Tips for Managing a Distributed WorkForce for the Long Haul
As the leadership team of a company that has been remote and globally distributed for more than 8 years, we have thought a lot about optimizing a situation that is new-ish for many. We’ve been where you are. At first, it feels easy, sustainable, better! Then, the novelty wears off. But there are things you can do now to ensure a distributed or hybrid workforce works for your organization long-term.
1. Welcome to a more limitless candidate pool for hiring – choose wisely!
One of the greatest opportunities for a non-location based company is the broader and more diverse talent pool you can tap into. You can find the best talent and the most capable candidate regardless of location. Use this opportunity to expand your horizons, be intentional about adding diversity to your team. It’s proven that more diverse teams have better outcomes.
New hires need to fit your new remote work culture. More than ever they need to be self-reliant and self-advocates. Have a plan for socializing them throughout the company and facilitating training that involves inter-team collaboration
2. Embrace asynchronous communication.
For most companies, a move to working from home will often mean that traditional 9-to-5 working schedules become less rigid. With current school closures and additional caretaker responsibilities at home, shifting working hours has become imperative to support employees. The result is asynchronous communication. This blog post does a great job explaining asynchronous communication and the many benefits. How we Communicate at Automattic
My quick tips:
- Be thoughtful about the tools you use to communicate (hint – it’s not email)
- Setting clear expectations reduces anxiety and empowers your team to prioritize.
Initially, you might fear things will move slower. However, when you consider that other team members can keep the ball rolling while you’re busy (and vice versa) your time has suddenly expanded exponentially.
3. Document and maintain.
Make sure that your company policies, resources, best practices, and expectations are well documented, kept current, and easily accessible.
“Documentation will not only aid in informing team members when they are working asynchronously; it will also create a public archive for future hires and organizational assessments.” – Jason Wingard, Forbes Contributor (Link)
Likely, your policies need a thorough review if this shift has been new for you – and I’m not just talking about your employee handbook.
4. Connect Intentionally.
To a business leader driving the bottom line, casual connections may seem superfluous. However, a sense of connection (to the team, company values, etc) is so important for long term success.
At first, you can get by with the residual community built up by being in person. But with turnover, growth, and simply the passage of time, connectedness can wane.
Build communication channels and events to facilitate this type of interaction from distributed locations.
- Be diligent about recurring 1-1s with direct reports. Consider using this opportunity to flatten your organization and connect with those who are on the front-lines as well.
- Be even more communicative about the company’s vision, mission, goals, successes, and failures, opportunities, etc. Transparency builds loyalty and a culture of open communication.
- Create space for non-work related conversations. Our twice-weekly 30-minute “coffee chats” via Zoom successfully helped our team connect as people. Playing online games or trivia are a great way to let loose and facilitate teamwork. Create channels in your instant messaging platform for casual conversations or sharing of funny cat videos. Actively encourage participation.
5. The technology you use to facilitate business processes matters more now.
The technology platforms you use to facilitate the work is the glue that holds your organization together. Common challenges include:
- Platform overload – The typical mid-market company uses 185 different apps – according to the 2020 Saas Trends report. That is lot to manage and rife with room for information to fall through the cracks.
- Data Silos: With all those different tools, platforms, spreadsheets and communication tools, your company data is in lots of different places, but not together.
- Manual Processes: How does your sales team transfer projects to operations? Who gets information to finance for billing? Is that a manual process at risk for errors and omissions?For these reasons and more, we built an internal platform that would manage our globally distributed team and integrate communications and consolidate data. It services hundreds of clients, automates a vast sample sourcing ecosystem and optimizes delivery on thousands of projects per day.
The results have been significant. We’ve scaled our operation, delivering for more clients, faster, without the expense of adding headcount. Due to the flexibility of the system, architected on a microservices infrastructure, we are prepared and ready for future changes and can remain nimble as we grow. If you’re contemplating the buy vs. build decision for bringing additional technology into your research tech stack, talk to us first.
We’ve been there, we’ve built, and our flexible DataForce platform modules are being used by other industry businesses to add flexibility, innovation, and scale to their own teams and products.
We’re not in the new normal yet, we won’t be for a while. As researchers, we’re in the privileged position of shaping that new normal in so many ways. Our goal at Research For Good is to enable human understanding so we can reach a better new normal.
Want to find out how DataForce can enable an engaged, and efficient distributed team?