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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

C-Suite Agenda

The Complete Entrepreneur’s Guide for Running a Remote Team

Remote Team

Is the future of work remote?  For many companies, it’s already a reality.

A remote workforce affords many cost-saving advantages with few downsides. With a remote team, you don’t have to add to your overhead with real estate rental costs. Additionally, you can control your labor costs by paying remote freelancers by the job, and best of all, you have a near-unlimited talent pool to draw from since you aren’t restrained by the geographic bounds of a physical office.

But running a remote team successfully requires certain tools and strategies. Remote teams often have flexible schedules and may work odd hours. You don’t see your coworkers or employees on a daily basis, except by way of video conferencing. The lack of in-person touchpoints makes it essential to emphasize written communication and collaboration skills.

If you are going to be running a remote team, the complete guide below will help you get started with ease:

Choosing the Right Talent

Just like hiring for a traditional onsite team, finding the right person can make or break a team. Fortunately, there are many online tools and job boards that specialize in employees who are interested in remote positions. Additionally, by hiring a remote team you also get the added advantage of being able to draw from an international talent pool. You will have the advantage of hiring the best person for the job, regardless of their physical location.

After reviewing applications and resumes, it is important to interview potential employees via video conferencing. Face-to-face contact is still a key element of building trust and developing a rapport among colleagues, and video communication can help build relationships, so you will want your hire to be comfortable with being on camera.

In addition to looking for the technical skills needed for the job, hiring a remote worker also requires a specific set of social skills. First, ensure that the candidate is a strong communicator, especially in writing. With remote teams a great deal is shared via written communications in email or slack so ensure they write clearly and specifically.

Another characteristic to look for is self-accountability and self-starters. Without a boss or co-worker nearby, remote workers need to keep themselves honest in how much work they are completing and contributing to the team. They need to be able to prioritize their work and their time and also be able to ask for help when confused or stalled.

Finally, look for hires that have done remote work before or are comfortable without a social workplace. Working remote for the first time can be a bit jarring as individuals miss having a physical social element. Ensure the candidate understands how it will be different and find new ways for them to participate in social activities.

Remote Team

Create a Team Structure

To operate efficiently, every remote team needs a clear structure. Understanding how each role supports and reports to others helps every employee, including remote workers understand how they contribute and could potentially hold back other teams.

While every organizational structure will differ depending on the size of your company, using an org chart to establish an organizational structure can be very helpful. Make sure each employee knows who they report to and who to ask when they have questions.

Depending on your business, it may make sense to organize your teams around specific functions – Marketing, Administration, Finance, Customer Support, Product and so on. Then, display how individuals may work cross-functionally and who the contact person is. For example, if customer services has a questions about a marketing promotion, who should they reach out to – the CMO or a campaign manager?  Having a clear structure will reduce down time and help individuals own their area of expertise.

Create a Culture of Support

For many shopify stores, one of the first teams to be built remotely is the customer service team. Customer support is often the lifeline to customer retention and overall growth of a company. In a recent Gartner study, 89% of organizations expect to compete mainly on customer experience to gain their customer’s loyalty of the competition.

Remote teams performing customer support can come with their own set of challenges, however. According to another survey, 67% of customers hang up on customer service representatives while waiting for an answer.

This can lead to frustration on both ends, and a terrible experience for the customer. However, there are ways to dramatically improve the experience for both your customer and representative.

When hiring a remote CS team ensure that every employee receives adequate training and all necessary call scripts. Keeping common call scripts and vocabulary will ensure each customer receives the same care. Additionally, make clear the call routing strategies. When does a call go to a manager? What should an employee do if they see a customer has called in several times. Ensuring a consistent call routing strategy will also improve your Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) which will help you grow and change in the years to come.

Remote Team

Check-in One on One

Team leaders should check in with individual employees – both on site and remote employees-  on a regular basis via one-on-one meetings.

