Creative ways to support managers of remote teams

By making intentional decisions to build trust, establish a remote working policy, provide training and invest in technology, talent leaders can help support managers and contribute to organizational goals.

As remote work transitions from a temporary pandemic necessity to a permanent workplace fixture, talent leaders must ensure a successful remote working model, which begins with investing in support for  managers.

Managers are the most important people in your business. No other position has as much influence with your employees. Great leaders put the right managers in place and equip them to succeed. To navigate the uncertainty of transition, providing support to the managers of your remote teams may be the most important investment to make.

Successful businesses bring together diverse teams of employees to serve a broad base of customers. It is management’s responsibility to ensure each team member meets these expectations month after month. Managerial responsibilities have become even more difficult as employees work outside of the office. Below are four ways to support managers so they can consistently achieve organization goals while working remotely.

Provide training

Being the manager is not the same as knowing how to manage. This is especially true in the new remote working environment. Supervising a team of remote workers is different than overseeing a traditional office. Managers are responsible for the overall performance of their teams and flexible working programs might be seen as disruptive if managers believe these arrangements make it more difficult to achieve the team’s goals.

Supervisors must learn how to adjust their managerial approach to enable remote workers to be successful outside the office. Providing clear expectations about structure and goals of remote working programs is critical for success. Training should be implemented to help managers understand the company’s remote policies and learn how to best supervise those in alternative work settings. Top leadership must explain how remote work fits with the overall business strategy so managers can understand how these programs help the company achieve goals and how their roles impact success.

The managerial training should address the mistaken belief that employees must be seen sitting in their office chair to verify they are working. An employee’s worth to the organization is not measured by how much they are seen in the office but by what they accomplish.

Training helps managers understand performance is measured by the quality of service, timeliness of service and work produced. Managers need to know what metrics to monitor and what output to measure, so they can think in terms of performance and tasks accomplished, not time at a desk. When they understand how to effectively monitor the performance of their remote workers, they will be more confident their team is reaching performance goals.

Build trust

Establish a foundation of trust and support for your management team to succeed in challenging times. This begins with healthy channels of communication. Communication is the currency of effective leadership. Organizations that do it well have a strategic advantage. Open channels of communication with top leaders are needed for supervisors to feel supported. Utilizing a collaborative leadership style based on healthy communication influences the emergence of trust, providing a foundation for everyone to effectively work together.

Additionally, leaders need to create a cooperative model within the team that allows managers to work together collaboratively rather than in isolation and unhealthy competition. Peer relationships provide a source of support and comradery. Managers need healthy relationships with colleagues to discuss and address common challenges and identify shared solutions. When leaders invest in the relationship building process within the managerial team, it sets up the remote working environment for success.

Establish a formal remote working policy

Every company has written and unwritten policies that guide the organization. However, many may not have formal remote work policies in place. Supervising remote employees can be difficult when managers do not know what is expected. Without a clearly defined policy, managers are sailing a ship without a map and the remote work program may run aground. Having a formal written policy in place will help provide direction and security for managers to feel supported in their role.

This policy should be developed collaboratively with all levels of management, along with input from top performers who successfully demonstrated they can work remotely. The drafting of a remote working policy needs to contemplate many scenarios, applications and exceptions. Spend extra time planning to avoid having to clean up practical and legal challenges that may arise from a poorly written policy.

The written guidelines need to be detailed enough to provide clear instruction but not so rigid as to limit manager creativity. The policy should be clear on who is eligible for remote work and what performance requirements are necessary to participate. For instance, the policy must clearly state the times during the day when all employees must be available and working, either for customer service or for inter-company communication.

Companies must also consider whether there is sufficient space at an employee’s home for remote work and who is to purchase the equipment necessary. Your policy needs to be comprehensive and consistent, otherwise your managers are going to feel frustrated that all responsibility falls on them to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Make sure to carefully articulate the requirements and protocols of your flexible working program in an order that managers can easily reference and follow guidelines and direction. This process establishes a contract of expectations between the manager, the employee and the company.

The written policy must also provide the conditions for participation by the manager. Managers must understand what is required of them and how they are expected to support their teams. Managers usually have additional duties such as their own work to handle and are required to be available to answer questions, respond to emails and provide necessary support for their teams. It is within this policy that your company can set forth what managers are expected to do, as well as outline when managers are expected to be available for customers and the needs of their remote employees.

Invest in technology

Businesses must invest in reliable management software to provide access for managers to monitor performance. They need to be able to easily login and observe the performance of each employee on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. The best systems provide easy to understand metrics documenting performance and results that can be incorporated into reliable reports and regular reviews.

Another critical tool is reliable communication technology to help remote teams stay connected. Companies need to have a secure and dependable way for mangers to communicate with their teams. Communication tools allow managers to frequently stay connected to their teams, which helps maintain the relationships and trust needed for success.

When employees are working together in a traditional office setting, the manager can make regular informal check-ins, which create coaching opportunities. There are a variety of software options and communications applications available for remote teams that allow managers to send quick check-ins through a message or video call. Although it can be a substantial investment of time and money, the savings from reduced office rent, parking, utilities and commuting costs is more than enough to justify the technological investment to make it easier for your managers to successfully supervise a remote team.

Remote work has significantly changed the way managers supervise their teams. Companies are wise to update the way they provide support to their managers during this time.