Gone are the days when organizational culture could be built only by team members working in the close proximity. It’s the 21st century and remote teams are a reality, especially in progressive startups. Hiring a remote team can not only save your money, but also get you access to a wider pool of talent. In fact, several companies including Zapier, Buffer, and Automattic are already taking advantage of office-free work culture.
Though cutting-edge technology can help team members communicate with each other 24/7, it can be challenging to manage a team of remote workers. So, how can entrepreneurs build strong and motivated teams when the members don’t even see each other every day?
The following three tips will help you set up and manage remote teams successfully.
1. Choose the Right Team Members
Team members are the most critical element of a geographically-dispersed team. Not everyone is capable of working in their pajamas. So, choose team members who can work in a location-independent environment. Look for the following qualities.
- To begin with, hire self-motivated people who are also good team players. You need to hire doers who can accomplish tasks even in the absence of a formal work environment.
- They need to be open-minded and flexible enough to work at odd hours, if the situation demands.
- When it comes to location-independent work, communication is the biggest challenge as there is limited or no face-to-face contact at all. So, your team members must have excellent communication skills.
- Written communication is also an important aspect as most work-related information is shared via email or text. Make sure each team member is equipped with, at least, the basic writing skills.
2. Be Sensitive to Language Barriers
One of the biggest challenges you will encounter when managing a remote team scattered all over the globe is the language barrier. A group discussion can be hard to keep up with if your workers speak different languages. One can often get caught up thinking about a particular point only to find out that the conversation has moved on without you. So, make sure to establish guidelines for the language used during a conversation.
- Speaking slowly, clearly and using carefully chosen words can help team members understand the discussion. So, train every member to speak slowly and clearly.
- Establish an official company language that most people can understand. For example, Chinese, Spanish, and English are the most spoken languages around the globe, choosing one of these can help you overcome the language barrier. However, you should choose a language based on the geographical and cultural diversity of your team.
- Omitting the use of slang and acronyms can also minimize confusion during a conversation. It can also reduce the time required for translation.
- A written follow-up can be of great help, particularly if not everyone is a native speaker. So, make sure to send written minutes after every meeting.
- Make it a point to check if everyone is on the same page by asking obvious questions such as “Are you with me?” or “Do you want me to say more?”
- Learning even the basic words such as thank you, goodbye or good morning in someone else’s language can help build a personal rapport. You can use tools such as Forvo to learn pronunciations.
3. Create Virtual Hangout Space for Small Talk
Building a rapport with every employee is essential for promoting a healthy work culture. Unfortunately, in a remote work environment, people often tend to talk only about work-related issues and end their call. There is little or no room for small talk. Unlike physical work culture, geographically-dispersed teams can't enjoy occasional drinks, lunches or birthday celebrations, increasing the need to build a personal rapport with every team member.
- One of the best ways to address this issue is to create a virtual hangout space, where people can share personal information. Check out these innovative tools to create a fabulous virtual chat room.
- Make it a less formal chat room, where people can talk about their hobbies, personal achievements, social and cultural events.
- The best way to promote one-on-one communication among team members is to pair up one member with another at random for a week. They can talk to each other for 10 to 15 minutes every day on any topic they like, except work.
Taking these steps will help you promote team bonding and let them know that you care for them. Promoting personal bonding can also help build trust between team members.
Location-independent teams can offer various benefits such as cost savings and easy access to global talent, particularly for startups that are looking for cost-effective and reliable workforce. However, managing a team of remote workers is easier said than done. But, the advantages of setting up a remote team far outweigh the unique challenges it presents. The above three tips will certainly help you kick-start your remote-work journey. If you can think of anything else, let us know in the comments section below!