner. Choose someone that likes to form relationships and who naturally extends themselves to others. Research shows engagement is higher when an employee can report having at least one good friend at work.
- Use a webcam in all meetings. The visual is a tremendous help – for you to see them, and for them to see you.
- Send texts or notes to team members just to let them know that while they are out of sight – you are not out of mind.
Remember that remote meetings can be difficult to create a dynamic and engaging experience for all parties. Some of the most common challenges include:
- Technology barriers – remote calls can require the need for a conference line and a screen sharing tool. Meaning, your computer, projection software, phone system and screen sharing must all be working properly. If just one of those components is out of order it can stall the meeting for both internal and external participants.
- Engagement – it is much easier for participants in the room to be more vocal and share their thoughts. It is critical to find inclusive ways to participate.
- Learning Transfer – when you are teaching a new concept or tool, it can be difficult to gauge the level of interest and knowledge gained by those on the phone so either chatter your questions on the web conference platform or do a hand raise so that the moderator can ‘see’ you and be more inclusive of you.
The best way to overcome each of these challenges is to simply be prepared. Arrive early and test your equipment! Ask for an agenda, and if possible, any supporting materials such as a PowerPoint or documents to review prior to the call. Additionally, be proactive with seeking an opportunity to speak and be heard to create the most dynamic training or meeting.
Helping Remote Workers Succeed by Working More Effectively
Dr. Scott C. Whiteford is a leading authority on The Science of Talent ®. His primary analytical focus is utilizing Talent Plus’ Executive Interview to help companies select and coach leaders based on their strengths. Whiteford utilizes a variety of solutions (e.g. the Executive Interview, Collaborative Coaching ® and Executive Coaching) to develop leaders, build effective teams and help grow organizations through a strengths-management philosophy and positive psychology. He is a member of our Extended Community and offers:
How can a manager get a team to work together effectively, especially a geographically diverse team? Communicate. Strengths. Communicate. Strengths. Repeat.
The key to getting teams to work together effectively is to communicate regularly and understand the strengths of each team member. Regardless of location, communication is very important. Managers must communicate clearly and appropriately with each team members. This does not mean that they need to subscribe to “death by meeting,” but it does mean that they need to have regular face-to-face and/or over-the-phone communication with each of their team members.
Second, the manager must know the strengths of each of their team members. How is each team member different? Where can the team-members complement each-other? Much like a football team, they need to put each of their team members in the best position for them to succeed (and no two positions are the same). Once they understand communication and strengths, they will be able to work well with a team.
Jess Karo, a long-time management consultant with Talent Plus, offered these insights:
- I call in regularly to the office and take time to talk to my colleagues. I don’t start the conversation by talking about “business,” but ask about the person’s family, interests, how their day is going, etc.
- For team meetings, I call in. The interaction, the dialogue that occurs and the collaboration, even though not in person, still allows me to build relationships.
- Sometimes when mentoring someone, we FaceTime or Skype. That way, we see each other and it feels as though we are in the same room. This allows you to also put a name with a face.
- Celebrating colleagues’ success. Even from afar, recognizing when someone has done something exceptional in a way that is meaningful to the individual shows you care.
When working from home, it is easy to lose touch. That is why maintaining strong relationships is essential for the effective operation of a team. Relationships are needed in order to support one another, provide empathy in times of need and celebrate each other’s successes. If you do not constantly communicate, touch base, reach out and stay connected through relationships with people in the office, you will likely not be as engaged or connected to the organization.
‘Chelle Ham, Leadership and Management Consultant, concludes by offering:
In a virtual environment, building relationships and staying connected requires greater intention. Scheduling get-to-know-you calls with associates can be a helpful way to start building relationships. In those conversations, take time to ask purposeful questions to help you to learn more about who they are – for example, ask about their goals, a recent success or their “hot buttons,” hobbies, special interests or those things they could talk about all day.
Be willing to share about yourself so they can get to know you as well. Also, make it a point to discuss communication preferences and leverage what you learn to stay connected in ways that are meaningful and productive for each of you.
Lastly, one of our business developers offered this:
I build and maintain my relationships as a remote worker by (1) asking simple questions to build relationships; (2) checking in with regularity; and (3) maximizing my time when I am able to interact with others in person.
Even when I am in a rush or my focus kicks into overdrive, I try to start each call with a coworker by asking simple questions about their passions, interests or hobbies. This helps me to stay up to date on the things that matter most to them, despite the fact that “water cooler” talk is not a part of my day-to-day. It’s an easy way to start to develop a list of important talking points with people, as the same topics frequently come up when I ask others open-ended questions.
In our culture, frequent check-ins are the norm. These exist not only between employee and leader, but also between myself and other key individuals I work with on various projects. Having a standing calendar time each week or every other week allows us to provide relevant and important updates to one another to maximize productivity and efficiency and still deliver the best client service.
Lastly, when I do have the opportunity to be in the same city as a colleague of mine, I take advantage of every waking moment to grab lunch with a teammate, coffee with a leader, happy hour with a different team or just stop by the desk of a colleague to say hi. I max out my social calendar. This helps accelerate the relationships I have built while away into a more trusting space, as each person knows I am dedicating time to them in person when possible.
Though these methods seem small and simple, they work!
Talent Plus, Inc. is the premier leader in discovering and developing human potentiality with a dream to actualize a better world. Our mission: We know every person has talent. Talent’s expression is dependent upon the desire and opportunity to express it. Our mission is to discover and develop talent, creating a world where people do what they are good at and enjoy.