“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.”
–Stephen R. Covey
Many years ago Paul Mason Winery had an advertisement that used the slogan, “We will sell no wine before its time.” They were trying to imply their wine was finely aged. Judging by the carafe it came in it was not anything you would see at a fine restaurant. Regardless, much like wine building the bonds and engagement require time and work. Selecting a great team is only the first part, next up we need to engage our remote team and help the team form.
What ways do you build in daily engagement?
How do you bond with your remote team?
Does your week have scheduled interactions?
A friend of mine works for a large financial services company. The corporate leadership determined they were having issues with employee engagement. The CEO of this firm sent all the top leaders a book in hopes that reading it would rectify the situation. If only it were that easy! Real engagement takes time and focus. Even as an author myself, I realize that books share knowledge. To make the change we have to put the information into action.
One on ones is a great way to engage your teammates. Taking time each week shows commitment. Schedule this time with your team every week and never cancel it. Even if there is not a lot going on it is good to take five to ten minutes and review their week. This simple act can show your willingness to work with them. The one on one is a quick way to take the temperature of your team and head off any small things that might snowball on you.
When you are in the office with a team the possibilities for small talk are ample. In a remote team setting, we have to be more deliberate. Along with the normal one on one meeting look for opportunities to connect. Maybe you pick up the phone and talk through some challenges. Perhaps it is using Internet Messaging more to see how their weekend was. Management by walking around doesn’t work for remote teams, but you still can build bonds with them.
Having a set schedule for your remote team can help bring some dependability to the group. Maybe you have a daily huddle every day at 9 AM Central time. If someone is working that day they are on the call or they send in an update if they can’t make it. Perhaps your team works better by having all meetings and conference calls in the morning. Do you know what works best for your team? Setting a schedule by getting their input can help them take ownership and feel like they have power in the decision.
If you have a mixed team of a few remote employees and a few in the office be cognizant of how you evaluate them. Some managers have different levels of standards for their remote employees and their in-office employees. Be careful as you review their performance not to fall into this trap. Jon worked for a large firm remotely for a few years and saw this become reality. He switched back to working in the office because of it. Jon was alienated and held to a different standard as he was a remote worker.
Face to Face
When you manage a remote team it is important to build in face time. With all the new technologies available you should be able to find one to use. Seeing someone face to face is helpful in building the relationship. Talking on the phone we miss a lot of information. Facial expressions convey so much that we should try to use the technology whenever we can. Many people who travel for work say that when they can see their family face to face it makes the traveling so much easier. Leverage it for your remote team.
I have spoken to a few people who worked for companies as a remote team member who felt that they were left out of many of the development sessions. “I felt like a second class citizen when I learned they had training for the team members in the office.” Make sure to make development opportunities available to everyone. You may have to fly them in or add them to video conference.
Once a year bring your remote team together. Maybe you invite them into the office or plan an event. Try to mix in some work and some fun during the time together. Perhaps you have a kickoff meeting for a new project in the morning. Then in the afternoon you can have everyone go bowling, take in a baseball game, or check out a new movie together. Allow some time for just hanging out together to build those bonds.
Do you evaluate everyone with the same criteria?
How do your training and development include the remote team?
Do you have a scheduled meeting for everyone planned?
In some ways engaging and bonding with your remote team is a lot like a regular team. Just make sure to be aware of the differences and work around them. Build it into your schedule. Devote time to nurturing those relationships and in time you will reap great rewards.