Distributed Teams: Everything you need to know about them
Even before the Covid-19 crisis, when everyone worked from home at least for a few months, there’s been a shift in the workforce towards more distributed teams. The main reasons for this to happen are:
In light of all of this, employers must adapt both their hiring practices and their management styles to fit this new model. And team leaders must accommodate the needs of distributed teams for flexibility and freedom to work where and how they please.
In this article, we will outline the most important steps for a business to attract remote talent and manage distributed teams successfully. We will also explore how certain SaaS tools can help promote distributed teams’ ability to be more creative and entrepreneurial, without the need to manage every task and meeting face-to-face.
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One of the main reasons that people prefer to work in a distributed team is the flexibility and freedom that it offers. And so, the top priority employers should be to embrace, rather than oppose, these very things.
Don’t try and fight your team members’ inherent needs in a way that goes against the very reason why they prefer to work in a geographically distributed setting. Instead, make flexibility the cornerstone of your employer branding.
By this, we mean that you must be open and transparent about the fact that your distributed team has
But most importantly, it means you need to create a flexible and fluid environment where your team members feel comfortable to explore and experiment as they deem best and perform in a way that is most beneficial to them and their work.
Your team members will feel encouraged and welcomed if you show that you value their work-life balance and their need for flexibility. It’s also important to keep in mind that, while flexibility and freedom are important, they need to be balanced with the right amount of structure and discipline. Otherwise, it can be easy for team members to become overwhelmed or to feel like they’re not being productive. An important step that you can take to achieve this balance is to use the right tools, which brings us to our next point.
Of course, employers need to keep track of how their team is working. They need to know how productive their team is and how long it takes to complete tasks. But there’s no need to force your team to manually complete timesheets or use some glorified stopwatches (aka timers). Instead, use automation tools to achieve this goal. Automated time tracking tools can help you to monitor your team’s productivity and attendance without hassle.
These tools can also give each team member access to fantastic insights into their own work habits. It helps them identify and improve unproductive habits, reduce distractions, and increase team efficiency. Workflow data generated by automated timetrackers can also often be shared among team members and thereby helps people improve together.
Automated timetrackers, also known as task mining tools, often have built-in SaaS BI features, which enable all team members to access workflow data in a web application and collaborate based on the insights they generate. In this way, specific action points can be seamlessly integrated with a team’s work processes to enhance productivity through improved behaviors. As result, a distributed group of co-workers can easily become more efficient than an on-site team accustomed to personal meetings, but less inclined to engage with great task mining-tools.
As mentioned above, automated time tracking tools can provide a distributed team with data that allows managers to feedback their teams. However, for a remote workforce to succeed, it’s just as important to establish a feedback culture within the team as well.
The cornerstones of any great culture of collaboration are openness and transparency, where all team members regularly engage with their joint data on workflow analytics. Give it a try and you can make it a common goal to habitually improve processes, based on insights your chosen tool provides. You will realize that sharing process insights not only helps optimize workflows and find new potential for efficiency. In addition, such data-based feedback will prevent new members of your distributed team from making the same mistakes others have made before.
Finally, if you choose to sign your team up for an automated timetracker with SaaS BI capabilities, it will help you to create dashboards, heatmaps, or charts that present your team’s performance over time, rather than capturing mere snapshots on a given day. This can be very valuable for tracking and celebrating your team’s improvements and achievements.
Using such tools and actively working towards open dialogue among co-workers can go a long way in creating a healthy culture of collaboration, as a result of which distributed team members not only enjoy their work, but systematically feedback each other and celebrate their successes together. Naturally, such an environment is ideally suited to foster growth and innovation, and to promote the development of leaders within your team.
Members of distributed teams don’t go to work, so they hang out at the water cooler and watch the day go by. Rather, their life happens elsewhere, often in remote [pun intended] places, so when it comes to contributing to your business, a remote workforce is, in fact, particularly open to conversations about productivity.
As a team leader or manager, you should exploit this trait of your co-workers and promote a group identity of efficiency. One way to achieve this is by scheduling periodic team meetings, where members can share their perceptions on how productive they themselves or the team as a whole has been. It goes without saying, that such conversations should be utterly non-confrontational, putting the emphasis on joint insights, rather than competition. Only in this way will team members feel comfortable to openyl share their thoughts and ideas.
A side benefit of institutionalizing conversations about productivity is that team members get to speak to each other in the first place. Even though the focus of each co-worker’s social life might be elsewhere, a regular group calls are a great way to make work more enjoyable for everyone and feel closer to each other.
When organizing such online meetings, use the opportunity to highlight both individual successes and group achievements, and you will soon see even stronger improvements in your distributed team’s productivity.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could use the very reasons that make your team members seek flexibility and freedom for making them more creative and entrepreneurial? Well, you can!
Exploit that fact that distributed team members are both less inclined to let others manage them closely and, as a matter of fact, more difficult to supervise and instruct, to encourage them to be more creative and innovative in their work. As we said before, a remote co-workers urge to go off by herself should be celebrated. You will not only be more attractive to potential hires that seek freedom and flexibility, you will also help them live up to their potential in much more effective way.
Along the same lines, don’t complain about the fact your team may be distributed across several time zones, and instead use it to your advantage by creating global teams that can work around the clock to get the job done a lot faster.
Another idea is to use the fact that not all team members may be anchored in your company’s hometown to target other markets that may be otherwise not be accessible to your organization at the respective current stage of its development. In other words, if your London-based startup works with an Indian team of developers, why not make the Indian market one of you targets next year. You already have people on the ground and your competitors, who only hire people from Europe, don’t.
These are just a couple of examples of how you to make better use of any remote team’s intrinsic needs for flexibility and freedom. The possibilities are endless.
We already spoke about the benefits of promoting team conversations for two good reasons:
In addition to all of that, our final tip to successfully manage a remote workforce is to make team successes easily measurable, and to let no opportunity slip when it comes to celebrating joint achievements. One needs to recognize that distributed teams are far less able to “feel” when things are looking up at the organization to which they are contributing. It is enormously more difficult to generate team momentum and boost team members’ motivation, whereas it is infinitely easier to lose a co-worker who stopped buying into the joint vision and lost sight of the next, great milestone ahead.
It is therefore key to repeatedly establish a sense of accomplishment within your workforce, much more so than in an on-site setting, where social interactions can often serve as glue that holds the team together and keep everyone chugging along.
There are many ways to create a success-oriented culture, but it all starts with setting clear goals and shouting from the mountain tops when these goals have been reached. SaaS BI solutions, which we mentioned, can be tremendously helpful in this connection. Remote teams can use them not only to crunch the numbers on productivity, but also to increase a sense of community by sharing success metrics and achievements among all co-workers.
Whenever you share your organization’s successes, it’s easier for your team members to see themselves as part of a larger whole. This can also help foster trust and promote a healthy sense of competition within the group, which obviously benefits your business as well.
There you have it! These are our top six tips to attract talent for distributed teams and manage them successfully. Give them a try and make sure to pick the right tool to support your team with automated time tracking and task mining.
AllActivity is a leader in productivity solutions that provides you with a complete toolkit for managing and measuring distributed team performance, employee engagement, and attendance. Our SaaS platform helps you collect workflow data from desktop computers and mobile phones, generates automated timesheets and centralizes it all in a web application accessible to all team members. AllActivity features state-of-the-art privacy protections while offering unparalleled, actionable insights in team behavior, tool usage and processes that drive real change.
If you’re looking for a way to manage your distributed team more effectively, we invite you to try AllActivity for free now!
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