The art of leading a remote team
- 6 Min Read
How to develop and grow your remote team effectively, prioritizing growth skills and development as well as fostering a culture of accountability.
According to a report from Gallup, 87% of millennials see professional development and career growth opportunities as important aspects of a job. Despite this, over 75% of them feel as though they’re on their own with career development.
Remote work is only making this situation worse, not better. Roughly 31% of employees say their opportunities for growth have decreased since the pandemic, and other research indicates that distributed employees aren’t as likely to be promoted or get a raise.
As more and more businesses shift to a hybrid or remote work model, employees are becoming concerned about how their career development will be impacted by this monumental shift. If it’s already a problem, it’s not likely to change as remote work becomes more common.
But you can change that. Though it’s difficult to monitor employees closely in a remote or hybrid environment, you can be proactive in your approach to employee growth and development to ensure your team is still growing and learning at a distance.
Foster a culture of accountability
Remote work is beneficial for employees and businesses alike. Employees experience better work-life balance, satisfaction, and productivity, while businesses get access to a wider pool of talent, more flexibility, and low overhead.
Sometimes, however, remote employees may miss their objectives. Leaders still need to be leaders, no matter where the team is. Companies that cultivate a culture of accountability make sure that each employee understands their role and responsibilities. They also understand how their action impacts the team and the larger organization.
Ultimately, accountability is about clear expectations. Even if a team can’t spend time together in person, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t still be held accountable.
Here’s how you can cultivate a culture of accountability:
- Communicate roles and responsibilities to all team members. Ensure that everyone knows who’s accountable for what aspects of a project. Be clear about how and when work should be done, such as the project management and delivery processes, preferred work hours, and more.
- Establish timelines for assignments and projects. If a project should be done by a certain day, specify exactly when. Is it at the end of day? Start of day? If other team members are involved, and each builds on the previous member’s work, sticking to a strict schedule – with some margin for delays – is important to keep the whole project flowing.
- Keep up with progress and deadlines. You never know when an employee may run into issues or problems that impact their ability to complete their work, which can quickly ripple out into the rest of the team. Don’t micromanage, however. Make sure you empower your team to tackle tasks on their own, but keep tabs on their progress and be available to help if they need it.
- If problems arise, don’t assign blame. It’s better to focus on fixing the problem and move on. Once the project is complete, you can discuss what went well, what could be better, and how the team could have a more streamlined process in the future.
Remote work is the new normal, but team members may feel more disconnected from each other working in a distributed environment. Physical proximity has an impact on employee relationships and camaraderie, and it’s something that’s lost in the remote world.
While we can’t create the exact same situation virtually, fostering an environment that promotes interpersonal relationships virtually goes a long way toward keeping employees connected to one another.
Consider some of these solutions:
- Carve out time for workplace-appropriate socialization. Relationships suffered in many ways during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many yearning for more connection. As we seek out these connections, we’re also looking to replace what was lost. If you offer team meetings with a conversation starter, such as asking your team to share something they’re looking forward to in their personal lives, it can get some chatter going.
- Show appreciation, recognition, or celebration in innovative ways. Birthdays, promotions, professional milestones, and other occasions should be celebrated. You can work with a specially designed Zoom background or simply mail a card to everyone to mark the occasion.
- Come up with different means to connect in person. If some of the team lives nearby, organize a coffee social at the local café or set up team luncheons. For more distributed teams, consider offering an annual retreat at a resort that everyone can attend.
Prioritize growth and skills development
Any business that invests in its employees will be investing in its own future. Even when things get hectic or asynchronous, it’s important to prioritize growth and skills development for employees to keep them moving forward.
You can map out development and growth plans to show your team members the importance of their roles in the larger organizational objectives, which will make them more invested in success.
Training and development can be done a number of ways, but not all are ideal for virtual teams. There’s no need for all-day, in-person training and development sessions, especially if your team is dispersed all over the country.
Offering microlearning and video training provide flexible options to help team members fit the time into their schedules. They’ll still gain the skills they need, but it’s much more flexible for different time zones, locations, and schedules.
It’s also good to establish a training and development roadmap that keeps everyone apprised of the plan and committed to the outcome. Make sure to ask the team how they feel about their own skill sets and what they’d like to see improved.
When businesses had to make a quick shift to virtual leadership and remote work, technology like Teams and Zoom and Slack became instrumental to their success. Nearly every employee found their stride with these technologies.
Unfortunately, technology has some hurdles and challenges when developing a remote team. Here are some solutions:
- Revisit technology ground rules for the team. Consider how technology helps them communicate and collaborate, as well as when it should be off-limits. Set boundaries, such as when it’s okay to send an email or text, and what communication method is preferred for meetings.
- Establish work/home boundaries. Teams can share when and how they will be planning their workday. If possible, include a schedule in the email signatures to track availability.
- Meetings can quickly become overwhelming in remote environments. Review or outline meeting protocols to eliminate unnecessary meetings. Consider making meetings 25 or 50 minutes to allow some breathing room.
Make growth and development part of remote work
Remote work isn’t going away. Employees and businesses are both reaping the rewards, but that comes with some obstacles. Implementing standards, expectations, and protocols help everyone adapt to a remote or hybrid environment.
Cecilia Gorman is a veteran of the advertising industry and the owner of Creative Talent Partners, a training consultancy that specializes in the development of rising managers and their teams. Whether it’s a team offsite, a manager workshop or through her online Manager Training Boot Camp course, Cecilia’s sole pursuit is adding value to growth-focused employees.