Remote team management cannot be compared to full time employees management and differs from it in many aspects. It is much more difficult, and specific manager skills are needed here. A set of rules, principles, and incentives must be established if a remote developer company wants to achieve goals faster and cooperate more effectively.
Even before the pandemic, researchers claimed there would be around 1.87 billion remote employees globally by 2022. When Covid-19 happened, businesses had to urgently transfer all processes into online mode. Remote team management became one of the hardest tasks for team leaders during that period. Practices had not been studied well yet, and many things were learned by trial and error method.
Nowadays, remote web developer jobs have become very common for specialists globally. The situation for corporations has greatly changed too: HRs and team leaders can avoid mistakes by following proven and successfully implemented guidelines of other corporations. Entrepreneurs are not afraid to start a web development business remotely too.
In this article we will talk about keys to successful remote company management, so your clients would always get the desired result no matter where developers are located.
Benefits of having a remote team of developers
There are several benefits of hiring a remote development team, including:
Flexibility in hiring
As a manager, you get more options and opportunities to choose from by hiring the team remotely. You are able to hire remote developers from anywhere in the world as you are not limited to candidates in your geographic location only. Ultimately, it will help you find more experienced and talented developers to add to your diverse team.
You will pay less to manage a remote team than you would for an in-house team in a traditional office as administrative and other related costs are greatly reduced, starting from an office space rent and parking to hardware, utility and office supplies. In addition, a larger talent pool means you can find qualified people at lower prices too
Typically, remote software developers have lower stress levels and perform better than their office-based colleagues. They skip traffic, have flexible schedules, and they can work in a way that best suits their personal lifestyle. As a result, managers can see higher levels of their productivity, better overall attitude, and higher retention rates.
Successful remote team management: best practices
As a remote team leader, you may feel a certain isolation. There are no personal contacts, all communications take place on the Internet, there are no conversations over a cup of coffee or “near a water cooler”. Managers should be ready to build a cohesive team in such conditions and put in a little effort:
Define your remote developer company’s culture and values
The most common mistake managers and leaders make here is employee’s performance evaluation right after he joins the remote team. No doubt that a newbie should receive work tasks and show expected work quality level. But if you would like to build long-lasting relationships, define the company’s goals, expectations, values and explain what exactly they work for together.
Making money may seem an obvious reason, but besides that there is an idea behind every project. There are ethical, cultural, ideological reasons a particular company exists, so you need to show (and remind) your employees why they keep working here and are not looking for other opportunities on the market.
Usually it’s all defined and shown through a corporate culture. In a typical office, there are cafeterias with bright tables and free cookies, branded stationery, PlayStation room and game evenings that all create that company atmosphere.
So, you need to unite the remote team with other means – by giving them common goals. The easiest way is to outline company vision. You can do this even before meeting candidates by improving your website. Create a detailed “About us” page to explain how you differ from other companies. Think about the “Our culture and values” page to show benefits of working specifically for your company.
Two birds with one stone: potential candidates may share the same values and current employees always remember what direction their company is moving.
Coworkers understand what they have in common even if they have never met. It leads to positive results like lower negativity level towards colleagues, and more enthusiasm to help them.
It is not necessary to have a website to outline your vision and shared values. Just pin a message in a group chat, send an ecard or a desktop wallpaper to employees. It’s a simple, yet effective additional motivation instrument, which may turn into a career saver on boring days.
Make sure candidates are also a good fit for your company culture. Write down qualities an “ideal” company employee should have. What soft skills does he have? What’s his portrayal? Make sure recruiters and HR managers compare candidates with it constantly.
Set clear expectations and guidelines for remote work
Both remote team lead and newbie strive to improve employee’s performance eventually. Even during the onboarding process, tell new workers what exactly you expect from them. Identify how their work is evaluated and who is responsible for the evaluation process. Set KPIs or explain how the performance is calculated. Set clear deadlines.
It is important to explain “game rules” from the employees’ side as well: who they can contact on a daily basis, where to look for necessary details. Make sure newbies feel free to ask any related questions and have all work instruments, passwords etc.
A clear statement of mutual expectations will eventually save you time and money, so provide people with instructions to follow. In this case, misunderstandings are minimized, and workers act more independently. So, detailed guidelines or even an inner knowledge base creation is a smart choice, especially for companies with no HR department or managers, ready to repeat such vital information over and over again. By the way, it can be combined into one company knowledge base with corporate culture rules!
