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Transitioning to a remote workforce, whether fully or partially distributed, gives you access to a larger pool of talent and has been linked to increased productivity and improved employee satisfaction. Savvy workplaces such as Zapier and others are already managing remote teams successfully by making their operations and culture more friendly to the future of work. Leading a productive (and happy) distributed team may seem challenging, but these five principles will help foster a resilient company culture to help you along the way.
1. Invest in onboarding.
The first few weeks and even months in a company set the tone for any new hire, especially for remote team members. Remote workers are not able to absorb information about the company’s culture as they normally would in a traditional office. Therefore, it’s essential to build culture right from the start with an effective and structured onboarding process.
You’ll want an integrated approach to onboarding that spans the entire first year, touching on organizational, technical and social dimensions of your company. Remember to tailor your onboarding process to each individual and position, and aim to show them how things work and define what “good” means in your organization. Help the new members create connections across different departments with scheduled real or virtual hangouts. This is an important step to foster community and internalize cultural norms.
2. Set clear objectives.
Setting objectives for a remote team ensures that all employees are clear on expectations and understand their role in working to achieve the objectives. Our team creates a transparent document each quarter to decide each department’s objectives and key results (OKRs) aligning with the company’s overall OKRs, a process modeled off of GitLab’s transparent management style.
Because these larger goals are visible to everyone in the company, with progress reviewed weekly, team members are held accountable for taking actionable measures toward achieving the milestones. This also ensures transparency of expectations for all team members regardless of physical location. Knowing what success looks like is important to drive progress toward positive outcomes, accountability and steady productivity.
3. Use the right tools.
Adopt tools for seamless communication and collaboration across geographic locations so teams are equally as productive (if not more so) as they would be in a traditional office setting. Some of the tools we’ve found useful for managing our distributed team include:
• Communications: Slack is the headquarters to share files, ask questions, brainstorm and chat. For face-to-face conversations and screen sharing, Zoom is our reliable go-to.
• Collaborative documents: Notion (a note-taking app) and Google Docs allow access and collaboration in real-time, with documentation available and searchable to all.
• Project management: Trello and Asana are the standard bearers used to keep remote projects on track.
• Hardware: Meeting Owl, a 360-degree conferencing camera, makes meetings more efficient for co-located and remote members as the camera auto-shifts to focus on the speaker.
4. Provide consistent feedback.
Weekly one-on-one check-ins are one critical tool to develop trust through regular informal conversations with your direct reports. Sessions should be a weekly or biweekly hour-long meeting (in person or through Zoom) to discuss workload, roadblocks and even long-term career goals. Regular one-on-one conversations enable leaders to gauge whether an individual is aligned with the company’s goals and address small concerns before they grow into larger ones.
These sessions are also the ideal space for both parties to give honest feedback to one another, creating a safe environment to express concerns and bring up new ideas. While this process may seem time-consuming, especially if you have a large team, it is worth the investment as you build a strong and open organizational culture that spans the entire distributed team.
5. Include the element of fun.
A recent report from Buffer found that loneliness is the biggest complaint among remote workers. Occasional in-person contact can still go a long way in building culture. Consider organizing a company retreat once or twice a year for employees to join together for team bonding activities. Don’t forget to incorporate other small-scale rituals and elements of fun on regular basis such as sending remote workers a birthday card, providing a time and space for “watercooler chat” before a meeting, and sharing company wins large and small in a dedicated Slack channel.
Successful distributed teams are your competitive advantage.
Partially remote and fully distributed teams will soon become the norm as technology continues to merge our virtual and real worlds. Laying the foundation of a successful distributed team strategy now will serve as your competitive advantage long into the future. While managing a distributed team certainly poses unique challenges at first, investing in the right tools and processes will remove obstacles to collaboration and ensure the environment you foster is one of openness and trust. If done right, the shift to remote working can mean teams are more diverse, productive and satisfied — a payoff that’s well worth the investment.
April 1, 2019 at 09:05AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs