Virtual Workforce Management Best Practices

Virtual Workforce Management Best Practices

Best Practices; Managing Engagement and Communication

Building rapport among virtual team members is a best practice that facilitates engagement and communication in a virtual workforce. Recognizing and rewarding efforts is another proven way that stimulates prosocial behavior among team members. Regular check-ins, clarifications, and feedback are additional practices that encourage engagement and communication.

1. Building rapport

How one should incorporate it and how it helps

Why it is a best practice

2. Recognition

How one should incorporate it and how it helps

Why it is a best practice

3. Regular feedback and communication

  • Misunderstandings happen frequently in a virtual environment where there is no physical interaction. Regular feedback and clarifications are needed in these kinds of situations.

How one should incorporate it and how it helps

Why it is a best practice

  • Studies have shown that constant feedback in virtual teams not only increases the engagement of team members, but also increases their motivation, satisfaction, and performance.
  • Virtual team members appreciate the fact that other team members are willing to make personal changes to achieve clarity and understanding.
  • Studies show that team members who are willing to make these compromises are held in high regard by their colleagues.

Best Practices; Recruitment, Hiring and On-Boarding Process

The best practices for recruiting, hiring, and on-boarding a virtual workforce include; having a credible and appealing online presence that can attract qualified candidates, conducting indiscriminate interviews that focus on the skills of potential recruits, and facilitating face-to-face interactions and training as part of the on-boarding process.

1. Attracting The Best With a Credible Online Presence

What it is

  • A credible company outline includes a company background and details of its corporate culture. Such information helps potential candidates to decide if they would be a great fit before applying.

Why it is a best practice and how it helps

How to incorporate it

2. Conducting Indiscriminate Interviews Focusing on Candidates’ Skills

What it is

  • Indiscriminate interviews are whereby a company bases its hiring based on skills and avoids recruitment bias based on protected aspects such as race, gender, and nationality.

Why it is a best practice and how it helps

How to incorporate it

  • Recruiters should not base their choice on protected characteristics such as race and gender or ask any direct or indirect questions related to those characteristics.
  • To ensure equality, recruiters can also set standardized interview questions. To test skills and performance, recruiters can give a sample test that mimics the work that potential recruits will be doing.

3. Team Integration and Continous Training Crucial Part of On-boarding Process

What it is

  • Team integration involves building a connection between employees to create a sense of community and belonging. Training involves helping employees understand their roles and how to perform them optimally.

Why it is a best practice and how it helps

  • In-person face-to-face interactions are a best practice for successful on-boarding of virtual employees. Such interactions help virtual employees to get comfortable creating personal bonds with company owners. It helps employees to feel like they are part of the company and limits turnover.
  • Where personal interactions are not possible, recruiters can use video conferencing.
  • Training is also crucial as it helps to teach new employees the fundamentals they need to succeed in their work. It should be an ongoing process.

How to incorporate it

Best Practices; Overall Productivity

Some best practices for ensuring overall productivity in a virtual environment include tracking work hours, tracking of work output, and engaging in quarterly reviews.

1. Tracking Work Hours

  • The best practice for ensuring overall productivity in a virtual environment is tracking employee work hours.
  • In conventional or physical office environments, employers can see who comes to work each day even if they are not tracking office attendance. However, a virtual environment can be challenging in terms of understanding what is happening, how long particular staff members have worked, or what jobs they have performed.
  • Tracking work hours is the best practice because companies with virtual environments might wish to pay workers based on their work hours, and it would make “a lot of sense” to track it.
  • Some individuals are incredibly disciplined and may get to work timely, but this s not the case with everybody. Tracking work hours via various software solutions (like Time Doctor) in virtual work environments improves productivity because it boosts accountability and helps workers avoid distractions such as Facebook or YouTube.
  • Tracking work hours through software can help employers see the projects their staff members are working on within a virtual environment (in real-time) and allows managers to know the time spent on various websites, applications, and specific work functions or breaks.

2. Tracking Work Output

  • One best practice for ensuring overall productivity in a virtual environment is tracking work output levels of various employees.
  • Tracking work output is a means of measuring the productivity of employees in a virtual environment, and employers can track key indicators of success specific to each job performed.
  • Going transparent on tracking work output helps employers to quickly know (within a couple of weeks instead of in six months) whether a specific team member is overall productive, or not. Some tools such as SalesHandy can help, especially if employers want to leverage “streamlined communication and analytics” to measure the output of their remote sales team.
  • To track work output as well as to measure results, companies need to spell out their deliverables.
  • A remote or virtual environment can “result in lazy team members,” this scenario can be avoided by using software solutions to track work done and gain real-time or progressive insights into the work a virtual team performs.

