Remote and virtual teams are suddenly in focus.
Saving on commuting time. Blending work and life. Reduced overheads. Environment and health impact. There are clear benefits for both the individual and the employer. To date though, culture, trust and (to an extent) technology have been touted as reasons to resist the change – how do I sustain motivation, how can I build a sense of team spirit, how do I know they are actually ‘working’??
For TQ, the focus has always been connectivity, communication, training, performance, safety and well-being. So here is my list of key priorities as you plan your team or organisational shift to remote working.
Don’t be fooled. To really drive performance longer term, this isn’t about swapping face to face for video calls. True remote working requires a whole new mindset and suite of skills and behaviours. In our experience, we have seen an increase in the required amount of:
- Structure and planned activity
- Communication (less, more frequently)
- The desire for employees to have ‘quality time’ with managers and team members
There are some big implications in here, so take time to think about team size, manager responsibilities and the team dynamics. Going ‘remote’ heightens the importance of areas that can avoid detection in the ‘real’ world like management style or communication capabilities.
Set realistic expectations
You need to be clear on what you expect of your remote workforce. When you are interviewing, be open about what it’s like to work remotely, the pros and cons and how your company specifically handles it – your EVP and values should be foundational here. Whilst remote working is not all plain sailing, the challenges you face into can really differentiate your experience for the better. How can you help your team:
- Combat loneliness or avoid cabin fever
- Nurture and sustain the right mindset
- Use their saved commuting time for personal development or building additional capability
Hire for attribute fit
Like everyone, you likely hope to attract self-sufficient ‘drivers’ who can manage their work efficiently. But you will only know if people have these attributes if you assess for them. As part of TQ’s process, we use tools such as PI (Predictive Index Behavioural Assessment) to understand how to make the most of our talent’s potential and make sure they will flourish in our environment.
Onboard as you mean to continue
Do not skimp on giving a good experience to your new hire. It is even more important to give your remote workforce effective onboarding experiences. If they are not attending an office for induction, then how will you do it? At TQ, we use an onboarding tool to help us set up the new hire up with knowledge, policies and procedures. We also have a buddy program to help our new consultants integrate into their new way of working. In addition to this, TQ provides an induction conducted through video conferencing. You don’t need to invest $$$, we use Zoom.
Face to face (when safe to do so!)
As our team may have not met each other face to face when they first started, we (used to) make sure we have social gatherings, dinners and family BBQ’s. We want our team to live our values and be comfortable to bring their same authentic self to the boss’s house for a BBQ or to a client meeting. At the time of writing, we’ll be swapping these for fun online events, but when normal service returns, so will our determination to bring people together.
Stay connected virtually
Having the right communication channels set up in a virtual team is imperative. One of the most important for a virtual team is how you communicate internally to build comradery. At TQ, we use Workplace for company updates, through to things like ‘day in the life’ videos of our consultants. There’s even a page for their pets, what they are up to on holiday or common interest groups. This has been a fantastic way to introduce the team to each other when they might have never met each other face to face. Regular campaigns, like pet pics or favourite exercise regimes are all fun ways to energise the communications, be authentic and break down barriers.
Ultimately, if they don’t engage, team members won’t take note of new communications, work effectively with the tools you give them, assimilate with their remote colleagues or perform well. The tactics you employ need to suit your team so make sure you have a plan and be prepared to pivot if you need to.
Let’s be honest, Excel won’t get you very far. There are lots of free/cost effective tools like Google Docs that enable better collaboration and having bad tools is like driving with the handbrake on. Before you jump in, run a simple needs analysis exercise so that you focus in on the features your team really need to operate properly. For bigger decisions, quick pilots have worked well for us, as well as allowing super users to self-nominate and up-skill others. For project-based collaboration, we have used used Slack, Trello and Teams but there are a whole host of others out there.
Think about personalisation – do all your team need the same accesses and tools? Depending on which area you work in at TQ, you will be set up with the right tools and we customise the experience. We have learnt that giving everyone access to everything can be overwhelming and bad habits start creeping in. So, when you do your team ‘needs analysis’, take it right down to an individual level.
Do you use a resource management tool? For an organisation like TQ, it is essential that we have somewhere to capture, resource availability, capability, capacity, work preferences and current deployments. There are some cost-effective tools out there that can reduce a lot of wasted time and increase efficiencies.
In addition to this, having a smart HRIS is important. We use it to manage our whole workforce, which means contractors, casuals and permanent consultants. The majority of our workforce is contingent / highly skilled gig workers who still need to have access to policy information and important documents such as contracts.
Policies and governance
Make sure your HR policies and procedures are aligned to how you work. We recently refreshed our policies to make sure they were up to date and made sense for a virtual team (e.g. implementing a home office checklist for OH&S). All are housed on our central, cloud based HRIS for all team members to access.
We are not underestimating the challenges of moving to a remote set up. There are important considerations for team dynamics, technology, communication, engagement, mental health and more. However, the implications and opportunities for positive outcomes are there for the taking, so we hope this article has given some food for thought.
I am always happy to share stories and swap ideas and we are always keen to keep improving so feel free to reach out to me, Ainsley Bainger.
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