Managing virtual staff members can be both a blessing and a challenge, and if you’ve had experience in this realm of the startup world then you most likely have some personal anecdotes that attest to this. The positive points, which are much easier to identify than their negative counterparts, are the reasons why many employers are choosing to hire remotely: higher employee satisfaction/retention, expanded candidate search, less overhead expenses and the ability to operate 24/7 if needed. In most cases, these pros will outweigh the cons (especially if budget is a top priority for your business). Among the many challenges that are associated with hiring remotely, let’s focus on one that can have a major impact on the overall efficiency of your business: keeping your remote workers happy.
- Resist the Urge to Micro-Manage
Nobody likes someone breathing down their neck, looking over their shoulder, or any other figurative gesture that implies a lack of trust. One of the most appealing qualities of remote work is the physical absence of a micro-manager, but even a ‘virtually-present’ micro-manager can still do a great deal of damage to employee morale. Excessively criticizing and repeatedly reminding your employees about cumbersome details will not only alienate you from your staff, but these regular interruptions will actually make overall productivity decrease.
- Encouragement and Rewards
Simple recognition can go a long way, whether your employees are in-house or on the other side of the world. Periodically remind your remote workers that you do appreciate their timeliness, attention to detail, or any other qualities that they consistently exhibit. If the client gives a positive testimonial or compliments the quality of a job, then be sure to let your people know about it. Bonuses and rewards are obvious ways to incentivize employees, but make it meaningful for them. If a particular employee’s performance results in additional revenue for the company, then show your gratitude by giving that worker a small monetary bonus. This can give your people a sense of ownership, pride and overall satisfaction with their daily purpose.
- Feedback: Give and Receive
This goes hand in hand with the encouragement point above. Giving your remote employees positive feedback is a must, but they should also know when they overlook something as well. Use constructive criticism to make them aware of mistakes or errors, but be tactful about this. Pick and choose your battles, so that you bring attention only to crucial or critical mistakes that they will actually appreciate being made aware of. Additionally, you will earn a bit more respect from your remote employees if you ask them for feedback as well.
- Keep your People in the Loop
Despite being an overused buzzword in the business world, transparency really is key for keeping people happy. Clients and customers aren’t the only ones who need transparency; your employees need it as well. To make someone feel like they are part of the team, they must be kept informed about the company as a whole. Use discretion with this, of course, but most significant happenings or changes within the company should be communicated to everyone who plays a key role.
- Get Together!
This might not always be a feasible option, but if you have the opportunity – meet face-to-face with your remote employees. Many people find it comforting to put a face to a name, especially one whom they’ve spoken with countless times. Bringing remote employees together for a business lunch or happy hour event will not only build morale but it can sometimes be productive in ways that telecommunicating cannot.
The list above is just a fraction of the many things you can do as an employer or manager to retain happy, hard workers. However, the bottom line is this: make your remote employees feel like they truly have a purpose within the company. Remote employees who feel disconnected and out-of-touch with their employer are less likely to have intrinsic motivation when they work. If they feel like a key player on your team, they are more likely to consider the greater good of the business as a whole.
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