How Do You Manage a Globally Distributed Team?

In a competitive talent acquisition market, having a globally distributed team offers companies the benefit of working with the best individuals across the world. With today’s talent demanding flexibility, it is but a matter of time until a globally distributed team becomes a necessity and not just an option.

However, some companies find that managing a distributed team is fraught with challenges. This is likely due to a lack of proper processes and inadequate preparation. While the benefits of a distributed team are aplenty, firms need to be sufficiently prepared to leverage them. Here are five best practices to help you manage your remote or globally distributed workforce.

1. Formalize your remote work policy.

To begin the transition process, you should announce the transformation of your company into a “distributed team.” It is important that in the eyes of all stakeholders (internal and external), this change is apparent and that it comes from the top management. This communication needs to be formalized and should cover the basics of how the company plans to execute the transition. A few questions to immediately address:

  • Are there going to specific office locations across the world?
  • Are all roles available for remote working?
  • Would there be fixed work times?
  • How is the team going to maintain an inclusive culture?
  • What are the communication channels to be used? 

2. Enforce communication guidelines.

An aspect that immediately gets impacted in a remote work situation is internal communication. Since interactions are fully digital and not in-person, placing the right structures becomes paramount.

Firstly, the tools for various channels of communication — chats, email and video calls — should be chosen and shared. Further, guidelines need to be placed around the correct mode of communication for each situation. For example, chats or calls should be used for time-sensitive actions, emails should be used for long pieces of communication involving multiple parties, and so on. If possible, an even more detailed procedure list would ensure conversations are perfectly organized.

Other best communications practices include:

  • Having frequent standups to assess progress and identify challenges
  • Holding regular video calls within teams, including team-building sessions, so that everyone can connect and put a face to the people they interact with on a daily basis
  • Organizing town halls to reinforce company values, recognise individual achievements and define the company’s future goals 

3. Maintain detailed documentation.

Meeting notes, spec docs, project briefs, ideation, policies, etc., should all be documented extensively. Keeping detailed documentation removes any possibility for misalignment and allows for immediate rectification of miscommunication. Moreover, if there are any questions or doubts around the points that were discussed and agreed upon, one can simply go back to the docs at any time.

4. Build high engagement and garner feedback.

Working from remote locations can be liberating. Your team members can each follow their own ideal work style. However, they may also feel alone and disconnected from the rest of the firm. Hence, it is critical for the company to ensure high levels of motivation and create a sense of belonging to the organisation amongst employees.

Having adequate channels of communication does address this in a major way, but it is also important to have non-work gatherings. Even work sessions shouldn’t be limited to the immediate tasks at hand, but need to include trainings.

Further, success of the measures taken by a company are validated only through feedback by its employees. Therefore, regular one-to-one feedback sessions and anonymous surveys can help take the pulse of employees and accordingly inform course-correction initiatives. 

 

5. Host annual off-sites.

Finally, if a company can afford it, an annual gathering should be organized where co-workers can meet each other in person. Such an environment gives everyone an opportunity to socialize and acquaint themselves with the individuals they work with every day. This fosters better work relationships, resulting in easier interactions and better productivity overall. 

Prepare your company now

With the concept of distributed teams growing steadily and the gig economy becoming an integral method of achieving a company’s goals, building the capability of managing such a workforce has become very critical. Work on it in the present, so that you can be prepared for the future of work — a fully distributed team!

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