Remote Workforce Management – A Successful Strategy for Leading

In today's world, it is common for employees to work remotely. But regardless of the reason why people work remotely, companies need to make sure that they create an effective remote workforce management strategy to succeed.
by Billy Stone » Remote Work Nerd » 
last updated on November 17th
It's not just Millennials who are choosing to work remotely. As the workplace has changed, more and more people have found themselves working from home or occasionally out of their office space.

For both employees and employers, this presents a whole new set of challenges that must be tackled head-on in order for remote workforce management to be successful.

Remote workforce management is a topic that isn't often discussed in the workplace, which is understandable considering it's not an easy concept to grasp.

Companies turn to remote workforces as a way of increasing their efficiency and employee happiness. It has become increasingly important for managers to understand how to manage a remote team.

In this blog post, we'll discuss what remote workforce management entails and why a great remote work culture it's so beneficial for both employers and employees alike.

Before we start, let's discuss why it's important to have a clear strategy when managing a remote workforce.

The importance of remote workforce management strategy

Remote work is on the rise and companies of all sizes are quickly adopting this new type of workforce model. For example, according to the Harvard Business Review, over 60% of employees would like to telecommute at least part-time (up from 37% in 2012).

In addition, Gallup found that 43% of employees who work remotely are engaged in their jobs.

Why do companies fail at managing remote teams?

But because this is all new and remote work is different than traditional office-based workplaces, most companies fail to have a clear strategy in place. What's more, the lack of a remote workforce management plan is costing companies dearly both financially and through employee attrition rates.

Managing remote collaborations is different than managing traditional employees because you can't simply be there all the time to monitor their every move.

Without a strategy, employees feel uncertain about what is expected of them and managers could struggle to understand how they should go about leading their remote teams.

And we all know that employees are the lifeblood of any company. Without them, companies can't succeed so it's important to get employees on board from the start.

remote working is the future

Remote employees are the crucial component

The benefits of having a well-structured remote workforce management strategy in place can be significant, as it helps to increase employee satisfaction and productivity levels while reducing costs for employers.

When setting up a strategy, the most important thing is to think about your employees and what your strategy means for them.

  • What are their needs?
  • How can you increase the workforce productivity and everyone successful in their roles?
  • Are they onboard as soon as you roll out your strategy?
  • What problems do they have when working remotely you can solve?
  • Are there any particular benefits that might help them to be more motivated?
  • Is everyone on the same page?
  • Is the strategy something everyone in the remote working environment will enjoy?
  • Newly remote workers: How will the strategy affect them?

Your remote workers will be the ones who ultimately drive success for your company. As such, they should always come first when it comes to setting up a strategy that works for everyone involved.

How does this strategy work and what are the benefits associated with it?

The most important thing to know is that there are 4 pillars when it comes to a successful remote workforce management strategy:

#1 Flexibility and Structure – A match made in heaven?

Flexibility is one of the major benefits of a remote work strategy, but without a solid structure under the hood, there's no way to realize that flexibility. That means leaders need to carefully plan out every aspect and be able to communicate what their strategy looks like in practice day-to-day with reports and other tools.

The structure is especially important for remote managers, as they are responsible for providing both leadership and direction to their teams. Without it, employees can feel lost or even abandoned which jeopardizes the success of your business overall.

Flexibility and Structure

#2 Culture

This one is a biggie. In fact, it's one of the most crucial elements to factor into your strategy. Your culture is what drives how you think and behave as a business through everything from your mission statement to policies and procedures.

Your culture will have a significant impact on both employees' productivity levels while also helping them feel more engaged in their roles overall. And when employees feel like they are part of the company culture, it also helps to reduce turnover rates.

However, picking a remote workforce management strategy that works for you and your team isn't enough. You need to make sure everyone is on board with how the strategy will work day-to-day which means understanding what might be hindering them from succeeding when working remotely.

#3 Clear roles and responsibilities

If employees don't know what they are meant to be doing on a day-to-day basis, then it can lead to confusion and ultimately decreased productivity. This is especially true for remote workers who might not have the insight of their manager sitting right there with them.

That's why having clear roles and responsibilities in place helps your team members to be more productive and focused on the work that needs to get done. And it also helps managers be better leaders for their remote teams as they will have a clear understanding of what they need to do to help them succeed.

#4 Communication

First, let's get this out of the way: communication is not about having more team meetings or having daily video calls. It's about getting the right information to the right person when he needs it.

Making sure that you read the 17 Remote Meetings Best Practices: Golden Rules for Success. This means having clear communication strategies in place for both managers and their remote teams as well as using tools like video conferencing, instant messaging, or even chat apps (like Slack) which help them stay connected daily.

Remote workers who feel left in the dark are also less likely to stay with your company for very long.

There's no doubt that remote workforce management is about more than just technology and processes. It requires careful planning, strategy development, and execution which all play a part in how successful you will be overall when leading your team remotely.

It’s important to plan, have a clear strategy in place and ensure that everyone is on board. And when it comes to making sure your employees are happy, engaged, and productive. The key will be open communication from both you as their manager or leader but also within your company culture more broadly speaking.

