Managing Remote Team Members
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
In today’s work environment, it is not unusual to have team members that are dispersed geographically. This is especially true in the retail world where a chain of supermarkets could be located in several different cities or even states. Managing employees that you may not see on a daily or even weekly basis can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. It all starts with the hiring process.
While some individuals thrive in remote working environments, other do not. When hiring for positions outside of the corporate office make sure you ask questions to determine the person’s comfort level with occasionally working alone and without daily, direct supervision. It’s also important to talk about communication needs and your expectations regarding interactions with the team and regional leadership. Once you’ve hired the right team member(s), there are several management actions that can help ensure long-term success:
- Provide connection. Remote workers are typically provided with a laptop and phone but they also need to have access to corporate files, information and news to keep them connected.
- Establish weekly one-to-one meeting times. Use this time to encourage two-way discussion so employees feel comfortable offering input and feedback. Sticking to your scheduled meetings shows remote employees that you value their work and insights.
- Use video whenever possible. Research shows that more than half of our communication is non-verbal. When you do not have contact with employees in the office it’s important to have visual cues as to what someone is thinking.
- Reiterate your expectations. Establish clear lines of accountability and set performance goals just as you would with other team members. Use weekly one-to-one meetings to get feedback on goals and to address any issues that have come up.
- Schedule regular in-person visits. Team members will appreciate you taking the time to travel to their region to see a special work event or even assist with a big project. New employees may require more frequent visits in the beginning to establish a comfort level in their role.
- Help establish regional work relationships. Your remote team member may be working within a local store or region of stores. Connect them to key individuals that can offer direct assistance and guidance if needed.
- Connect as a team frequently. You may have monthly or bi-monthly team calls but meeting as a team in person several times a year can help foster camaraderie, develop personal relationships and provide a time for team celebrations.
By taking a proactive approach to managing remote employees you can foster consistently great individual work and a positive team dynamic.