The remote revolution has settled in. Working virtually has become a common lifestyle for tech employees, giving them the flexibility to travel, choose their own base, dictate their own pace and virtually collaborate.
As the leader, however, it’s hard to juggle a remote team and make sure your employees are still putting their best foot forward. How do you set expectations, build a united company culture and train new employees who live in different states?
Not everyone thinks it’s possible. Yahoo, for example, has refused to join the remote revolution. “We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together,” said CEO Marissa Mayer in a company-wide memo. But Yahoo’s extreme approach left many employees feeling stuck.
So how do you get the best of both worlds? You can keep your team connected and enjoy the freedom to hire tech talent from anywhere. Here are seven tips on how to do it — from my global office to yours:
1. Hire strategically.
My entire company is built on tech talent, so we have to hire strategically. If something goes wrong, we rely on our tech team members to act as emergency responders. Dispersing them across the country often puts them closer to our clients, which helps us provide quick, personal support.
You can also hire “pockets” of people in the same city. That way, small groups are within meeting distance of each other for greater connectivity.
2. Put communication first.
Chief information officers commonly cite lack of face time and communication issues as the biggest challenges of dealing with a remote workforce. Remote employees can sometimes get so absorbed in their own productivity that they forget to prioritize emails and questions from the team.
Remote shouldn’t mean incommunicado. Make it clear to your teammates that you expect them to join conversations, video chat regularly and keep their calendars transparent and updated at all times. Check in with each other every day via Google Hangouts or GoToMeeting.
3. Provide the best tools.
Your remote tech employees have the talent that you desperately need to stay competitive. Give them the best possible tools to maximize their abilities. This will make your scattered team feel more in sync. Use cloud software such as Draft or Google Docs to enable your team to edit and share documents from any location.
4. Set up a network of contact points.
Part of the challenge of a remote workforce is maintaining a DevOps mindset and keeping processes evolving between departments. Streamline communications by matching up each remote tech employee with someone on the operations side. Both employees will be able to use each other as points of contact for advice and feedback.
5. Provide a clear structure.
As the leader, every task you assign should come with clear directions, obvious expectations and a process to follow. Avoid veering off process at all costs; if you absolutely must, have a conversation about it beforehand.
6. Set expectations.
Be completely transparent about what you expect from your remote tech employees. Share team performance metrics to help everyone feel connected. If you want a DevOps mindset, these metrics should be integrated with your operations team as well.
7. Enable your team to travel.
Flexibility also means giving remote workers the ability to come together. Account for travel in your remote employees’ contracts, and be clear about the expenses you’re willing to cover. When something goes wrong or an idea needs to be hashed out in a snack-filled room, having the capability to move employees is a valuable asset.
With all the innovative solutions available, there’s no better time to explore the possibilities of a virtual tech workforce. You just need to be willing to invest in the right tools and work hard to create a culture that will be stronger because of its flexibility.