Communication in remote workforce management

Bonus round aka remote project management 101

You also might need to re-think how you do meetings and deadlines, as remote work teams will have different needs and requirements than your traditional office employees. Working with people from different countries can lead to language barriers, so it’s also important to think about how you can overcome these challenges when leading a remote team.

What challenges come with managing remote teams and how can you overcome them

Working in teams can be fun. Real fun.

And working in a distributed team is no different. But where is sunshine, there's rain, right?

The best way is to understand that challenges will arise and then be able to communicate the problem with your team, find a solution together, and most importantly implement it. It’s not about avoiding problems or pretending they don't exist because at some point they could come back to haunt you if left

Here are some common issues with managing a distributed workforce and our tips on how to manage them:

  1. One common issue is that you don't get to see your team in person, so it's difficult to build personal relationships. A great way to employee engagement is to have remote team-building activities, either on a regular basis or when needed.
  2. Another common issue is that remote workers can feel isolated and disengaged. Solve this by making sure your employees know what they are doing and how it fits into the company's bigger picture. And of course, you need to make sure they feel like part of a team and that their opinions matter!
  3. Another issue is that your employees might not know what tasks or responsibilities are expected from them. Make sure everyone knows exactly what they should be doing and what they should be working on.
  4. Lastly, an issue that can come up from time to time is communication problems. Make sure that everyone knows exactly what the communication plan is and how best to communicate with their colleagues. Who they can turn to if they have problems or need help, and of course how to communicate their thoughts.

tools help to keep you organized

Remote workforce management tools help to keep you organized

Remote workforce management software can help organizations of all types and sizes to effectively manage remote employees.

There are several tools out there that offer similar services, but we think the most important aspects you should consider when selecting a tool for your company is:

  • The user interface – Does it look sleek?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • What kind of experience do you want your employees to have when they use the software regularly?
  • The features – Consider what type of tools will best help manage and organize your remote workforce. Are there calendars, contact lists, task management functionality, etc.?
  • Will it offer integration with other services you use more frequently?
  • How much does it cost per team member?
  • And lastly, how often will you need to update or upgrade the software?
  • How do I manage remote teams successfully?
  • How can you track employee productivity?

To give you an idea of which tools we use, here are the ones we like for remote management.

Best tools for Work Management

1. Trello - We use Trello to manage our daily tasks. It’s easy to create boards, cards, and lists so that everyone can see what needs to be done, who is doing it, etc. It's an easy-to-understand project management platform for those who don't have any previous experience.

2. Google Calendar – This one should be a no-brainer because Google Calendar works great on any device. It’s available everywhere so everyone can stay up to date with their schedule and easily manage time-off requests, etc.

Best tools for Time Management

1. Harvest This is a time management tool that we use to track how much work each person on the team gets done. It’s great for tracking billable and non-billable hours, as well as seeing how many breaks you take during the day (and when).

2. Toggl This is another time management tool that we use in addition to Harvest. Toggl allows you to track your daily progress and analyze the data over time, which helps us see how much work each person on your remote workforce team does compare to everyone else.

3. Hubstaff This is one of the task management tools we use to track how much time our employees spend on certain tasks. It’s great for tracking billable hours and makes it easy to see what each person has been doing throughout the day (and when they aren't at their desk).

Communication and collaboration tools

1. Zoom This is a great video conferencing software that allows every team member to join meetings, presentations, screen sharing sessions, and more from any device. Since Zoom works with all operating systems it’s easy for everyone on the team to participate in online meetings or webinars together.

2. Google Meet Also great for video calls and online conferencing, Google Meet is one of the newest tools we’ve started using to make it easier for everyone on our team to communicate. This one makes phone calls, screen sharing, and online meetings a breeze.

3. Slack Remote employees love Slack. Why? Because it’s easy to use, searchable and integrates well with several other services we all already love (like Google Drive).

4. Skype Skype is the OG of online conferencing tools. It’s easy to use and works on most devices so even if remote employees aren't at their desks they can still join in with others via video chat or screen share sessions.

Solutions for data sharing

1. Google Drive This is the one remote workforce management software we can't live without.

2. 1Password One of the technology tools we use to keep our company’s information secure and share passwords easily.

3. Dropbox – Another great file-sharing tool for remote employees to use.

As you can see there are plenty of tools out there to help manage your remote workforce. If you want more information about any of the tools mentioned above please check out our Knowledge Base.

Conclusion

Every good thing has to come to an end, but that doesn't mean this is the last time we'll be talking about remote workforce management.

Remote workforce management is a practice of effectively leading and managing remote team members. It typically comprises a mix of communication, processes, and technology specifically designed for leading a productive remote workforce.

Companies and project managers that are more fully invested in a successful remote work environment also often offer substantive training around relevant remote work topics, both for managers and employees.

If you want to learn how we can help your business with effective leadership techniques or create an online project plan through the use of specific tools, please contact us today!

We’ll be happy to provide further information about our services and answer any questions you might have.