For most businesses, the year 2022 marks almost two full years of operating remotely in at least some capacity. Some leaders couldn’t wait to open their offices again, while others embraced the new trend and still run their businesses entirely remotely today. Whether your team members work remotely all the time or just occasionally, it is important to recognize that leading a remote workforce requires intentional effort to keep your team highly engaged and productive.
For the past two years, our entire team at KiteTech has been working almost entirely remotely while also helping most of our clients across the country make the transition to remote work as well. As a result, we have learned a lot about what it takes to lead a remote workforce effectively. Below are four strategies that you can leverage to help you lead your remote team to its maximum potential.
Invest in technology.
It sounds like a pointed statement for me, a leader at an IT Services company, to start with the importance of technology. But it is not an exaggeration to say that our team and our customers’ teams would have collapsed without the proper technology in place. Now more than ever before, it is vital to your organization’s success to have the technology infrastructure in place that supports your business objectives and empowers your users to do great work no matter where they are working.
A few categories of technology to consider that will make or break your remote team’s effectiveness are:
- Personal Workstations: This most basic need includes all the hardware equipment your staff will use to do their work, such as a sufficient computer, multiple monitors, phone, headset, and webcam. We share additional home office recommendations in this recent post.
- Collaboration Software: Your team needs a place to meet and collaborate. There are many, but we love Microsoft Teams because it integrates well with other pieces of Microsoft’s complete productivity suite like SharePoint.
- Cloud-based Work Management Platform: Your company may already use a line-of-business application to store your customer records and track your work activities. Hopefully the application you use is accessible remotely because this will be an essential tool in driving accountability to keep your team productive from afar.
Emphasize your company's values and mission.
Have you ever walked through the front door of a corporate office and seen a plaque on the wall stating the company’s values? Often, these plaques are mounted to every office and cubicle wall throughout the building as well. Organizations do this to constantly remind their employees and customers alike what the company stands for. Additionally, leadership consistently talks about their company values to help drive the point home even more.
The challenge with a remote team is that you are not in charge of everyone’s home interior design, and you don’t have the luxury of having everyone in earshot of you all day. With a remote team, you have to be creative about other ways to drive your company’s values and mission to your people. At KiteTech, we created small calendar-like flip boards that our employees can put on their desks to remind them of our core values. You can also brand your digital space by adding your values and mission statement in places like desktop backgrounds, screensavers, intranet home pages, and email signatures. Think of as many places as possible to sprinkle these reminders, and it will be hard for your people to forget.
It is also helpful to be intentional about mentioning your values in as many conversations as possible, especially team- or company-wide meetings. In a remote workplace, you may only have your team’s attention for a few minutes, so take advantage of all the opportunities you can get. If your people have not gotten sick of hearing you talk about your values, then you have probably not talked about them enough.
Create time for employee touchpoints.
Every team should have regular team-wide meetings no less than once a week. We found that we needed a much more frequent rhythm in a few cases now that we are all working remotely, so some of our teams meet for a brief huddle once or even twice a day. If you are leading a team, consider implementing daily huddles to keep your people connected and rowing in the same direction.
But this is just the start. As a leader or manager, you need to stay connected to your people in more ways than just the regular mandatory meetings. Be intentional about getting time with each of your people individually or in small groups throughout the week, outside the context of a typical meeting. If your work doesn’t naturally facilitate these informal touchpoints, you need to be extra-intentional about creating them yourself. Keep a mental note of when you last talked to each person on your team, and when it feels like too long ago, give them a spontaneous call just to check-in. People feel more supported and more engaged when they get these frequent touchpoints, and without them, they can feel isolated.
Build quality reporting.
With an in-person team, some managers feel satisfied just from seeing their team busy. Is everyone on the phone? Is anyone congregating by the water cooler? Is anyone missing from their desk or the office? When everyone is working from home, it creates obvious challenges in managing a team simply by looking or listening.
The fortunate truth is that you really don’t need to see or hear your people to know they are doing a good job. In fact, even if your team is in-person, you should not settle for “look and listen” leadership; don’t mistake activity for results. Instead, you need to create reporting systems that tell you the entire story.
Start with your team’s goals and then consider ways you can measure and report on results. For example, when our help desk technicians work with our customers over the phone, it is not enough for us to simply know that our technicians are on the phone; we also need to know if they deliver extraordinary service. To get this, we implemented a customer feedback system that allows our customers to grade their experiences, and the results are then reported to our team. This measure is immensely more valuable than just looking at a given moment and making sure our people are busy. Other examples of measurements we get from our reporting are phone hold times, ticket response and resolution times, and the number of issues solved.
We use some reporting tools that are proprietary to our industry. Look into whether there are any industry-approved solutions for your line of business. Power BI by Microsoft is a data visualization tool that can be customized to create solutions for any industry.
Although leading a remote workforce may feel more challenging, it doesn’t have to be. While it does require you to be more creative and intentional in your leadership and management approach, with the right strategies and tools in place, you’ll discover that remote teams can be just as, if not more effective than in-office teams.
Here at KiteTech, we take pride in providing IT services and technology solutions that help the organizations we work with operate more effectively, whether they are in the office or working remotely. Over the last few years, we have helped thousands of users across the United States seamlessly transition to remote work. To learn more, please reach out and schedule a conversation. We are here to help!