Establish Best Practices in Communication and Collaboration with Remote Workers

As a manager, you’ll need to have best practices and processes for how remote workers will communicate – with you and with each other. A great activity is to have your remote workers collaborate with you to determine what those best practices and processes will be. This doesn’t mean that you, as the manager, leave all final decision making to the team, but collaborate with them to ensure they have input into how they will communicate. When remote workers have input into how they will communicate around getting work done, they are more apt to follow those best practices and processes.

Consider bringing together your remote workers in one location to determine how they will communicate with each other; or, utilize a virtual tool. You might have the group collaborate during a time they are already together – such as for an annual meeting. Alternatively, if bringing them together is not possible, consider using a virtual platform to enable for collaboration in developing best practices or even surveying the group.

With remote workers, develop best practices around how workers will communicate to:

  • Update on work progress
  • Transfer work between coworkers
  • Share knowledge
  • Solve problems/resolve challenges
  • Resolve conflicts between coworkers
  • Make decisions

Additionally, have your remote workers agree on items such as:

  • Turnaround time for responding to emails (especially important for remote workers in different time zones)
  • Preferred methods of communication and when to use each method, e.g., email, phone, virtual meetings, chat, text messaging

Consider this abbreviated story of a manager who involved her team in determining best practices to communicate and collaborate across the group:

Allison is a new manager of a team of 25 remote customer service employees. They are located throughout the United States and in Canada. Allison spent two weeks getting to know each of her employees and talking with them about their successes and challenges in the role – with a focus around communication and collaboration. She also noted her own perceptions of where they were challenged. After this two week period, Allison got the group together at the headquarters in Colorado in order to accomplish two goals:

  1. Enable her to meet each of her remote employees face-to-face (to establish a stronger working relationship and build trust with each of them.)
  2. Enable for the group to come together to determine how they will communicate and collaborate with each other moving forward, in ways that work for them.

During the meeting, Allison asked her employees to collaborate with her to brainstorm how they can better communicate and collaborate. She asked them to focus on 3 questions in particular:

  1. What tools/technology would enable for more ease and effectiveness in collaborating and communicating virtually?
  2. How do they want to be communicated with – what modes of communication are preferred and in what circumstances?
  3. What can Allison do to promote and enable for increased collaboration between coworkers?

The following decisions were made after both whole team and small break-out conversations:

Tools & Technology: The team would use the internal Microsoft SharePoint® site to collaborate, share best practices, share challenges and help each other resolve issues that arise. Citrix GoToMeeting would be used for virtual meetings.

Modes of Communication: In addition to the above use of SharePoint and GoToMeeting, the team would use text messaging for “quick” questions or immediate needs and email to share general information. When email is used, subject lines would include information to enable for prioritizing emails received, such as: “FYI:” “Help Needed”, “Response Required,” etc. For conflicts that arise, the team would either use GoToMeeting or have a phone conversation; no email would be used to address conflicts.

In order to promote collaboration, Allison would hold monthly all team meetings with the group using GoToMeeting. Once a year the team would be brought together to discuss goals and evaluate and refine processes and best practices to work together. Sub-teams (those individuals working on specific initiatives together) would meet weekly via GoToMeeting and have an area in the SharePoint site where they can “get together” remotely to pass work and share information. Allison would meet with each individual employee on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, depending on employee tenure and individual needs.

Allison found that by working with her employees and enabling them to have input into how they will communicate and collaborate, they followed the best practices and processes they agreed to. They were more effective at meeting goals, collaborating to share workload and were more consistent in the support they provided customers.

Consider at the start of this New Year what you might do to enable for improved communication and collaboration among your employees. Need some help, contact Abudi Consulting Group and ask us more about how we helped Allison and other leaders to engage their remote/virtual employees.

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