Management Matters: is a New Article series dealing with the issues that arise when managing personnel and how to optimize your current staff in a company.
How to Manage the Virtual Work Force
May 1st, 2010
Over the past few decades technology has changed drastically, and as a result companies have been forced to change with it. As the companies around us change it has become vital for the employees and management to change as well. For the majority of people, talking about change is a whole lot easier then actually implementing it, but it is very important to stay current. One of the biggest changes that has been made in the past two decades is the number of people and employers that commute virtually to work. The fact that every employee is not physically coming into work on a daily basis changes the entire dynamic of a company and how the company needs to be managed. As a result of these changing conditions, we have five tips that will provide you with guidance for managing your virtual workforce.
This advice applies to all of the companies that do not currently have virtual employees but are looking to employ some in the near future. A good way to begin getting your employees accustomed to working from home is to have them gradually transition. This can be done by allowing an employee to work from home a couple of days throughout the month. Then at the end of the month make sure to check on the progress of the employees to see whether or not this will be a successful venture. This will also help you practice managing a disparate workforce.
Tell employees what is expected of them
Since working from home is a lot more of a relaxed environment, when compared to an office scenario, it is important that standards and expectations are clearly established. As employees work more and more from home it is important that tasks are created with deadlines so that the employees understand what is expected of them. With the tasks and deadlines clearly defined it will be very difficult for employees not to understand what is being asked of them. The deadlines will also help the employees visualize the tasks that they need to get done, and it will create a sense of urgency.
Technology is your friend
Technology is the reason why it is now possible to have a virtual workforce that is located all across the globe, so it is important that the technology that is available is used by management. If you think back 50 years ago, unless your entire workforce was in the same location, it would have been pretty close to impossible to keep in quick and constant communication with your coworkers and employees. With all of the new forms of technology available including cell phones, internet chat, email, Skype, etc. it is possible to reach someone whether you’re on the top of the Rocky Mountains, or at the lowest point of Death Valley.
Micromanagement hurts employee morale
In the same way that employees do not like to be micro managed in the office, the same concept applies when they are working from a virtual office. Although it is important to make sure that you’re employees are staying on top of their tasks and being productive, it can get to the point where the employee feels as though you do not trust them. Even though you might not talk to the employee on a daily basis, there are other ways of determining whether or not your employees are being productive.
Measures of performance
Since it is not practical to constantly call your employees to find out if they are working, there are other ways of handling these matters. One of the ways that is most effective is to establish measures of an employee’s performance. For example, if your remote workforce is providing a service to customers, a really good way to find out how well they are performing is to ask the customers to fill out a satisfaction survey. On the other hand, managing an outside sales person might be a lot easier, because setting quotas and deadlines for these quotas is a really good way to track whether or not your virtual sales team is producing the way that they are supposed to.
With these tips in your book of tricks, as a manager of a virtual workforce, you should be equipped to handle every obstacle that distance can throw at you. The real keys to managing a workforce that is spread out across the country, really comes down to setting expectations for all of your employees, make sure that there is a method in place to measure these expectations, and use the technology that you have available to stay in contact with your employees. The way that you use these tips to your advantage is really going to be what makes or breaks your ability to manage virtual employees.