If managing an increasingly virtual workforce is a challenge you and your management team feel ill-equipped to handle, you might want to check out a copy of "The Virtual Manager, Cutting-Edge Solutions for Hiring, Managing, Motivating and Engaging Mobile Employees."
The book, written by human resources expert Kevin Sheridan, is motivated by the reality that many businesses have moved quickly to embrace flexible work location policies, but they may not have moved as quickly to consider the challenges associated with making sure that remote employees or telecommuters are on the same page as the rest of the team. Actually, the most important thing to remember, according to the book, is that just because someone may not be in an official office doesn't mean that he or she should be less subject to the company's organizational principles as anyone else.
"As time goes on, virtual work will likely become less of a perk and more of an assumed aspect of many careers. As such, it is imperative that leadership fully investigates which responsibilities, employees and positions are most suited for the virtual environment. Doing so will prepare your organization for the 'new normal' of remote employment."
As I was reading through the book, the central theme that emerged was this: the more "engaged" a company can keep an employee, the better the chances that a remote or virtual work situation will be successful. The top 10 ways that a manager can help ensure that a person is more likely to be in the "engaged" state of mind:
- Find opportunities for recognition (formal or informal)
- Identify ongoing career development paths (apparently, remote workers are more likely to worry that they will be passed over for promotions or other advancement)
- Look carefully at the leadership abilities of the person's direct supervisor (remote workers require managers who are good communicators, can facilitate collaboration and who are good at building trust)
- Make sure the remote or virtual job has a clearly defined mission (the organization needs to make sure the person's role is linked closely to business strategy or corporate agenda, and that the remote worker feels like he or she is still an important or vital component)
- Match the content of the job with the interests and skills of the employee
- Encourage senior managers or executives not to overlook contributions of virtual or remote employees
- Keep the grapevine open at all times
- Focus on building strong team dynamics, so that the remote worker doesn't feel like an island
- Give virtual workers the right technology and tools to get the job done, easily
- Build a specific, tangible corporate culture that transcends location (for example, some companies are focused on highly visible corporate social responsibilities programs; that has the effect of helping employees feel as if their employer is "making a difference)