A Successful Remote Strategy is Possible

It is time we all get real. A remote/hybrid workforce is a reality, and the more executives try to fight it, the risk of quiet/loud quitting potentially results in performance gaps. A remote/hybrid remote work model allows the credit union to hire the best and the brightest because it acknowledges that some potentially high-performing employees may be unable to relocate. Also, it realizes that some employees need greater work flexibility because of childcare issues, employed spouse or partner, and even in some cases, the potential employee is a caregiver to an aging parent, in a sandwich generation living situation, or has a family health challenge and are either unwilling or unable to change healthcare providers. Accommodating this new reality means managers must develop the skills and practices to become better managers of remote workers. Managing a remote workforce effectively requires a combination of strategies and tactics to ensure that employees remain productive, engaged, and connected. Here are some tactics you can use.

Clear Communication: In a work world where “managing by walking around” no longer exists, using all available tools is vital. These communication tools available to managers include emails, instant messaging, video conferencing, and project management software to keep everyone connected. You will find several references to the importance of transparent communications below.

Establish Clear Guidelines: Set clear expectations for work hours, availability, communication methods, and response times. Ensure that everyone understands the rules and guidelines for remote work. Define each team member’s goals, objectives, and performance expectations. Ensure everyone understands what is expected of them and how their performance will be measured. Acknowledge and be transparent on what roles remote and hybrid work is possible and when it is not possible. A branch teller can never be remote, but many credit union roles can be. What is essential here is to acknowledge that the “same is not equal or fair.” Communicate why some functions have remote capabilities and make that part of the job description.

Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with team members to discuss their progress, challenges, and concerns. This helps maintain a solid manager-employee relationship and allows you to provide guidance and support. Schedule regular one-on-one and team meetings to discuss progress, address challenges, and maintain a sense of connection. One-on-one sessions must be intentional with a disciplined agenda that should start with a wellness check-in, a what do you need to be successful listening time, a review, a conversation of the milestones and KPIs, and a time for coaching and mentoring.

Use Video Conferencing: Use video calls instead of just audio calls. Visual cues and face-to-face interaction help build rapport and enhance communication. Remote workers need to have the tools and resources so they can actively participate in video conferencing. I have consulted with some credit unions where the employees don’t have adequate WIFI connectivity, cameras, or microphones. Without these essential tools, remote workers are at a disadvantage. There must be clear expectations on using cameras and muting microphones. The expectation needs to exist that the camera needs to be on and muting needs by the employee needs to be communicated. It is not uncommon to have a sick or disruptive child at home, a mother who needs to nurse an infant, or a disruptive noise where muting is necessary. The employee is responsible for communicating to all parties why the camera is off, or the mic is muted.

Flexible Work Hours: Allow some flexibility in work hours as long as core hours for collaboration are maintained. I know highly productive employees that, by choice or need, work less than traditional work hours., it is often when they know they will be at their absolute best. Along with this flexibility is an agreement that when those critical collaboration, coaching, and mentoring meetings happen, they also are flexible and respectful to the needs of others.

Goal Tracking and Performance Metrics: Implement a system for tracking individual and team performance. This can include key performance indicators (KPIs), project milestones, and other relevant metrics. Clearly define individual and team goals and the metrics used to measure success. This provides a sense of purpose and direction for remote employees. The manager needs to provide regular review performance metrics reviews and adjust strategies based on gained insights. Everyone on a project or team must understand the dependencies on each other to hit their milestones and KPIs and the consequences when they are missed or delayed.

Provide Resources and Tools: Ensure your remote team can access the tools, software, and resources to perform their tasks effectively. This might include project management software, communication tools, and training materials. Invest in reliable communication and collaboration tools that facilitate seamless interaction, document sharing, and project management. Ensure remote employees have the technical support to troubleshoot any issues they might encounter while working remotely.

Encourage Autonomy: Trust your employees to manage their tasks and time effectively. Micromanaging can lead to decreased morale and productivity. Give employees the autonomy to manage their jobs and make decisions. Let’s be honest here if a manager cannot trust an employee, they may have the wrong person in the role, and if the organization as a whole cannot trust employees, the managers are either in the wrong seat on the bus or have not been adequately trained in how to manage a remote workforce.

