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12 Ways to Effectively Manage a Remote Workforce

by Siv Rauv

21 Jul 2020

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Do you need to put in place the right tools, processes and support network for a remote workforce?

Challenging isn't it?

Successfully managing a remote workforce requires a critical shift in how organisations manage employees. It's about helping them thrive, regardless of where they work from and when they work.

The seamless implementation of new and updated processes and technology plays a key role in supporting people. But it is only one part of the equation.

Remote Working challenges

How do you foster a positive company culture when employees are working in isolation? How do you make employees feel like they’re part of the ‘team’ when everyone is geographically spread out? How do you ensure everyone has access to the information they need outside the traditional office environment when tapping on a colleague's shoulder isn’t an option?

How do you avoid these crucial digital workforce mistakes?

The challenges experienced when trying to manage employees on flexible work arrangements can be broken down into 3 broad areas: 

  • Disconnect from the business
  • Disconnect from resources
  • Disconnect from each other 

Creating a positive organisational culture while offering employees the benefits of flexible working arrangements is challenging. But it can be done.

In this post, we'll look at 12 key ways you can address these and start connecting your remote employees.

Connecting them to the business 

There’s always been a disconnect between how well employers think they're helping employees and what the employees actually experience.

In their Future of Work publication, professional services firm, PwC, found that 62% of employers view their relationship with employees as “a committed partnership”, while only 33% of workers under the age of 35 say they are in “a committed partnership” with their employer.

This is likely to be exacerbated for remote, part-time and casual employees.

Take the opportunity to re-think how you communicate your company’s purpose, as well as whether your vision, goals and strategies have changed over time and document these accordingly.

1. Providing them with a sense of certainty

Where possible, always be clear about what the new norms are to avoid confusion and anxiety. For example, if you now have a hybrid workforce with staff working in the office on a rotating basis or rostered on to work some days and not others, communicate this new schedule to relevant employees so they know who is working, what time they're working and from where. This will make it much easier to collaborate across departments and locations.

Or if make it clear when the next communication will come, to reinforce certainty and your commitment to communicating with employees. For example, if managers promise daily updates, then give them daily updates. If you deliver weekly CEO updates, then ensure it happens every week. If it needs to be missed, let employees know.

Expect these to evolve and continue addressing new norms as they come up, to maintain productivity, collaboration and connection.

Alongside these updates, make sure to communicate those broader long-term business updates, along with the immediate and urgent updates.

2. Reinforcing your culture

What is your culture? Is there a strong customer service focus? Is it a family oriented culture? 

Has this changed as more of your workforce works remotely and at different times?

Your company values provide the foundation for your work culture. And your organisation goals and values give employees a sense of purpose and help them understand why what they’re doing is important.

Make sure you communicate and showcase resilience and teams that demonstrate this. For example, get employees to send in screenshots of virtual meetings they've had with customers or positive emails and reviews they'd received.

Further reading: [Blog post] How to Create a Digital Culture that Embraces Transformation

3. Being actively visible

Get managers and leaders to consistently promote what they’re doing.

This can be done via the intranet through department or team hubs - or sharing a blog or vlog – or through a fortnightly or monthly what’s happening session around different departments.

Decide on what medium and channel people are comfortable with such as a writing content vs. filming content, as well as where the content will be featured. Then have them reinforce company goals and strategies, and what is being done to achieve these on a consistent basis.

4. Get leadership support

Leaders should agree on a well-defined vision, goal and supporting strategic business plan. And this should drive the projects you undertake.

In turn, these projects should be supported by your leadership team to ensure that employees recognise the value to the business.

This alongside detailed planning and continual transparency will help you implement new processes and systems that are adopted by employees and help connect them to the business. 

Connecting employees to each other

The Gartner ReimagineHR Employee Survey revealed that 41% of respondents don’t feel connected to colleagues when working remotely and 26% of employees feel isolated when they work remotely.

In this new normal, employees who once worked together face to face, no longer are. Subsequently, interactions outside of immediate teams drop over time and employees become more socially isolated or disconnected from those who work in different locations and during different hours.

The combination of a well thought out strategy, as well as providing the right collaboration and communication platforms and software to facilitate this strategy, will go a long way in enabling and prompting employees to build social and emotional connections digitally.

5. Prompt interactions

Keep encouraging staff to interact with one another. It’s one thing to provide social tools to boost collaboration and engagement, but it’s another to prompt them and give them a reason to keep using it.

Get your most visible employees and subject matter experts to drive interactions. Prompt them to actively connect with others publicly. Schedule virtual get togethers, share tips and best practices, ask questions and get advice, and share link to relevant resources. 