Communicate often and effectively with your team members
There are different communication rules in an actual office where people see and interact with each other on a daily basis. In addition, body language, facial expressions and other signs help people better understand the situation and act according to specific circumstances. It works for personal relationships too: offline workers drink coffee together, eat lunch, have small talks and movie evenings. Such informal communication eventually leads to closer bonds inside the team and better team performance. However if you feel that for your online performance you do not haveeniugh time maybe the best solution would be hiring an excellent virtual assistant to manage your daily online tasks.
Managers and responsible HRs should establish positive communication and create a trusting atmosphere inside a remote team. There are just a few ideas to do so:
- Create an off topic/meme chat where employees can be regular people, laugh and share moments. Even during work time, do not set limits here!
- Encourage collaboration and creativity among team members, so remote employees do feel isolated as they work without having direct interaction with their coworkers. Play video games together. Consider informal video calls/remote lunches to chat on a chosen topic.
- There is also practice in some companies when workers prepare a presentation together to tell something important/interesting to the team. It works for remote employees too!
- Congratulate people on their birthdays in a group chat or set up a separate video call for that. People love attention even if they do not admit it.
- Send corporate gift boxes. Worldwide delivery is always an option! Even a notebook or a corporate t-shirt show that company cares and admires its workers.
- Do not be afraid to act too informal: use Emojis when communicating with colleagues. Create custom WhatsApp stickers for your company based on inside jokes. For instance, with workers photos, typical phrases, or think about a corporate character representing different situations.
Project-related team interaction
In order to successfully manage projects, you need an efficient virtual office where the main work can be done and the team’s interaction is efficient and easy. You may try several platforms and choose one that suits your company’s needs best depending on what interface or features are important. A good CRM system will help you organize the workflow effectively. Trello is good for small remote teams while Jira would better suit larger companies.
Additional tools that companies use to quickly communicate with their employees and share files include messengers, cloud storage and document editing solutions. Choose easy-to-use solutions the majority of the team are already familiar with.
Slack is among the most popular corporate messengers as it allows to quickly exchange files and updates, divide channels etc. and integrates with other apps like Trello.
Celebrate successes (and learn from failures) as a team
The remote team needs to feel you are thrilled they are meeting their targets!
Just a quick message in a chat is a reminder that workers are appreciated, and their results are noticed. Many people admit that at their previous jobs they lacked simple praise from their team leaders. Such a small gesture (at first glance!) can eventually influence an employee’s decision to stay in the company. “Thank you, you’re doing great, keep rocking” message is already great!
Failures happen too. In addition, communication in a remote team may be complicated: interlocutors may not see each other’s faces, and they do not fully understand each other’s emotions. The same sentence can be read by the inner voice in completely different ways. The negative is felt more strongly, the positive may be perceived as a mockery.
See a failure as an opportunity for growth. Analyze collective and individual results separately, better by setting video calls to hear each side, discuss solutions and remind the team that everyone is moving towards the same goal on the same “ship” so everyone’s opinion is countable!
Speaking about employee-manager communication during the failure discussion, the goal here is to be a leader, not a boss. Become a person workers are not afraid to communicate with and ask advice, show involvement in a situation.
Conclusion an CTA
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, companies had no choice rather than make an abrupt shift to a fully remote work environment. In 2022 there is still a challenge for managers though. For instance, usual approaches to work processes organization and control still need to be adapted to new “remote reality” or new ones should be created. But some practices on how to manage remote team have already been tested and can be applied right away.
In order to build a remote team, communicate with employees, listen to their feedback and strengthen the corporate culture. Set up main company values and look for those who share them. If a candidate is sure that he is able to imbue your corporate spirit remotely and both of you are looking in the same direction, this is a reason to give him a chance without meeting in person.
Create a comfortable virtual office life for each employee. Think about online communication rules all team members need to follow, and place them on an electronic postcard or a banner. Choose convenient instruments i.e. CRM system, messengers and other tools to simplify the interaction. Create guidelines for remote workers where all answers to common questions will be situated.
Strengthen the bond in the team: arrange activities – games, discussions, informal chats. Encourage collaboration and creativity among its members. As soon as communication between all team participants is established, a corporate spirit appears, even if people have never seen each other in real life!
In case a failure happens, show involvement in the situation. If there is a success, celebrate it publicly, admitting each team member’s contribution to the end result. Set clear expectations by discussing KPIs, evaluation instruments and deadlines. But do not start tracking employees’ every step as it can lead to demotivation and lack of trust. Focus on results instead of controlling everything, showing the team you trust them.
Let the employee independently prioritize tasks or specify it during weekly meetups.