Recognition and Feedback: Regularly acknowledge and celebrate achievements. Provide constructive feedback to help team members grow and improve. Offer regular feedback on performance, highlighting accomplishments and offering constructive suggestions for improvement. Recognition in remote work must go beyond a “Good job” on that task or project. Recognition needs to be specific and communicated broadly.

Cultivate Team Cohesion: Organize virtual team-building activities, workshops, or social events to strengthen relationships among remote team members. Organize virtual team-building activities to foster camaraderie and a sense of belonging among remote team members. Companies with extensive remote workers have a cadence where the teams physically get together. I know that relationships can be made in virtual work. Still, I have also seen relationships weakened between remote workers that could have been avoided or reversed with physical face-to-face time.

Support Professional Development: Offer opportunities for skill development and career growth through online courses, workshops, and mentorship programs. Provide opportunities for skill enhancement and career growth, showing that you’re invested in your remote employees’ long-term success. It is not uncommon in a hybrid company that employees feel at a career disadvantage to their in-office counterparts. Investing in ways remote employees feel supported and have development opportunities can address this fear.

Address Isolation: Remote work can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation. Create avenues for social interaction, like virtual coffee breaks or chat channels for casual conversations. Prevent isolation by fostering a sense of belonging and connection within the remote team.

Transparent Documentation: Maintain a repository of essential documents, guidelines, and processes that team members can access easily. This reduces ambiguity and helps in maintaining consistency. Encourage open and transparent communication among team members. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable asking questions and sharing their thoughts. Maintain clear documentation of processes, workflows, and guidelines to ensure this consistency and reduce ambiguity. Keep your remote team informed about company updates, policy changes, and other relevant information. This helps them feel connected to the organization’s overall direction.

Focus on Results, Not Activity: Emphasize the importance of achieving outcomes rather than just monitoring hours worked. Trust your employees to manage their time effectively. The best way to create a focus on results in to communicate the INTENTION and PURPOSE of the work being done. This transforms the conversation from the details of how to WHY they are doing the work – the results.

Promote Well-being: Prioritize employee well-being by offering resources related to mental health, stress management, and work-life balance. Encourage employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Overworking can lead to burnout, which negatively impacts performance and job satisfaction. This includes encouraging breaks and boundaries. Remind employees to take regular breaks and establish clear work and personal life boundaries to prevent burnout. The real risk to high-performing remote employees is that they don’t understand when and how to transition from work to family time to play time to friend time. Guidelines and the tactics for these transitions must be communicated to everyone, and the behaviors must be modeled by leadership.

Stay Adaptable: Be open to adjusting your approach as circumstances change and be receptive to feedback from your remote team. I have found it possible for managers to create a safe space, free of retribution, to share their truths about how things are going and where the team or the company is making mistakes, creating confusion, or sending mixed messages.

Emergency Plans: Have contingency plans for power outages, internet disruptions, or other technical issues affecting remote work. There are many options for coworking spaces. The credit union might consider a cost reimbursement if an employee needs to access a coworking space. Sometimes, a quick cost-benefit analysis may indicate that the company considers a monthly or annual contract with a coworking company.

Acknowledge Time Zone Differences: If your team is spread across different time zones, be mindful of scheduling meetings that accommodate everyone’s availability. I know people who work internationally that accommodate time zone meetings. It can be done successfully with an appreciation for work flexibility and employee awareness of the time zones where others work.

Cultural Sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural differences if you have a distributed team. Understanding and respecting diverse cultures can improve team cohesion and job satisfaction.

Lead by Example: Demonstrate the behaviors and work habits you expect from your remote team. Your actions set the tone for the team’s work culture.

Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate milestones, project completions, and individual achievements to boost morale and motivation.

Remember that remote work strategies may need to be adapted based on your team and organization’s unique needs and characteristics. Regularly assess what’s working and what needs adjustment to ensure your remote workforce remains productive and engaged, so stay attuned to the needs of your remote workforce and be willing to refine your strategies accordingly.

About rich@leading2leadership.com

Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on Amazon.com and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at www.leading2leadership.com.

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