Use the different tools available to you, from your intranet software to your instant communication and productivity apps.

As with almost all initiatives, it is helpful to get leadership on board to lead the way.

6. Monitor communications tools

Communicate why it should be used and when is it appropriate to use. Then look at how well it actually works for that intended purpose. Do not have a set and forget mentally.

Instant messaging and social tools such as Skype, Yammer, Slack and Jabber are necessary to facilitate communication between colleagues. However, they don’t help employees understand what is going on in the wider context of the organisation.

Intranets offer employees a dedicated newsroom with articles that can be categorised as needed, to promote discoverability to the right people.

New virus outbreak in one location? Change in product focus for a region? New processes in place for a department? News articles can be delivered to one or more groups of users to refrain from overwhelming employees with unrelated news.

Further reading:

7. Encourage employees to recognise each other

A lot goes on behind the scenes to make an organisation successful.

Teams and individuals tend to work in silos and subsequently, their achievements can often go unnoticed. This is especially true for a remote workforce.

While it is key to have leadership recognise the contributions of employees, it's also just as valuable to enable employees to publicly recognise the contributions and achievements of colleagues.

Provide employees with an easy way to nominate each other for employee of the month awards. If you have a large workforce, you can segment these via location. Where possible, tie these to virtual benefits such as an online gift card so employees don't have to head into the office to receive their prizes.

8. Monitor and gather feedback

This is incredibly important given the uncertainty and anxiety people are feeling. Regularly survey and gather feedback via online forms and workflows. Look for trends and of course, distribute feedback to relevant parties to implement changes.

Capturing feedback when employees transition to flexible working arrangements, as well as in the months following, can help the organisation identify unexpected challenges relating to the transition. Are people using tools for the intended purpose? Are they turning to unapproved apps? Are they following the right process, and if not, find out why!

From these insights, along with your organisation’s goals and objectives, you can create a digital roadmap that considers the needs of employees within the context of the wider ecosystem.

Connecting them to resources

Ensuring employees not only have access to the resources they need in a way that is quick, easy and seamless, is an ongoing process of refinements.

Almost as importantly is the need for transparency and communication around how this affects employees, as well as how processes and behaviours need to change accordingly.

9. Review your existing resource ecosystem

Sam Marshall from Clearbox Consulting recommends you examine the following questions to determine what’s working and what isn’t:

  • What elements of our digital workplace didn’t work as well as hoped (perhaps under extra load)?
  • What new opportunities or innovations have we identified that can be scaled up?
  • Where do we need to adapt so we can work with customers just as effectively as we work internally?
  • What advantages can we capitalise on, and further our investment in, such as deepening our self-service and automation models? 

10. Plan to address all types of staff and resourcing challenges

With flexible working arrangements, comes the need for more flexible and accommodating digital workplace tools and processes.

For example, with alternating people in office and at home – do they have equipment they need distributed among work and home? It also might be a good idea to have the corporate directory updated with their new workdays and hours.

This is why gathering feedback is key to supporting your workforce effectively and efficiently. It helps organisations identify unexpected challenges relating to the transition that might have not been obvious at the beginning of the transition.

11. Make everything transparent

With the rise in flexible and remote working, alongside the existing number of employees who traditionally work away from head office, mobility and accessibility must be a priority when setting up and optimising digital workplace.

Who’s working today? Any updates from last week they might have missed? People shouldn’t have to dig through dozens of emails or Skype each other to find out.

Consider using a team workspace with social features where people can add new documents and information in permanent locations, while having a space on the page for chatting among each other.

12. Personalise where possible

One way to avoid information overload is to personalise content to the different personas you’ve identified.

Think about what information are they looking for.

For example, during this period of isolation, it’s a good idea to remind employees of work anniversaries, new colleagues and so on to promote connectedness. However, in a large or enterprise organisation this may not be relevant to all employees.

Make sure you personalise for frontline vs. office vs. home and the different shifts they have where necessary.  

Next steps 

Want more insights on how you can overcome remote working challenges?

If you find yourself needing to support a large number of staff working from home, we recommend you watch this webinar on 'How to Effectively and Efficiently Support a Remote Workforce'.

Staff need secure, self-service access to documents, resources and tools to perform their jobs, from any location and any device. And amidst the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and other potential future disruptions, they need timely updates on how it will affect them.

In this webinar, we delve into how you can support the short term needs of your staff who work remotely, while also preparing to support them in the long term to ensure you build an engaged and high performing workforce regardless of future disruptions.

Support a Remote Workforce Webinar Blog Mar 2020 Image Final

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