June 15, 2021
Performance Management 12 March 2020
Working Successfully with Remote Employees
Dillon Chen
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In management, there are different challenges in working with different types of employees. In particular, remote employees can be difficult to manage and develop a successful working relationship with because they are not in the office. Some managers find it really hard to be in charge of somebody they don't see every day. On the other hand, remote employees can feel isolated from the company and unable to find answers to questions or get guidance on their work. 

How do companies make sure that their remote employees are able to do the work and hit deadlines while not being someone that is freeloading from the company? How do you evaluate their performance when you don't even see them in person? How does the company engage employees and establish a good company culture? How do remote employees get the proper resources and support they need from the company?

To answer these questions, we gathered opinions from numerous professionals and remote employees to give us a few different ideas on how to successfully work with remote employees. Check out the following:

Proper Screening and Oversight

Your relationship with remote employees should start strong, and be managed properly throughout the relationship in order to work successfully. Ideally, this screening should take place before they are even hired. Leeyen Rogers, the VP of Marketing at JotForm, an online forms platform based in San Francisco says:

"Remote employees must be screened appropriately prior to being extended an offer. References should be called and their experience needs to be verified. They must have enough relevant experience, and a strong work ethic and learning mentality to be able to effectively work remotely if there is little oversight." 

With two international offices and multiple employees working remotely, Leeyan also believes that strong oversight is especially needed for remote employees to make sure that they are producing quality work. She recommends that remote employees give updates on the work that they have produced, and results should make sense for whatever hourly or production level expectation that they have. 

Managers should be trained to work with remote employees. It's important to continue overseeing remote employee work and track metrics such as task completion in order to continuously evaluate their performance. According to People Managing People

While it is essential to treat remote employees with trust, it cannot be disputed that some employees were just never created for remote work. Such employees may find it challenging for them to work without someone watching over them. Therefore, a manager who believes that there is no need to track the time and progress of remote employees may discover that productivity suffers. It is vital to ensure that everybody clearly knows what is expected. 

Through proper screening right from the start and establishing clear expectations of what is expected from their work, the whole process of working with remote employees will go much smoother.

Include Them As Part of the Team

Getting acquainted with the team and the company can be a great way to start off the working relationship. Even though they may not see each other on a daily basis, putting names to faces and developing that bond is helpful to get things rolling. 

Brandon Chopp, the Digital Marketing Strategist for iHeartRaves, works remotely in San Diego 2 hours from his office in Anaheim. He relates his story saying,

"Before I was hired, it was requested that I visit the office for an in-person interview. After I was hired, it was also required that I be in the office for a two day onboarding period so that I could get acquainted with the brand, the team, and the procedures and policies. This served as a great introduction which allowed for a smoother transition for remote work."

Brandon holds weekly video meetings on Slack to review tasks assigned for the week and give updates on progress. Between Slack video and chat, email, and Basecamp, he is able to work together with his team to achieve their goals. Because the team has such open and effective communication strategies in place, he is able to feel included in the company culture. 

This sentiment of is reflected in a response from Steven Benson, the founder and CEO of Badger Maps, a route planner for field salespeople, who says that 

"The key to maximizing productivity on our remote teams has been to become a truly remote company where people who are mobile or remote are just as much a member of the team as someone who comes into headquarters every day. We have done that by treating people equally and fairly."

This type of interaction may seem like a small thing, but it will go a long way in helping the remote employee not feel isolated and separated from everybody else. Whether the team consists of members working in the office or remotely, employees must learn to trust each other to complete projects and accomplish tasks together. Do your best to make them feel included, maybe even try to hold a company event once a year to get everybody in the same room.

Proper Evaluation Techniques

Just as you evaluate your in-house employees, make sure you have proper evaluation methods in place when managing your remote workers. Have clear standards in place to judge their efficiency and make it a point to measure their performance frequently. Kean Graham, the CEO of a leading ad tech firm MonetizeMore, shares his experience evaluating remote employees saying 

"We ensure the success of each remote employee by how we evaluate and incentivize them. All our key performance indicators (KPIs) are transparent and tracked daily. There is a main KPI for each department and an overarching KPI for the whole Net Revenues. 

At MonetizeMore, every department KPI contributes to the overall KPI and they communicate this to each department on a regular basis. Using this system, each department has a clear view of how their performance KPI affects the overall growth of the company.

Proper Task Management Software 

Using technology and software can help you manage remote employees easier, but only if they know how to use it. Kate Sullivan, the managing editor at TCK Publishing, believes that providing good training on the tools a remote worker needs to do their job effectively is key. 

"Make sure remote workers know how to use your company's preferred tools, like Slack, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, or other software and applications meant to help them stay in the loop and manage projects."

Besides just providing the good task management software, Kate says that it's also critical to set up regular check-ins and feedback sessions to ensure that the worker is getting the support and input they need to succeed... and that their supervisor knows what they're working on, where any roadblocks are, and what can be done to support that worker! At TCK, they hold weekly 1:1 Skype or Zoom meetings to go over goals, objectives, current projects, and upcoming plans as well as a monthly all-hands meeting to make sure everyone is supported and aligned with company goals. 

Frequent Communication

Deborah Sweeney, the CEO of MyCorporation, a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, believes that it’s important to openly communicate with your team to keep everyone in the loop about what’s going on. 

"Hold in-person candid meetings, send out company updates via email, and meet with remote workers via Skype or FaceTime. Encourage your team members to chime in with their own questions or thoughts should they have any"

Tech company PITSS began offering Work from Home Wednesdays at the beginning of the year and has seen great success. Many employees take advantage of the flexible work style, and in a recent survey, it was cited as one of the highest-rated perks that improved employee morale since implementation. Financial manager Kelly Genovich attributes their success to  

"Daily or weekly (depending on the project) communication check-ins, Informal job performance check-ins, and formal performance reviews."

Have a Strong Supervisor

Jennifer Fisher, Director of People and Culture at ISTS strongly believes that the success of remote employees often depends on the supervisor.

" The supervisor needs to set up concrete goals and key performance indicators for the remote employee, but also needs to be tolerant of variation in the completion of tasks because the remote employee may accomplish tasks differently than someone in-office. "

Additionally, the supervisor must be able to delegate tasks and must have a level of trust in the employee. Make sure that whoever is assigned to handle remote employee relations is an experienced leader that is up to the task. They should be able to accommodate employees while also making sure that goals and tasks are completed.

Managers and supervisors could benefit from reading "The Suddenly Remote Playbook" to help them navigate how to be stronger leaders for their employees. 

Use Analytic Technology

George Elfond, the CEO of Rallyware, recommends using technology that measures and connects individual performance (satisfaction ratings of their customers, etc.) with corporate goals such as monthly revenues. 

"Analytics can reveal what is working well, providing insight into new ways to train and engage remote workers. Companies can use analytics to identify geographic and demographic areas in which additional engagement efforts will lead to increases in revenue by boosting the number of remote workers entering their workforce."

In George's experience, this technology can help companies identify where problems exist and where training and/or other interventions may be needed. Familiarize yourself with the metrics that are most important to your company's success and make sure you are able to track them with your remote employees.

So there you have it, plenty of great suggestions from experienced industry professionals on working successfully with Remote Employees. See which ones you can implement in your company today! Check out our blog for more articles on engaging with remote employees and skills that your remote employee should have.