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How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees When Communication is an Issue

The wrong approach to managing remote teams breeds friction. The timezone separation means you're forced to guess at body language cues and you may even struggle to pick up on the tone of a conversation. When working remotely, managers can only give so much time and attention to employees — making company morale a challenge to gauge at times.

However, with a few adjustments to your communication style, managing remote employees and improving morale becomes much easier.

There are a few tactics that we use — as well as one secret weapon — that can dramatically improve the quality of your communication. With these tips, you can manage team members more effectively than ever before.

How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees And Maintain Team Communication

First, no matter what tools or process changes you deploy, the key to communication is consistency. As a remote team, consistent processes and systems will set your team up for a lot of success. When communication systems are fragmented or unclear, context gets missed, and things fall through the cracks.

That's why it's critical to operate from the same communication playbook, so team members know exactly how to connect.

1. Work From The Same Tools

Everyone on your team must work from the same platforms. You can't have one person storing documents in Dropbox and someone else sharing the same assets in Drive. Feedback will get lost, it will not be clear where to look to find files, and everything becomes incredibly disorganized.

A few popular communication tools that we use include Slack and Microsoft Teams, which are both great messenger apps. There are also newer options like Twist and Flock.

2. Set Clearer Expectations Around Communication

When you’re on a remote team, it’s not as obvious when someone is sitting behind their computer. To avoid lapses in communication, set preferred communication response times. Additionally, determining formats for sending updates and feedback can be incredibly useful in organizing information. Without any expectations or guidelines, people will communicate in different ways, and this can clutter up channels and become confusing for everyone involved.

It’s also useful for remote teams to know how and when to use these tools. When does someone need to send a Slack update instead of scheduling a call? Should they send a file via Email or Google Drive? For example, while Slack is great for quick updates, it is not the right place for important discussions.

3. Hold Regular Status Meetings

At least once a week, you should get on a call with your team and check up on projects and deliverables. You can use a video conferencing app, like Zoom or Hangouts, or invest in a virtual reality platform that gets people face-to-face. You can also make meetings more collaborative by whiteboarding and screen sharing.

You can also bolster communication by setting one-on-one time between managers and employees. These one-on-one meetings can include time for goal-setting, talking through any frustrations or blockers, professional development, and more. By dedicating time to each of your team members, they have the opportunity to speak to you in a more personable way.

To hold regular meetings, you should also have tools in place for team members to book meetings and one-on-one time with you. You can use Google Calendar or set "office hours" where team members are free to connect with you. If you use HubSpot, you can also set up a HubSpot meeting calendar link.

4. Set Aside Time for Team-Building and Fun

It can be challenging to build rapport, especially with a remote team. However, it’s critical to building trust. When team members feel more comfortable with each other, it’s easier to collaborate together.

Forbes recommends a few tactics for keeping team members engaged, such as team building activities, creating a more positive workplace energy, and celebrating employee success. Overall, being proactive about building team rapport will help improve morale AND communication.

5. Collect Feedback and Make Improvements

One of the best ways to improve communication is to consult your team members. By collecting feedback about what's not working, you can make critical improvements to your systems and processes. If you're using Slack or Microsoft Teams, collecting this kind of feedback is easy.

You can use an integration like micro-feedback, where teams can leave comments within the app. Alternatively, integrations like TINYPulse, Abot Anonymous Poll and Feedback, and Decider can also help you poll and survey your team. These insights can expose communication gaps and challenges.

Overall, by listening to your team more effectively, you can make it easier for them to collaborate. However, acting on the team's feedback is critical. One in three employees become disengaged if this kind of feedback is not acted upon.

More Effective Communication: Our Secret Weapon

Any of these tactics will help smooth out your day-to-day communication. If you want even better communication, a great next step is to consider a new virtual HQ. With one central place to communicate with your team, you can remove silos and keep everyone energized and connected.


Published by High Fidelity November 7, 2019

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