Managing a team of IT professionals is both rewarding and challenging—especially if they’re remote employees. I’ve learned over the years that it takes a unique kind of person to successfully function away from the heartbeat of that traditional office environment most workers take for granted. It’s equally challenging to recruit remote employees—to convince the new hire that you actually have a plan to integrate them to the team. The remote employee needs to have multiple ongoing touch points to keep them engaged and feeling like they’re truly part of the team. If not, you run a very high risk of losing this talent to organizations with a better thought-out plan. The goal? To keep remote employees on track while ensuring that working (remotely) for your organization is both stimulating and fun!
The best way to hire and retain remote employees is to design a workforce environment that allows those working away from the office to meet with the rest of the team on a regular basis. I’m not suggesting that you hold quarterly meetings—that sort of minimum expectation model is fraught with increased risks to your overall team tenure. It also makes hiring much more difficult. I’m talking about using technology and actual face time with you and team members to include remote employees on a more regular basis. Here are a few ways to help build a successful remote team:
Hiring: Think about allowing remote team members to participate in the hiring and training of new remote employees. This reinforces your belief in them as valued employees and sends the strong message that they matter. By including virtual employees in the interview process, you’re also showing new recruits that you have a comprehensive virtual employee model that works!
Regular Team Outings: Plan dinner meetings with your team every 5-6 weeks. It doesn’t have to be at a 5-star restaurant, either. Having all of your team members together for dinner meetings may add to the overall T&E budget, but the team loyalty you’ll build will give you the return on both the time and monetary investment you’ve spent by having happier employees.
Video: When you’re holding your weekly staff meetings, allow remote employees to attend via video. While it’s not the same as being there in person, it does allow remote employees to see the faces and smiles of their co-workers. Services like WedEx and ooVoo offer video options where multiple people (frames) can join the call and visually participate.
Conferences: Schedule meetings and team dinners at conferences to allow more face time for your remote employees. Since you already have the conferences built into your budget, you might consider flying or driving in one night and having dinner with your team. The extra effort of having you there will go a long way in letting your team know that it matters enough for you to be there.
Building a successful team of remote employees isn’t just smart—it should also provide a preview of upcoming attractions in both hiring and retention, as virtual work environments are here to stay. Without a well thought-out remote employee hiring and retention strategy, some of them will probably figure it out and decide not to stay! The choice is yours.
Tim Tolan is a senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT PRactices. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (943) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at www.healthcare-informatics.com/tim_tolan