3. Quarterly Reviews

  • The best practice for ensuring overall productivity in a virtual environment is the use of quarterly reviews.
  • One issue with working from home or in a virtual work environment is that people may feel lonely as well as isolated from physical contact, and not everyone can cope well with “this style of working.” Implementing quarterly reviews helps management to see how “virtual team members are coping.” This process also helps the company by presenting an avenue for the company to make sure everything required is working for virtual workers, and this boosts high performance.
  • Quarterly performance reviews are vital when it comes to remote workers or those working in virtual (not physical) environments. Quarterly reviews help to ensure that a team is “producing at the rate” and quality that is required and should get implemented transparently.
  • Remote or virtual teams require full transparency to be successful, and performance reviews do not only help team managers to see how their virtual teams are “improving or struggling,” they allow team members to see it themselves.

Case Studies; Companies with a Remote Workforce

Dell and Automattic are two companies that have seen success with a remote workforce. Below are information as to how both companies installed a remote workforce, the challenges they faced, and their success metrics.

1. Dell

  • Dell‘s core industry is computer technology solutions. The company provides technology solutions and services by developing, selling, repairing, and supporting computers and laptops, along with related products such as storage.

Remote Workforce

  • Dell implemented a remote workforce program in 2009.
  • The program, which is called Connected Workplace, allows employees to work remotely at various hours and capacities, which allows them to balance work and life.
  • Dell’s Connected Workplace implemented technology strategies for a productive and successful remote workplace.
  • The technology strategies involved providing notebooks with components like monitors and built-in-security, deploying systems containing apps and settings directly to employees, setting virtual desktops with cloud solutions, and moving applications to the Dell Technologies Cloud so all employees can access materials.
  • Dell’s HR department worked “with the IT and facilities teams” to ensure all employees had training, along with the necessary technology and collaboration tools.
  • Dell also developed an “Employee Resource Group,” which encourages employees to connect with each other, ask questions, and share experiences.

Challenges

Success Metrics

  • Sixty percent of Dell’s employees work remotely, and the company has a “Net Promoter Score that’s typically 20 percent higher than those who don’t.”
  • Since there are few employees in the office, Dell doesn’t require a lot of office space, “netting the company $12 million in annual savings since 2014.”
  • Since 2014, Dell saved $39.5 million from having remote work solutions.
  • Dell’s remote workforce in the United States avoided 136 million miles of travel annually.

2. Automattic

Remote Workforce

  • In June 2017, Automattic closed its office in San Francisco and went fully remote because employees stopped coming into work.
  • Automattic installed a remote workforce by creating a strong communication strategy that focused on its creed, documenting information internally, and communicating on Slack.
  • Automattic clearly states its “values with a company creed.”
  • Automattic documents everything on a WordPress site, which includes benefits information, dictionary of internal terms, and instructions on requesting support.
  • Automattic also uses an internal blog called P2 to discuss assignments and ideas, and to track projects. The internal information in the P2 “serves as archives of decisions made. Teams, ongoing projects, onboarding checklists, and ongoing training, all have P2s.” Automattic currently has about 350 P2s.
  • For conversation and quick messages, employees use Slack. Automattic has 1,626 public internal channels. “If something needs to be documented so others can reference it, then we write it up on a P2. If we need to get on a call to hammer something out, we can start a call through Slack.”
  • The company holds meetings online, and provides co-working stipend, as well as a $2,000-home-office allowance.

Challenges

  • Challenges Automattic faced were around communication. Such as how to make people feel “comfortable sharing the right amount of information,” and how to communicate with employees that have different personalities. One of the company’s solutions were to allow all employees to bring their perspectives to the table and discuss “preferable means of communication privately.”
  • Another challenge Automattic faced were with employees who were working remotely for the first time and feeling isolated. Automattic attempts to solve this issue by pairing employees with a mentor, and provides a $250-monthly co-working allowance if employees want to work with others regularly.
  • To allow everyone to feel included, Automattic has a meetup where all employees gather to bond with each other for a week annually.

Success Metrics

  • When Automattic closed its office in San Francisco to become fully remote, it had 563 employees. Automattic said going fully remote has allowed the company to hire top candidates who can’t afford to live in San Francisco. Today, Automattic has 1,173 employees living in 75 countries.
  • Annual rent in San Francisco in 2017 was an average of about $69.66 per square foot. Since Automattic’s San Francisco office was 15,000 square foot, it means the company is saving more than $1 million a year.

Insights; Successful Virtual Team Member

Excellent communication skills are vital for every virtual team participant. Trust is also crucial when working in a virtual team setting. Other essential attributes include technology proficiency, self-discipline, attentiveness, and willingness to collaborate with others.

