As a business owner in 2012, you’re likely to embark upon the world of remote employees. The first thing you have to realize is that having a remote worker, particularly one who is thousands of miles away, is like maintaining a long-distance relationship. You want to make sure that you set clear expectations and consistently communicate. Your remote employee needs to maintain a level of work that’s equal to an employee in your company’s office.
There are three strong ways you can bring a remote worker into the fold – both as a teammate and as a performer.
The 3 Steps to Remote Worker Success
1. The Integration Process
Integrating remote workers into any company’s workplace and culture does not happen overnight. If a remote employee is a significant distance from the home office, you need to focus on keeping constant contact through Skype, conference calls, or teleconferencing. They must be able to participate in all weekly company meetings and share their experiences and struggles of the week, just like any other employee. They need to know that you have their backs.
2. Recognize Achievement
The next step is to establish a way to recognize achievement. Employees who work at remote locations don’t have the support around them to encourage them or let them know they are on track and doing a great job. With reinforcement, you not only help employee morale, you also encourage a more open line of communication with the home office.
You may choose to establish an office-wide reward system, where all employees nominate and recognize one person each week or, perhaps, you can choose a reward more in line with the goals of your company. Be sure to include the long-distance employees as well! Incentivize according to your employees’ needs – maybe they’d prefer a random vacation day over public recognition. Demonstrating that you understand your teammates can go a long way toward building trust.
3. Set Clear Expectations
Lastly, set specific goals for each remote employee, ranging from measurable sales goals to company mission-specific goals. This way, the employee can mentally align his personal goals with the company’s goals, which makes for a more efficient worker.
At Digital Talent Agents, we have an open workflow that allows our remote workers to manage their own time and responsibilities. For our sales team, we set a clear goal of leads per week, interest per week and percentage of closes. This allows us to help employees build on their progress and eventually maintain meeting their goals. And our company’s goals range from being one of the best small businesses to work for to having the best company culture.
For employees to feel truly engaged and comfortable about what their company does, they must have proper training and support. A majority of communication breakdowns or lack-of-performance problems stem from poorly trained workers. To remote workers, understanding their roles is essential to gaining confidence. One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to start a mentorship program for new employees. A mentor can hold a weekly meeting to check in on how his/her employee is adapting to the company, and can help problem solve, if need be.
The home office should set benchmarks and evaluations so employees can be tracked to see where they are succeeding and/or struggling. Connecting remote employees with other employees within the company to work together on related projects can be very helpful. This type of exercise can put two employees in the same situation, which may allow them to comfortably discuss any issues or concerns they have. (If you don’t have ready-made projects that can be worked on remotely, consider starting a mentorship program so your long-distance staff has confidantes within the company.)
Additionally, remote employees should feel connected to the company’s home base. Your remote workers should be included in all company events and information, even if they are unable to attend because of proximity. Every few months, employees should make a pilgrimage to the main office for a few days to touch base on both a personal and business level.
Staying connected after the training period is essential. Having all company meetings available via video conferencing is a great way to engage both your remote employees and your home employees. Over time, everyone will be able to gain insight into the company’s culture and leadership. It is important that each meeting balances information-sharing with allowing employees to talk about their experiences from the week.
A company can thrive with the help of remote employees, particularly if your business is branching into new territory. It’s important to remember to manage your workforce and help your remote employees by setting clear expectations. Your company needs to create a symbiotic relationship between remote workers and the company’s office. Train your remote employees, reward them for a job well done, and remember that communication is essential.
Blake Beshore is the author of James Beard award-winning book Notes From a Kitchen and is the Managing Partner of Digital Talent Agents Dallas office, a company that helps experts build their personal and company brands through producing high-quality content for reputable publications.