8 ways to get the best out of your remote workforce

Tremendous forces are radically reshaping the world of work, as we know it. Disruptive innovations are creating new industries and business models and destroying old ones. New technologies, data analytics and social networks are having a huge impact on how we communicate, collaborate and work.

Many of the roles and job titles of tomorrow will be ones we’ve not even thought of yet.

To understand what your workplace is going to be like in 5 or 10 years or 30 years out, you need to think about what work will look like. Since so much of our past and present economic success has been based on this jobs economy, such thinking represents a serious threat to our future. Even those who don’t believe the current economic system can continue, struggle to generate viable alternative economic models.

Today many people go to where the work is, In the future work will go to where the human skills are.

The growing economies of A/NZ have increased the competition for human capital to new heights, making the process of talent acquisition and retention more of a challenge for Human Capital teams and recruitment professionals.

Now, and in the future, understanding workforce capabilities, modern methodologies, technology, tools, techniques, processes and obstacles to be successful in human resource management, is crucial.

We’re witnessing a massive shift from traditional work and full-time employment to freelancing, working part-time, and independent contracting. This is often referred to as the gig economy.

So, how can we define the gig economy? Broadly speaking, the gig economy is a free-market system in which companies look to work with independent contractors or freelancers as opposed to hiring full-time inhouse workers. The ‘gig’ part of the name refers to the dominant model of work in this economy, where workers are remote and paid per job, project or as an outsourced contractor.

According to Gallup It is estimated that by the end of 2020 up to 36% of the US workforce will be working in the gig economy. A recent Victorian state government study puts the number at about 40% in Australia. Of course with the recent COVID 19 pandemic many more are working remotely.

With the pre Covid 19 Australian and NZ economies basically at full employment (Unemployment in Australia is 5.2%) We have seen the proliferation of Business Processing Outsourcing companies (BPO) in the Philippines and India, however this traditional labour arbitrage model is morphing and changing again.  Established players like PABS Accounting provide experienced virtual accountants and bookkeepers that are integrated with their client’s business but work in a remote facility in the Asia at significantly less cost than onshore resources. It’s an attractive proposition for organisations looking to augment their workforce.

As more companies recognise the value of remote employees, those businesses must adjust managerial styles and navigate how to take what’s worked in a local office and translate it into supervising those who work for them remotely.

For many who are new to outsourcing, a primary concern for a remote workforce is the perceived loss of control and the ability to supervise effectively. Because one cannot “see and touch” them the unease is that remote workers will not be as productive as those in the in-country office.

Conversely, with a remote team, there’s less risk of losing productivity due to unexpected (and unpaid) time off. There are less missed workdays.

Moreover, the slightly nonaligned time zones between Australia and India allow a more variable schedule contrasting the traditional nine to five workday and provides an increase in employees’ productivity and help with retention and recruiting.

If you are considering engaging a remote work force below are some useful tips and tricks to help you make the process as painless as possible.

1.Always provide employees with the best equipment and tools

Don’t cut corners on technology. It makes sense that best practice is to provide effective and efficient communications technology.  Once you have the right technology in place, communication will run smoothly. With team based technology like  Slack, Zoom, Teams etc. employees can constantly be in contact and let you have your finger on the pulse.

“We provide your remote employees with tools to do great work no matter where the person is located,” said Anand Tated  CEO of PABS. “That includes providing high-quality monitors and comms, ensuring meetings are setup for participation no matter the person’s location, and that those in an office have special rooms for optimal video-conferencing collaboration.

2.Have a proven, established system

Tated added “We don’t wait for issues to become a problem. It’s important to encourage our clients to constantly check- in with their remote employees and use the available tools, systems, and processes to provide feedback. We do this through roundtable work in progress (WIP) discussions, weekly updates, and an engagement survey every six months.”

3.Encourage remote employees to connect with each other

Given that remote employees can feel isolated from their employers, Tated said, “We provide a social environment that connects the like interests of employees from both a work and social standpoint.  Furthermore, encouragement is provided to workers to connect with one another on different levels outside of the virtual workplace,”.

PABS Accounting keeps a community events calendar to introduce those who live near each other or have similar interests and encourages bonding, and ride sharing.

4.Foster team building

Perhaps the greatest concern regarding managing remote workers, continues to be team building and rapport. The remote teams want to belong and feel part of the home team. It’s important to focus on team structure and intra-departmental relationships. The best practice for managing remote staff is communication. Management, and staff need to be in constant communication and discuss expectations and needs.

5.Value employees and set expectations

Its basic, but in order to create a better work environment, organisations must ensure all employees are engaged and feel valued by leadership and management.

Initial over-communication from supervisors is good and setting clear expectations for remote employees for work assignments, how and when work will be completed, and how their role within the team and organization are crucial to ensuring they are engaged in and engrossed in their work.

6.Get regular feedback from employees

Staff feedback is one of the most under-utilized devices, yet it can provide leaders with a lot of information around what will keep their employees engaged and enable their business to succeed.

7.Set clear expectations

Generally, the best way to supervise remote employees is through an outcomes-based approach,” Teresa Douglas, co-author of Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams said. “Set clear expectations, give your employee a reasonable workload, and schedule regular check-ins to see if they need any resources to complete the work. This is how you catch things before they become problems, without the added expense or privacy concerns that surround employee monitoring software.”

8.Managers should be “people-people”

The best managers in this situation are people managers. The old adage that people don’t leave companies they leave their managers is even more true in remote teams. Managers need to display equal parts empathy and knowledge.

Not with standing that the vast majority of remote workers are highly educated and expect to be treated as professionals, it’s important to focus on completed work and see projects and tasks fulfilled on-time.

 

Author:

Martin Conboy has been well recognised as one of the leading voices in the global outsourcing industry in facilitating outsourcing success throughout the Asia Pacific.

In November 2014 Martin was voted into the top five most influential and respected people in the global call centre outsourcing industry.

Martin was a founding member of the Standards Australia subcommittee which had a remit to create standards and best practices for the global ICT/BPO industry.

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