1. Communication skills

  • Participants rely on phone calls, messaging, email, and video conferencing tools to facilitate communication in a virtual setting.
  • For communication to be effective, the sender must have the recipient in mind when using these tools.
  • Virtual participants also have to ensure their message is clear to avoid miscommunication. To achieve this, it is critical that virtual team members “give it a thought,” how the message will be interpreted by team members before disseminating. This involves considering the recipient’s personalities and personal perspectives.
  • An excellent virtual team member is also conscious of the diversity of communication preferences. They understand the needs of a colleague and will flex their own prefences and adapt to another member’s communication style for the message to be interpreted correctly.
  • In addition, an ideal team member should have the willingness to proactively share insights and information with others in the virtual team setting.

2. Trustworthiness

3. Technology proficiency

  • Virtual teams rely on technology for interaction and sharing of information. Virtual participants must demonstrate competency in handling the technologies in question.
  • Team members should have demonstrated ability to integrate the appropriate technology for a reliable, fast, and seamless flow of information.
  • Sending emails, making telephone calls, and setting up video conferences should be easy for a virtual team participant.
  • In addition, team members should be able to troubleshoot when technical problems arise.

4. Discipline and organization

  • A virtual environment tends to be highly unstructured. Team members need to structure their time effectively to be successful independently.
  • Members have to be well-organized with the ability to understand what has to be done and do it with minimal supervision.
  • To achieve high performance, each virtual team member has to be self-reliant, self-motivated, and be an independent thinker with the ability to work interdependently.

5. Attentive, highly motivated and willing to collaborate with other team members

  • Team members must be highly motivated and have a positive work attitude. The willingness to make changes makes it even easier for team members to work together and find solutions to problems.
  • Distractions and the lack of physical interaction make attentiveness vital for team members to work in a virtual environment.

Challenges; Remote Workforce Employers

Employers of remote workforce teams face several challenges, including communication challenges, productivity tracking challenges, employee trust issues, and challenges related to having a unified company culture.

1. Communication Challenges

  • A challenge faced by the employers of remote workforce teams is related to communication challenges.
  • Managers need to keep all their employees informed. People (including managers) find it simpler to communicate effectively with staff members when they see them face-to-face. One challenge with the ease of physical communication is that it becomes easy to let remote team members go “out of sight” and out of mind.
  • The optimum way for managers to communicate with a remote workforce team is through technology. Some common apps that remote workers can use to communicate with their management, and co-workers include text messages, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Google Hangouts.
  • According to Jonathan Erwin, the CEO of Red e App (a mobile messaging platform), employers can establish core hours when all team members need to be online as well as available. This strategy helps such employees to be committed to responding to communications within a given period. Employers can also leverage collaboration tools like shared storage as well as cloud-based software for project management to “help a scattered team” work efficiently.

2. Productivity Tracking Challenges

  • Another challenge faced by the employers of remote workforce teams is a productivity tracking challenge.
  • This challenge confronts employers of remote teams because they cannot physically see their employees every day, thereby making it difficult to track the quantity of work completed daily. Although many “telecommuters are motivated self-starters,” a few often take advantage of a situation when no boss is watching over their shoulders.
  • Managers can overcome this challenge by judging someone’s effectiveness based on their output, and not based on how long they seem to be on their desk “or how hard” it seems they have been working.
  • For all members of the remote workforce, employees should establish metrics as well as goals.
  • Time Doctor offers a list of ten software solutions that help employers see if their remote employees are working. These software solutions include Time Doctor, Toggl, RescueTime, Hours, Timely, Harvest, Everhour, Timeneye, ClickTime, and TopTracker.

3. Employee Trust Issues

  • One of the challenges facing employers of remote workforce teams is related to employee trust issues.
  • To be an effective remote manager, a team needs to have trust in the manager as well. It is vital to let members of a remote team know that management is available to “help them solve problems,” demystify complex workflow obstacles as well as give directions when needed.
  • Many personality traits (including trustworthiness) and behaviors needed for telecommuting are vettable during the hiring process. However, managers of a remote workforce may face a challenge related to trust because one can never really know if a particular personality is an excellent fix for teleworking until such a character gets hired. Consequently, trust has to get earned over time, and it has to runs both ways.
  • Sometimes, management can overcome this issue by just trusting that remote workers will do what they are paid to do, even if no one is there to observe.

4. Challenges in Maintaining a Unified Company Culture

  • A significant challenge facing employers of remote workforce teams is the challenge of maintaining the unified company culture.
  • Very often, remote workers claim that they like the flexibility associated with their jobs. However, that doesn’t always mean that they enjoy missing out on office culture. This challenge may make it difficult for a manager of the remote workforce to maintain a unified company culture.
  • Employers of remote teams can overcome this challenge by having their employees plan to come into their office now and then.
  • If their teams can’t coordinate “quarterly in-person” meetings, they can arrange frequent virtual meetings to have everyone feel connected. To maintain this unified connection among remote workers, small teams need to have a short conference calls daily to discuss vital topics as well as unanswered questions. They can also utilize video chat to facilitate team meetings.

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