One company decided to set up a remote office for one of their sales reps who had done well in the home office. The employee wanted to move back to his hometown in another state. The relocation expenses were costly, but, the company believed they would recoup their costs within a year.
But, after a year, no new sales had occurred and the sales manager was at a loss. She didn’t know how to manage a remote sales rep. Finally, a business advisor clarified the problem. When the sales rep worked in the home office, he was available for inside sales calls. That’s how he developed a good sales portfolio. Now, he needed to prospect and generate interest for new sales where he lived. However, he didn’t have the skills or interest to do so. After a year, the sales rep left to work as an inside sales rep for a local company.
Currently, over 66% of companies allow remote or virtual work, and 16% are fully remote (Remote.co). Because of the reduced cost and commuting times for employees, along with other benefits, this trend is skyrocketing.
This is why it’s important for leaders to learn how to manage virtual team members. Remember, leading remote teams present unique challenges that are very different than leading a team that works in your office.
What is a Virtual Team?
A virtual team (also known as a geographically dispersed team, distributed team, or remote team) usually refers to a group of individuals who work together from different geographic locations and rely on communication technology such as email, FAX, and video or voice conferencing services in order to collaborate. Wikipedia
- 80% of employees would be more loyal if they had flexible and work-from-home options (FlexJobs’ 2019 Super Survey)
- Easier to hire the best no matter where they live and keep good team members that are relocating
- Less expensive due to reduced overhead
- 36% of employees would choose to work from home over a pay raise (Global Workplace Analytics study)
- Encourages healthier lifestyles since remote workers can incorporate physical exercise into their day, instead of commuting
6 Tips for Leading Virtual Teams
Hire for Job Fit. When hiring or promoting, always use a qualified assessment tool to assess job fit. This assessment provides objective insights into how the person will handle working remotely. Required skills include good communication, high emotional intelligence, an ability to work independently, and the resilience to recover from the snafus that inevitably arise. (Harvard Business Review, 2014)
Build and Maintain Relationships. Fostering trust is crucial. To achieve this, engage virtual team members 1:1 via conferencing at a minimum of at least once a month. And, be available via text, email and cell so you can be easily reached when necessary. During these monthly calls, spend time reviewing what’s been working and what’s not been working. Don’t forget to ask them about their career goals and other projects they want to participate in. Then, ensure these opportunities happen.
Set Clear Standards and Accountability. Many employees, particularly younger ones without office experience, look at working from home as an extension of their current life. If there are young children, unruly pets, smoking or drugs, or other distractions, it can be difficult for them to operate at the same professional level as expected in the office. Remind them how to handle distractions that get in the way. Also, hold them accountable for meeting product and service standards, along with adhering to company policies. If you want to learn more about how to listen for these concerns, contact Jeannette Seibly.
Frequent Communication is a MUST! Communicate expectations frequently, especially during interviews and onboarding processes. During meetings, you will need to be present and listen at a new level to proactively catch issues. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and deep dive into any concerns. Always be available to guide them through client challenges.
Team Building. Host a required-attendance team conference meeting monthly and quarterly to learn about each person’s accomplishments. Acknowledge them individually on these calls. This creates comradery and has each team member feel valued and part of a team.
Training and Development. Whenever possible, have remote team members attend on-site workshops and training programs. During these visits, schedule face-to-face and 1:1 or small group meetings to improve working relationships and build a stronger team.
© Jeannette Seibly 2020
Jeannette Seibly is an award-winning dynamic results coach. For the past 27 years, she has guided the creation of leaders to excel in achieving results. Are you ready for an unprecedented 2020? Contact Jeannette today for straight talk with dynamic results. Don’t forget to listen to NEW podcasts on Anchor.FM or YouTube.com.