Managing Remote Employees: Part One: Corporate Culture and Remote EmployeesIf you’re considering telecommuting as an option for your employees or maybe you’re exploring outsourcing to a virtual team, then you could be making a very good business decision. According to research by Gallup, remote workers tend to log more hours per week and are more engaged than those working in an office or onsite.  There is also potential for huge savings by diminishing overhead costs such as rented office space and 401k plans.

However, managing remote employees does have its own set of challenges. The out-of-sight element makes it all too easy to put it out-of-mind that remote employees have specific needs, too.  This two-part series of articles about managing remote employees will explore tactics that will help you oversee and support those who work from home as effectively as the staff who work in an office in order to maximize efficiency and minimize operational issues.

How corporate culture helps manage remote employees.

In this – our first section – we will explore your corporate culture, which is crucial to engaging any kind of employee. First, ask yourself what your company’s culture is by considering these questions:

  • Which values, habits, norms and beliefs does your organization represent?
  • Which products and/or services do you offer and why are they valuable?
  • Which types of employees best represent your corporate vision?
  • What types of activities define your company’s social – rather than monetary – value?

When answering all of these questions think in terms of priority, i.e. which are the most important values, habits, beliefs of your company? The answer to these questions will not only help you define the ways in which you can engage employees, but it will also be central to ensuring you hire the right people that can invest themselves into being part of an organization, even if they work remotely.

What is your corporate culture? Your employees can help you figure this out.

Let’s assume you run a video game company or you’re a kitchenware wholesaler; your employees are automatically connected by a common denominator, namely the product they are invested in and that they are all representing.

Thinking of this common denominator, it’s important to research and find out what your target customer, i.e. gamers or foodies, care about most.  Do what you can to engage your staff with the research and findings. Of course, you can’t make your staff enjoy a certain product that they don’t have a personal interest in, but you can make them aware of what interests people who are passionate about these products. Promote those habits, hobbies and interests from within and provide them the platform to express feedback and their own ideas.

Ask your staff members for their opinion on what they think the company’s values are; inclusion is key to engaging and encouraging staff. The need to do this is perhaps heightened when we talk about remote working employees because they naturally feel somewhat distanced

There are many ways you can actively involve remote working employees in defining your corporate culture. Host online discussions using Skype or Google Hangouts and schedule these events into the calendar as you would any other business meeting. Using shared documents or private Facebook groups you can begin a working discussion and ask for feedback on a working corporate culture. The goal, however, is to ultimately have collated answers to the four key questions above and to have nurtured a shared understanding of what your company’s culture is. This then needs to be communicated to your employees – again via an online Noticeboard or other shared app that helps you communicate with employees regardless of where they work. We’ll discuss other tools that will help you manage remote workers in Part Two.

Once you know your corporate culture, keep communicating it to all employees.

Once you have established a mission statement that summarizes your corporate culture, be proactive in sharing and practicing it. This will mean organizing not just virtual staff meetings, but also social initiatives and events that can be managed online. For example, your company can have a chosen charity and staff members can be encouraged to raise funds for that charity or to spend a couple of days a year doing voluntary work. Make sure that you provide your staff with the opportunity to not only engage and be social with each other but be sure that their corporate interests extend beyond the screen they stare at every day.  Give them a reason to be proud – not only of what their professional status is within the organization – but also a reason to flaunt what the company and its staff do for others.

The reason corporate culture is so important is that it has been proven to attract (and keep!) talented hard workers, and this has nothing to do with where your employees work. It is however, important to ensure your remote workers are just as aware and supportive of your corporate culture.

Part two of this post on Friday will discuss how to measure performance, maintain accountability, and having good communication with remote employees.

This contribution comes from Mark Feldman, a long standing member of Findmyshift helps companies organize staff with versatile time tracking and scheduling capabilities.