Founder and CEO of Business Success Consulting Group, Adi Klevit, recently talked with the co-founder of Karbon, Ian Vacin, about managing remote teams. Both Adi and Ian have hired remote staff and worked with them to foster camaraderie, a company culture, and an efficient workflow. They accomplished this with a view toward building a business with remote employees, even before the 2020 pandemic.
With so much experience in remote team management, the two shared information about the workflow systems that best support remote workers, as well as how to manage remote teams.
If you have remote workers or are building a team of remote employees, you must understand how to do the following five things:
1. Manage your team.
2. Create a company culture.
3. Build effective workflows.
4. Establish communication systems.
5. Find ways for teams to connect and coordinate.
Adi and Ian addressed these five issues in their discussion, and we have summarized many of the salient points in this article.
Five Steps for Building Culture in a Remote Team
There are many ways to build culture in a business. Often, the recommended strategies include activities that must be done in person. This is, of course, difficult with remote teams.
Instead of doing in-person team-building exercises, Adi and Ian discuss various methods for creating culture when the team is remote. Here are five actions you can take in the next few days to move the needle on your company culture.
1. The most critical thing is to hire great matches for the team and the company. As Ian says, if it’s not a “Heck Yes!” during the interview, then it’s an automatic “No.”
Finding team members who mesh well with others, will work as part of the team, and have the expertise necessary to do the job you are hiring for is not always easy. However, you and your team can benefit from creating systems that include:
- Defined expectations.
- A step-by-step hiring process.
- Steps along the way which include the “is it a ‘heck yes!’?” question.
- Refinements along the way so that the hiring process is not so long and burdensome that no one ever gets hired.
2. Establish standard operating rhythms.
Every team, whether remote or not, benefits from consistency and standards. For example, if your manager always does one-on-ones every other Tuesday, then your team knows to block out thirty minutes on Tuesdays to discuss challenges and successes and make suggestions. If your team has a morning stand-up meeting for ten minutes at 9 AM every day, every team member will know that they need to present a summary of what happened yesterday and what will happen today at the same time, daily.
Routines usually happen naturally, but they can also be established and made routine by management. Purposefully building rhythms into the days, weeks, and months will help your team feel supported – and establish an intentional culture.
3. Understand that one person does not define culture. Rather, it is absorbed and cultivated by the team.
While we shared in step 1 that a new hire needs to be brought on with enthusiasm, it’s also true that one new hire or one sour employee isn’t going to establish the entire culture. Additionally, you cannot build a positive culture all on your own. Everyone on your team needs to be part of building the company culture.
The best way to make this happen is to talk about the company culture, bring it up, brainstorm with your team, and establish what everyone would like to see improved. Collectively working toward building a great culture is essential to any team – not just remote workers.
4. Try to get the team together in person.
Admittedly, when team members live around the world, it may not be feasible to get the whole team together every month or two. However, working out team meet-ups quarterly or biannually can help promote cohesiveness and camaraderie.
5. Be mindful of your team and the needs of your team members.
There are many ways to be mindful of team members. Here are a few:
- Consider where team members are in the world and adjust meetings based on time zones.
- Try to be fair when it comes to meeting times. If you have always had meetings based on the time zone where the majority lives, try to set a few at time zones more convenient to those living in other areas.
- Set up one-on-ones and listen to what the staff has to say. Find out how you can support and empower them.
- Ask what training or continuing education would benefit your staff. It may be something you haven’t considered, such as learning a new language or taking an exercise course. Helping staff improve their understanding in new areas will help the team expand their knowledge and ideas.
- Do the cheesy or silly thing that may or may not fall flat. Setting up something fun or sending a cheesy gift – even if it’s a bit silly – shows your team that you care enough to make them smile.
How to Manage Remote Teams
Now that you have considered the company culture from the hiring process through to the every day, it’s essential to look at the best ways to manage a remote workplace.
Here is what you need to do to manage your remote team:
1. Set up integrated systems that everyone can access.
Centralized systems that integrate can make data management, task management, accounting, and product delivery a breeze. However, these systems can be challenging to both setup and learn. Often, the barrier to entry makes managers hesitant to build or buy a system – even if it seems like it will integrate well and increase production.
If you aren’t sure what to systematize first, consider the department that is most difficult to manage. Begin your systematization efforts with that department, then build out integrations, automation, and other systems from there.
2. Document everything.
Documentation will help you build customized systems and provide you and your team with the foundational information necessary to determine if an out-of-the-box product will work just as well as something custom. For example, you may be able to do just fine with an out-of-the-box CRM, but the system for building your product may be proprietary and completely custom.
Proper documentation of the day-to-day workings of your business will show you what to go for when it comes to systematization.
3. Establish a communication system early and use it often.
When you are in a remote environment, communication is more fundamental than ever. It’s better to over-communicate, so your team understands the context than to under-communicate and leave people guessing.
4. Always share changes in workflow, automation, and defined processes.
If you have created processes and implemented the use of systems, it’s vital to share changes that are coming down the pike. Don’t leave anything to guesswork. Instead, talk with your team about changes, discuss refinements, and ensure everyone is on the same page.
As you can see, communication is the best policy when managing any remote team. Working and managing remotely can be challenging, but communication and systematization can nullify most issues you will likely encounter.
A Note on Establishing Your Workflow
Should you use management software?
Most companies use management software of some kind, even if they are small businesses with only a few employees. Here are a few things to consider when determining what software to use – or what version to buy.
1. Do you plan to grow?
2. If so, will the software grow with you and your team?
3. What specific tools do you need right now?
4. What tools do you anticipate needing in the next three years?
5. Can the team see the workflow?
6. Does the software encourage teamwork?
7. What will move your business forward?
8. Does the workflow make things easier for your staff and the customer?
9. Could the workflow software be modified to include proprietary workflows and standardized workflows?
10. Do team members feel they have control over their work and jobs when using the software?
The idea of using workflow software is to help employees work more efficiently – and create a method by which management can see what’s getting done without pestering staff.
If the software is working, but management is still bugging employees and making them pause in the workflow to report, then the management is the problem. If the software is causing confusion and causing double work or isn’t reporting completed projects to management, then the software/established processes are problematic.
Determining which needs to be resolved and setting up workflow software that works, integrates with other software, and supports staff so they can do their job more efficiently will help your business as it grows.
At Business Success Consulting Group, we help companies build proprietary processes and establish workflows to support growth. Contact us today to get your free initial consultation.