One-on-One check-ins help maintain communication with remote employees to create a sense of belonging and trust. One-on-ones don’t always need to have a formal agenda and can be an opportunity for employees to share their ideas, opinions and suggestions, and to feel like they are actually part of a larger whole. Team leads should use the time to provide feedback and guidance.  Keeping up with one-on-ones will help maintain a sense of connectedness throughout the organization.

Collaborate Frequently

Collaboration is also another way to create a more interconnected remote team. In an office setting, collaboration can happen organically. Co-workers may overhear a problem and contribute or hop in a room to talk through new projects. Fortunately, technology can help foster collaboration with remote workers and ensure they feel their ideas are heard.

Shared documents, for example, allow employees to work together across great distances like never before. Shared documents are always live, and aren’t ever saved as versions, so it is easy to drop in ideas to a document that it up-to-date. Online hang-outs or virtual meetings can also create a sense of community and allow users to share screens and collaborate.

Instead of allowing your remote workers to be completely siloed, encourage projects that require team members to work together. This cross-pollination of ideas happens spontaneously in physical office locations but takes a little extra effort when working with a remote team.

Maintain Data Security

When discussing the pros and cons of building remote teams, inevitably one of the first questions is about data security. While it’s true that having remote workers can create security vulnerabilities, having the proper security best practices in place can ensure security redundancies that outweigh the risk.

While there is no “silver bullet” for security, there are many steps you can take to protect your data, your devices and your remote team.

Strong Password Management

Because life requires so many passwords, it is inevitable that people reuses passwords. Yet, weak or repeated passwords can open your company up to security risks as hackers can guess easy passwords and other passwords may be revealed publicly.

To reduce the risk of being hacked through simple passwords, require remote workers and those in the office to use a password manager. The password manager will create unique and difficult to guess passwords with the added benefit of remembering them in an encrypted form.

Use Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor Authentication, also known as two-factor authentication requires multiple verifications to gain access. This setting should be used for remote workers when accessing key documents or important databases. Multifactor authentication works by requiring not just a password, but also an additional device like a phone, U2F key or fingerprint to gain access.

Withhold Permissions

Finally, while it may seem easier to grant all access to everyone, this is not a safe practice and can only you up to vulnerabilities. Rather, design access according to the principle of least privilege. This principle says that every user, system, environment or program should actually have the least amount of access and privileges possible to still do their job. If a hacker were go gain access, they can do limited damage because they would not have permission to all systems or programs.

Use the Right Tools That Bring Teams Together

After building a strong culture, and security your data, the final large pillar to building a successful remote team is to get the right tools in place. Various platforms exist that enable remote teams to accomplish their work in a collaborative fashion.

Here is a rundown of platforms commonly used by remote teams and the function they serve:

  1. Slack – Slack is fast becoming the standard for workplace communication, both for on-site and off-site teams. From group chats to private messaging, Slack has a robust set of features that not only enable communication but allow employees to be more expressive.
  2. GitHub – GitHub is a collaborative platform for developing code. It enables software developers to review, manage and collaborate on projects wherever they may be located.
  3. Confluence – This online platform is a great way to create and collaborate on shared documents within your company. It is also great to use as a depository for employee manuals, roadmaps, and process documents for each of your unique roles and team leads.
  4. Asana – Asana is a leading project management tool that makes it easy to assign and track tasks. This tool is essential for monitoring the productivity of remote teams and making sure every team member is executing on their assigned workload.
  5. Zoom – Zoom is a powerful video conferencing platform that syncs with your Google Calendar, making it easy to schedule one-on-ones or large all-hands meetings where every video feed is displayed on one screen without a glitch.

Running a successful remote team is not coincidental. Utilizing the right team, tools, company culture, security, and customer experience actively nurtures an environment of strength that creates strong results. Many successful remote teams actually have more honest, productive, and creative conversations with one another than those who are co-located. By actively focusing on connection, communication, and strong work, your team can make making working remotely a bonus, not a deficit.

Matt Shealy
Matt Shealy is the President of ChamberofCommerce.com. Chamber specializes in helping small businesses grow their business on the web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Matt is a regular contributor for the CEOWORLD magazine.