COVID-19 is here and it’s changing the way many people work, both in the short-term and maybe long-term as well.
I’ve spent the past 25 years managing international sales organizations with most of the team members based in home offices around the globe.
You can too, and it can even become a strength!
Here are a few suggestions…
When managing remote employees – sales reps and sales managers in my case, communication needs to be often, predictable, purposeful, and initiated by you.
A leader needs to call his remote team members regularly to provide them with something valuable like company news, updates, revised strategies, or even insight from other team members. You can’t expect them to always track you down and you shouldn’t call them and put them on the spot by asking “what’s going on” or calling them at 5PM to see if they are still working.
Your call lets them know that they’re important, you’re keeping them informed, soliciting their input, and working to help them be successful.
Of course, you should expect them to share information back with you. Handle these calls properly, whether it’s every morning, or on whatever regular frequency, and they will quickly become positive two-way conversations that help both of you develop a strong, collaborative relationship.
This doesn’t mean you have to scan your phone & email 24/7 but you should check in regularly to see who is trying to reach you and respond back to them ASAP. Maybe that means by the end of the day in N.A. or the next morning in Asia or before lunch in Europe. At the very least a message acknowledging that you know they are looking for you and an indication of when you will get back to them.
This is critical to make sure remote employees feel important, supported, and fully engaged.
It’s important to over rotate on making sure that remote team members are included in the decision-making process and feel that they have the same voice and influence that others sitting in the office have.
Include them in discussions and information sessions, invite them to join all important meetings and strategy sessions. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need a fast meeting to make a quick decision and remote members will be too hard to pull in. Make sure their feedback is heard and they have input into decisions the same as if they were right in the office. Even go so far as to consult them individually to get their specific thoughts in advance of larger meetings. This brings them up to the water cooler “confidant” status they miss by being remote.
Working from a remote home office is different and while some may think easy, it’s not.
It’s critical that remote employees get the same or greater level of support from you and the organization. They need to be able to find, access, and convince the right people within the company to help with whatever they need, when they need it.
As their manager, its your responsibility to get them that support and longer term, help them build relationships that allow them to get support based on their own influence.
Properly managing an organization with remote employees based out of their homes is powerful and should be extremely productive.
Motivating, supporting, and responding to their needs will create a competitive advantage with empowered and engaged workers coalescing into a high-performance team. That team can take full advantage of unique benefits like closer proximity to customers or spanning multiple time zones.
Being mindful of each team members unique strengths and needs makes the organization stronger and you a better leader.