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Posted: September 21, 2011

Out of sight, on the job

Tips for managing a remote workforce

Jenny Douras

Managing a remote workforce can be challenging, especially when you can't physically walk down the hall to see what they are doing. How can you trust that they are getting the job done?

The starting point for any relationship is trust and respect. Without daily face-to-face contact, there is more vulnerability to remote team breakdowns. Field employees in particular need to know that their manager respects and trusts them to carry out everyday work functions, with little or no supervision. This is also the catalyst to keep them motivated when management isn't on-site.

Creating an environment of accountability and motivation for your remote team starts with how you communicate with them. Your communication style sets the tone for how your team interacts with each other, and you. There are seven key communication techniques to help generate this respect and trust, and motivation:

Keep all promises and respond to employees in timely manner - Don't make a promise to an employee that you can't keep, even if it is a small item.

Set consistent communication schedules with your employees - Schedule weekly meetings or one-on-one phone calls with your employees. Setting consistent schedules helps establish a routine and a sense of connection.

Stick to your employee appointments- Don't change your scheduled employee calls and meetings unless it's an emergency. Frequent rescheduling will send a message to employees that the meetings are not very important, which will encourage them to find excuses to reschedule

Provide details and reasons "why" for any requests -When making a request, such as a morning phone meeting, tell employees why and provide a basic overview-so they don't jump to conclusions.

Ask rather than tell - Asking your employees to do something, rather than telling them, builds buy-in and accountability, even though they will inherently say "yes" because their manager is asking. If you ask rather than dictate, then the employee is more likely to be accountable.

Write positive emails - Emails always come across 10 times more negative than intended. To avoid this, try to be overly positive when you write them. Use exclamation points, use "hi" or "good morning", say "thanks!", use humor or positive feedback. Make it a pleasure to do business with you.

Ask them for their advice, opinion, and feedback - Value employees and enlist their feedback. In return, they will be more receptive to listening to yours when you give it.

By showing employees that you trust and respect them, you will generate the same in return, as well as their dedication and motivation.
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Jenny Douras is the Director of Knowledge Management & Training at Mission Critical Systems, a Denver Training Company. She has over 20 years of experience in management, employee development, operations, instructional design and training. Jenny has managed teams of up to 300 people across multiple states and countries, working with several Fortune 500 clients. From this experience she developed her Remote Employee Management Class. She also sat on the board of directors for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development for three years, and is an active member of the Colorado training community. Please contact her at Mission Critical Systems or at Jenny.douras@mcstech.net

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