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Achieve Success with a Virtual Workforce

by SUMMIT on September 23rd, 2015

Achieve Success with a Virtual Workforce

Staying local is not a requirement of today’s enterprise level businesses, whether you’re talking staff members or clients. A remote and globally distributed workforce is fast becoming the norm in organizations of all stripes. According to a research report, 66 percent of information workers in North America and Europe work remotely. Mobility is no longer a trend, but a business reality. To achieve success in this way of doing business, organizations need to develop an interconnected ecosystem in order to support workplace collaboration.

Unified Communications Fosters a Global Workforce

As business leaders continue to adapt to increasing mobility needs, unified communications (UC) has become a critical tool to help all industries manage and process their day-to-day operations. Cloud-based communication not only saves money, but also increases work flow efficiency throughout an organization. Deploying UC solutions helps support the remote workforce and lets employees access and share data, no matter where they are located.

There may be some growing pains when companies first adopt a telecommuting environment. Most are communication related shortfalls. Videoconferencing and mobile assisted collaboration can help fill in any gaps when exchanging ideas and working as a team. Gartner analyst Robert Mason believes videoconferencing is fast becoming the new normal in day to day business operations, a now mainstream communication method that can be leveraged to train employees, conduct meetings, and help in collaborative decision-making.

The key advantage videoconferencing offers lies in its ability to mimic a face-to-face meeting, which becomes crucial with an ever-expanding remote workforce. The personal nature of video allows for an enriched connection between employees, colleagues, and clients.

The Secret to Build and Sustain a Great Remote Workforce  

Telecommuting increased 80 percent from 2005 to 2012 and the number of telecommuters is expected to increase by 21 percent more, according to Global Workplace Analytics and the Telework Research Network. In order to stay competitive, you should look beyond geography and open up to a world of possible candidates for your team.

When looking to hire remote employees, you will want someone who works well independently as well as part of a team. Find someone fiercely committed to their work and up for different challenges. All these traits can positively influence your organization’s productivity. Here are some important ways to foster a truly successful remote working culture.

Communicate Clearly

Before creating a remote work environment, remember that one of the reasons you hired certain people was because of their independence. Along with supporting that autonomy, be sure you clearly communicate your expectations about their availability and productivity. Set up methods for how people will be reached, whether by phone, chat, or email. Communication is the most important piece to the telecommuting puzzle.

Embrace the Latest Technology

It is essential to incorporate the latest tech tools required to support remote teams. Deploy technology that will help them communicate and collaborate effectively. Use videoconferencing and collaboration to meet the people face-to-face to personalize the work experience and enhance productivity and team bonding. There are various real-time applications available, such as Google Docs, to connect, share, and enrich teamwork.

Trust Your Team

Flexibility is crucial when maintaining a remote workplace, so it is important to trust your team. By relinquishing complete control and communicating clearly, you will give your employees the confidence to do the job for which you hired them, maintaining a positive work flow.

Fix Virtual Team Challenges Before They Happen

There may be an antiquated belief that remote workers are just zoning out on TV while checking their email periodically. However, telecommuters tend to be more productive than traditional employees, mostly because they aren’t confined to a 9-to-5 schedule, a long commute, and an office building. That being said, it’s important not to assume your remote workforce knows what information has or hasn’t been provided to them. Instead, be proactive and give information freely, and encourage a dialogue to make sure everyone is on the same page. Communication is key and it’s easy for information to be filtered down or even altered if a manager has several people disseminating it.
Define Your Expectations

Evaluation of employee performance is extremely vital. Make sure you communicate with the remote team what is expected of them, as well as any associated deadlines. Communicate to employees which metrics will be used to assess performance and how often evaluations will occur. Be sure to provide any necessary support and training to help them adapt to the new environment and do the job that is expected of them.

Transparent Communication

Communicate with all the teams about the on-going projects, the progress status of each, and the individual roles to achieve these goals. Have a common project management platform in use, to help clearly communicate, instead of having information filtering through many people, through many different applications.

Encourage Secure Use of Technology

To create a productive remote workplace, you need to have strict policies governing the use of technology to protect critical company data. Make sure all employees have access to these policies, they are updated regularly, and the parameters are clearly set up.

Hold Face-to-Face Meetings

Nothing takes the place of seeing people in the flesh. Set up a way to have in-person meetings to allow remote employees to bond with each other. Encourage employees who may live near each other to meet regularly for brainstorming, troubleshooting, and sharing of ideas.

The modern business landscape is changing and evolving and more and more companies are embracing a virtual workforce. There are many benefits to this new business model, including a wider employee pool, increased flexibility and productivity, plus cost savings, just to name a few. Yes, there are challenges, but they aren’t insurmountable and the benefits far outweigh the risks. You can build and sustain a remote workplace successfully with the right attitude, planning, and latest technology. It’s time to break out of the four walls, move away from the water cooler, and welcome this new way of doing business.

Photo Credit: Eric J. Schultz via Compfight cc

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