July 26th, 2019

10 HR & PM Tips for Effective Communication
in Remote Teams

A practical guide on how to establish effective communication within the company. See what could be done to make your remote team perform without rigid control.
Less and less, we see the teams gathered in the same place. And, trust me, that's for the good: large geography means high outreach when we need a worker with a solid toolkit to take care of a project. But it surely applies some boundaries—managing remote workers may seem easy but, in reality, it can be a mess if done wrong.
Imagine a manager who is used to simply walking across an office and giving orders in person. This employee will most likely struggle if the subordinates are far away—the influence methods differ from direct orders that were used previously. That's what makes loyalty the biggest currency in this market; the way you put yourself in front of each worker will impact the project more than the authority you enforce.

Here's why we decided to share our tips to avoid communication pitfalls when you deal with a team of distant professionals:

1. Set clear goals for the team

Be very unambiguous about what you expect from a distant employee. In other words, try to eliminate such words as "well" or "quickly" when you appoint the next milestone—everyone has different standards and understanding of such words. That's the kind of partnership where numbers work the best, so don't mind specifying the exact dates and features' quantity you find acceptable.

2. You have to trust those you are working with (at least to some extent)

Trust, being an ever-present factor of true love, should also be shared in doses, otherwise, like in the Queen song "Too Much Love Will Kill You." The same goes about delegation: you need to at least believe that the remote team is capable of delivering upon goals and not to review each of their steps. Granted that you decided to invest your time and energy into distant workers, it's logical that you should have some faith in their skills.

However, best trust is a calculated trust. You're free to make guidelines or memos where the response time/hours would be mentioned, so you could receive a timely report of is currently going on.

3. Get the team used to a consistent meeting schedule

Despite its core nature, silence can be very loud and telling. It can basically tell that the employer doesn't care about the project even if it's not the case. No matter how much you trust distant workers and celebrate autonomy—some may perceive it as a weakness, so don't mind remembering about your existence in a non-stressful way. Make it a regular affair so that it won't impede the workers' schedule and keep them responsible prior to each video-meeting.

4. Use video calls

Our brain works the way that imagery plays a vital role in everything we perceive. That's why video calls can become the connecting tissue between you and the crew members—it's much easier for them to relate to a project when they clearly see who represents it. Much like everything related to authorities, it has a bigger impact when a speaker is visually presented in front of the crowd.

5. Be the initiative, mildly imperious

Whether it's a nerdy former programmer or a sleek, seasoned PM, both should know that a sleeping fox catches no chickens. No matter how well you engage the employees, remember that the end result is on your shoulders, and you should be the most proactive member on a project. It's up to you to make the goals a priority over activities, create an inclusive atmosphere, set roles, so it ends up being an effective team of people with different backgrounds.
JavaScript developers salary by company size
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

6. Put the remote team to the front

If you decided to hire a remote employee, don't hesitate to engage him/her right from the get-go. In the end, you don't expect that worker to be oblivious about coding, but instead, get the job in a specific period of time. Moreover, this bold move encourages them and creates a feeling of trust between parties—they know that their skills are appreciated and being relied upon.

7. Set a dedicated communication persona

To alleviate misconceptions, choose a nominee for comms matters. As it was mentioned, you can't approach a random person and ask how it's going, as it would be possible in the same office. Instead, one responsible worker could accumulate all the progress info and be accessible more often than once a day/week. Usually, that's someone from the top of the hierarchy, which has this duty tied on an official level—make it formal instead of wondering who is available in case you want to make an emergency call.

8. Actively use the technology

Some programs vanish, some emerge but there's plenty of digital tools that can make your life easier. Skype, despite its controversial updates, is still a prime tool for video-calls and is supported up to date, namely latest background blurring feature is a nice addition on top of decent image quality and sound. Slack, on the other hand, should be your go-to pick for the texting purposes and can serve as a solid PM tool. Scheduling, notifications, groups, file sharing—everything is top-notch about its usage. What's more, countless integrations can deliver any feature you were missing when using Slack—virtually every major program is merged as of now.

9. Hire those who share your values

There's no surprise that the best products emerge when creators care about them and view themselves as potential customers. Remote workers are no different when it comes to engagement role—they perform better when they see themselves using the end product. Take some time to explain your project's vision and how it's designed to serve users—it will only get better after we put an equation mark between customers and devs. Likewise, when dealing with a local team, being on the same page as always a win-win scenario: it becomes your family to some extent, and there's no secret about how big of a role it plays when its members connect their goals.

10. Tracking, tracking, tracking

Rather than being annoying with sudden calls, quench your curiosity with a neat tracking system. There's a myriad of tools for that purpose, but I'd rather pick Jira over its competitors. Basically, it's a place where the progress is displayed with every crew member having a task assigned, and unlike such programs as Trello, Jira was specifically designed to manage dev teams, which resulted in having reports, charts, time tracking, issue management, etc. Over 100 integrations make it so that people with no technical backgrounds can make their Jira usage a stress-free affair.

Conclusion

As you see, despite being a rather tall order, managing remote teams can go smooth if done wisely. Don't mind using a balanced management approach when your presence isn't annoying but at the same time, you maintain surveillance to some degree. The technology part is what comes next as you need to choose at least a couple of tools to keep an eye on the actual progress and for communication purposes—clumping up everyone could be avoided by creating smaller groups for each purpose, luckily, even free software covers these needs. And of course, always have the upper hand when dealing with a team; your initiation is a key for healthy boss-employee kind of relationships.

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