How To Run A Business With Remote Employees
It is no longer unusual to find businesses that are run solely by remote employees or virtual teams. The benefits greatly outweigh the costs and the positive impact on productivity has been well-documented. If you want more proof, know that top corporations such as Dell, United Health and American Express have remote employees in their payroll. Since Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer introduced this strategy in 2011, most US companies have allocated 30-45% of their workforce for remote employees.
But how do you run a business with remote employees?
- Determine your purpose
Before assembling your virtual team, determine its purpose.
- What is the team expected to do?
- What skills are needed?
- What are the objectives and targets of the team?
Once you have determined the purpose, proceed to list down the positions you need for the team. For example, if your purpose is to provide holistic customer service your team could be composed of:
- Inbound calling agent
- Outbound calling agent
- E-mail support agent
- CRM Officer
- Quality Assurance Officer
For a social media campaign, your team could be composed of:
- Digital Marketer
- Social media marketer
- Website Designer/Developer
- SEO professional
- Content Writer
- Summarize the scope of work
After summarizing the required skills for the team, list down the scope of work for each position. It is very important that each member of your virtual team knows what their responsibilities are as well as their limits.
Also, by writing down the scope of work, you can draw up the qualifying standards for each position. It will greatly assist in the recruitment process if you have a clear idea on the qualifications to meet the scope of work. It will also save you money if a candidate can multi-task.
For example, your web designer may have a background in programming which removes the need to hire a separate web developer. A Digital Marketer could have experience as a social media manager or the Content Writer could have extensive background in SEO. You can streamline your team by multi-tasking at least during the initial phases when volume of work is still manageable.
- Recruit talent from reliable sources
When looking for remote employees, the virtual world is the usual resource. The Internet is rife with online job networks, employment communities and websites that offer recruitment services. But keep in mind that the virtual world is also proliferated by entities whose sole purpose is to scam you of your hard-earned money.
In addition to the Internet, you should also ask your friends and associates who have worked with remote employees for their recommendations.
- Designate a Project Manager
Once you have assembled your team of remote employees, designate a Project Manager.
A Project Manager is the person In charge of overseeing your campaign. In a centralized management structure, everyone in your virtual team reports to him. Appointing a Project Manager does not mean you should have no involvement with operations. Part of the Project Manager’s job description is to report to you and provide a brief on performance.
What are the qualifications of a Project Manager?
- Willing to accept accountability
- Great analytic skills
- Quick ability to make decisions
- Does not falter in the face of problems
- Manage stress well
- Easily accessible
- Great communicating skills
- Extensive experience
- Credible references
- Great listener
Generally, the best Project Manager is one who is willing to step forward and assume the mantle of leadership.
- Set up the operating system
Despite the existence of barriers such as logistics, language and time zone differentials, managing a team of remote employees can be quite easy. All you need is an effective operating system. The standard frameworks for designing an operating system in the virtual world are:
- Project management software. These programs are effective in organizing and tracking down work. Among the best in the industry are salesforce.com, Asana, Bitrix-24 and Clarizen.
- File Sharing. Also referred to as collaborative programs, these are used to share files and protect data. These file sharing programs are cloud based and highly encrypted with large memory storage. DropBox, Accellion and Just Cloud It are very reputable file sharing programs.
- You can circumvent the language and time zone barriers by incorporating efficient channels for communication. It is very important that your team is accessible. Standard communication programs include Skype, Viber, Slack and WebEx.
A good rule to keep in mind is to keep your system simple. An effective set up would be Asana – DropBox – Skype or if you have the budget, sign up with salesforce.com which has all of these features.
- Set up workflows
It is not enough that you’ve set up the operating system. You should also set up the work flow. Orient your virtual team on work flows covering report generation, time-keeping, filing of complaints and issues, leaves of absence in order to avoid confusion and disorganization.
Give each team member their own company webmail address which will only be used for your campaign. It is very important that your team members are restricted from changing the account password. You should be the sole administrator of the accounts.
Finally, make sure everyone knows what the organizational hierarchy is and who is in charge. Your team members must be aware and respectful of the chain of command.
- Schedule weekly meetings
While there are several benefits to having a virtual team, nothing beats close and constant collaboration. The virtual world makes it impossible to share the same space or breathe the same air but it doesn’t mean close collaboration is impossible.
A project management software like salesforce.com or a communication platform such as WebEx or GoToMeeting have features that allow virtual conferencing. Utilize this at least once a week to have a round-table discussion with your virtual team.
The virtual conference calls have the following objectives:
- Address pending issues and concerns
- Sound out problems current team members maybe having
- Build strong, trusting relationships.
- Encourage greater involvement from the team
- Discuss performance metrics
- Find ways to improve operations.
Finally, although it is not categorized, it is very important that your remote employees are made to sign documents prior to the commencement of work. These documents include:
- Project contract
- Service Level Agreement
- Non-Disclosure or Confidentiality Agreement
These are very important because you have to protect your business and your client. There have been incidents whereby the online worker approached the client directly for a higher rate. Asking them to sign these documents should not be taken as a sign of mistrust. It is a professional way of ensuring that everyone is aware of their boundaries and limitations.
Running and managing a virtual team presents unique challenges. But with the right approach and emphasis on organization, you can have your enterprise running like a well-oiled virtual machine and living the laptop lifestyle.