4 Tips to Help Build Your Remote Teams for Success

Apr 09, 2021
Evelyn Chang

While the world is eagerly expecting the Covid-19 pandemic to be over soon, the impact it brings to the job market might be here to stay.

The percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021, according to a survey from U.S.-based Enterprise Technology Research (ETR). Also based on the 2021 State of Remote Work survey conducted by Buffer, 97 % of remote workers would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.

Photo Credit: Buffer

Millions of first-time remote workers have now experienced a life without the daily commute. Without long traffic time to attend face-to-face meetings. Working remotely is getting more popular than ever.

To attract top notch talents, companies need to think beyond offering remote work flexibilities as part of the perk package. The focus should be on how to build the right teams and process, adjust and transform the company culture, management style, to prepare the organization for the post-pandemic age.

Get Access to Global Talent Pool for Remote Workers

One of the biggest opportunities that remote work has brought is that you can now hire from almost anywhere in the world. This is especially exciting for startups aiming for global markets.

“Recruiting local talents in Malmö is a challenge. Sharing a common playground on the labor market with well-established companies and their global impact together with appealing reputation makes it hard for a local start-up to compete.” Says Vincenzo De Salvo, CEO of Your Speech Factory, an AI communication coach startup based in Sweden. 

“The whole recruiting process has been done remotely ever since we established the company in 2017. As a result of remote recruiting, we have been able to gather professionals working from Northern Sweden, Italy, Taiwan, United States, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Albania, and Macedonia”

Situation has been similar with MyStartr, Malaysia’s fast growing equity crowdfunding platform. Their CEO Goh Boon Peng explains, “When we first started, we worked with an external contractor referred by a friend, but when business takes off, we need an inhouse developer to take care of some information infrastructure and continuous improvements of our platform, top software engineer is very competitive to recruit in Malaysia, and most of them would want to work with other senior developers under a bigger team setting.”

So he talked with Reinhardt, founder of Meet.jobs, who recommended him trying recruiting remotely in Taiwan via meet.jobs, and successfully hired a senior developer through Meet.jobs. “I got my computer science degree in Taiwan and I have confidence in the quality of developers there.”

There’s another perk for startups to do remote hiring, “For startups targeting the global market, such as Europe, US, and Asia, one of the upside of remote hiring is you can recruit team members who are from your targeted markets, which can provide you different ideas and viewpoints directly from these markets.” Salvo adds.

When geography is no longer a barrier to tapping into talent, building and creating a truly diverse workforce seems more feasible than ever.

How to Make Your Remote Teams Successful?

However, new opportunities often come with new challenges. Many companies struggled and learned through trial and error during the transition. Here are 4 tips for your business to build high performing remote teams.

1. Find right talents for your remote team

Hire doers and trust the people you hire. In a thorough case study shared by Zapier, the first ingredient to making remote work successful is “team.”

“I am really inspired by Netflix’s leadership philosophy mentioned in the book ‘No Rules Rules’,” shares Goh Boon Peng, but the most important premise for “No Rules” to work is when you only hire great talents, which makes management much easier.”

You should know clearly what kind of talents fit your organization the best, so you can increase your chances of success.

Although great talents possess common characteristics, there are specific traits that help staff thrive when remote working. Here are some important criteria you should look for in high performing remote workers.

 Self-Starters

Working from home can sometimes be isolating and force staff to solve complex problems and ambiguous situations with limited managerial guidance. This requires a person to show extra proactiveness to drive projects or objectives to successful results. They also have to take full ownership of processes, tasks, and responsibilities.

If someone only takes actions based on instructions, and gets used to waiting for responses instead of following through, the result might not be too promising. “Since we might not have meetings everyday, you will need to make your own judgments and move things forward at times based on the weekly plan and milestones discussed before.” Salvo explains why this is important.

Being self-motivated is always a good quality, but it’s crucial when working remotely. From taking initiative on different projects to being self-disciplined and prioritizing their workload quickly – remote employees will have to accomplish different types of tasks without hand-in-hand guidance.

Value Alignment

With limited supervision, self-discipline and focus becomes key to productivity, but rather than feeling obligated to do so, commitment to work would naturally make someone more motivated, essentially related to internal value and culture alignment with the organization.

 “If people don’t share your vision, aligned with the mission, they’re not connected with you deeply inside and naturally they will not be so positive and energetic about the work.” Kenneth Ham, Chief Technology Officer at DC Frontiers talks about when recruiting, it’s always important to find people who are excited about what you do.

“It’s still challenging, sometimes we can still place wrong bets, but most of the people we hire, you can see their enthusiasm and excitement about what we are going to solve and how we’re going to solve it.”

Communication Skills

Remote work requires strong communication skills. In a remote situation, team members constantly communicate through internal message platforms and documents, at least half of all communication is done via writing rather than speaking. Being able to communicate clearly in writing no matter what platform used is critical to a team’s success.

