Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to build a remote workforce. Through sites like oDesk, Elance, Fiverr, Fancy Hands and TaskRabbit, you can hire remote workers, personal assistants and freelancers to help you complete all sorts of projects.
While offering typically more flexibility (and cost efficiency), managing a remote workforce presents challenges different from the traditional nine-to-five, I-meet-my-employees-face-to-face setup. Having hired remote workers myself over the years, I have tips to share that, hopefully, will help other business owners and entrepreneurs manage people more effectively and produce optimum results.
Set targets and goals. They can be as simple as having a blogger come up with 50 articles a month, or as huge as giving a remote developer team a year to launch your next-generation app. Whatever: the key is to present a company vision that team members can refer to, measure their performance with and have a sense of collaboration for.
Communicate regularly. Wherever I go, I’m always in touch with my staff. Not only do we have scheduled daily or weekly calls; I also make sure they can reach me anytime via e-mail, Skype, Gchat, Viber or WhatsApp. Managing people involves much more than telling them what to do; it also requires keeping them engaged and in the loop, giving constant feedback and listening to their concerns.
Centralize what’s happening. A distributed workforce doesn’t have to be disorganized. Obviously, whiteboards and printed memos won’t work. But what you can do is implement a system for centralizing information and updates. With it you can break projects into data-based milestones so you can more easily track and measure results. Basecamp and Teambox are two of the tools I’ve used; other productivity boosters in the “office” include Dropbox, Google Apps for business, Screencast (great for video tutorials) and Hootsuite.
Recognize and reward. Even if you can’t literally give your rockstar employee a pat on the back, there are other ways to recognize and reward performance. Even congratulatory “great job!” notes go a long way. Trust me: remote workers, just like in-office employees, like to feel they’re making significant contributions to the company’s success.
Create growth opportunities. It’s important to foster a motivating (albeit virtual) environment where people can thrive. Train staff for bigger projects. Introduce performance incentives. Include members in corporate events, parties, team building activities. The more opportunities you create, the more you’ll inspire loyalty and drive growth in your organization.
Chris Campbell is the CEO of Review Trackers, an online review monitoring platform for local businesses.