Ham mentions, “When we hire people, we want to make sure we get candidates who can express their thoughts and opinions well in English, because we have team members across different countries, good command of English is necessary.”

 2. Optimize your workflow process for remote working

Clear process for collaboration and communication can ensure that work gets done as efficiently as possible and nothing falls into the cracks.

When transitioning to remote work, your existing processes might need to be adjusted due to limitations of virtual collaboration. You may also need to put in place some new steps in existing processes, such as accountability checks, to help keep everyone on track.

“Major challenge falls into who should be responsible for certain information and how we complete a task, we went through many iterations, making sure we know exactly, at which point it makes sense for somebody else, another team to come in.” says Ham.

“Come up with your own solution through trial and error, you need to convince people why you need the new workflow and how this affects your business, don’t do something because Google and Facebook are doing so. Every company has different sizes, facing different challenges and solving different problems, we can’t take one process and expect it to work.”

Another key for successfully implementing the new workflow to work is patience, “Process is key and necessary, but don’t forget about people, be empathetic; It confuses people when things change. It takes time to move people to a new process, convincing many teams to adopt a new framework is not easy, even with a size of 100-200 employees, it takes a lot of effort to move people to new directions.” Ham reminds.

 3. Evaluate by outcome instead of time worked

Although not every job can be done remotely, studies have shown working remotely has a positive effect on performance for people with complex jobs with low levels of interdependence on others.

However, research conducted during Covid-19 shows that a large number of managers are struggling with the effective management of people working from home. 40% of managers have low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely. More than a third (38%), meanwhile, still believe remote workers usually perform worse than those in an office. This translates into many workers feeling untrusted and micromanaged by their bosses, adding extra stress to your staff.

Trust is crucial for remote teams to be successful. “Remote-work success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work even if you can’t see them,” says Aaron McEwan, Vice President of business consultants, Gartner.

“In the end, performance is what really matters, if you can spend less time but deliver great outcomes, I don’t need you to spend more hours.” says Goh Boon Peng. Set realistic, measurable objectives and goals for your team and track performance against these, your team will thrive with empowering, less-controlling management styles.

 4. Foster remote team engagement

 Even the most enthusiastic supporters of remote working would agree that lack of face-to-face socializing indeed makes team building more challenging, and according to some research, loneliness is simply bad for your health, which also mitigates against engagement and productivity.

 “Because you don’t have lunch together, colleagues passing by, that’s completely gone when remote working, since we still think the social part is very important, so on every Monday, we would begin the meeting by asking how’s your weekend, what did you do, and how’s your life.”  Salvo talks about the weekly routine Your Speech Factory follows.

Also, because of the psychological and physical distance, it’s easy for remote workers to feel detached from the organization and the team. Some measures can be taken to help fill the gap, however.

 “We have a clear structure of reporting lines, everyone has someone you can go to, every week our supervisors will schedule a 30 minutes 1:1 with every member, you can bring your own agenda, topics might be what are things that you’re thinking about, what’s your concern, from personal development to career development, all the way to how you are feeling,” Ham says. “The idea is to connect with every member, so you feel as part of our big family, and so you don’t feel you’re a remote workforce and nobody cares about you.”

Establish weekly team rituals such as hang out sessions and weekly team meetings, hosting virtual events like virtual lunches, coffee breaks, quizzes, games, can all be a part of remote working and should be considered for better engagement.

The Hybrid Work Model Will Become Mainstream

Because people still desire for human interactions and collaborations, it’s pretty unlikely that remote work will completely replace the physical office.

When being asked about insights on post pandemic work trends, Goh Boon Peng says, “This wave of remote work triggered by the pandemic would push both organizations and individuals to develop stronger skills of remote working and management. Even the most traditional companies would be forced to accelerate its transformation to a digital business.”

As Anna Convery-Pelletier, CMO at Radware, suggests in this article, “One strategy might be to have specific days for in-person meetings and collaboration, and then other days allocated for remote work. In-person meetings might be reserved for brainstorming sessions, introducing new projects, or team-building exercises, while remote days would be for work that can be performed individually. The office could be redesigned and reorganized by getting rid of cubicles and creating more collaborative meeting spaces.”

Photo Credit: Gartner

Even after COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, the trend is obvious that more companies would move toward building partially or completely remote teams, giving rise to a hybrid work model, and remote and flexible working will no longer be nice to have but become the new normal many workers expect.

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作者介紹

Evelyn Chang

卡內基美隆大學藝術管理碩士,從戲劇、藝術管理到數位行銷,不變的是對這個世界的好奇心與對生活的熱情。熱愛行銷與學習,持續關注創業、社群與網路發展。希望這個世界因為自己的存在而美好一點點,Let's connect & learn!

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