Mobile work arrangements have never been more viable than they are today. Advancements in technology have made mobile work faster, more accurate, and extremely cost-effective. With greater tracking abilities, digital communication advancements, and up-to-the-second updates, a mobile team can be your company’s greatest resource.
But given the nature of mobile staffs—talented as they may be—it’s hard to to replicate the time-tested office environment that so many have become used to. Without the proper tools, your dream team can quickly slip through the cracks—and what could have been a great opportunity to expand your business becomes a management disaster.
The solution is to do all that you can to make sure you have a cohesive, unified staff of mobile workers. Below you’ll find several tips to help make the most out of your mobile team and prevent simple management missteps from holding you back.
Have Several Open Lines of Communication
The reality is, because you’re not in an office with your mobile team, workers can’t just pop over to your desk when they need something. If you want a team environment, creating open lines of communication can’t just be about the freedom to email at-will. Good communication goes much deeper, and can be better characterized by these five specific aspects:
If an employee wants to schedule a call with you, don’t just say what times you are available—give them a specific day and time to call.
When an employee reaches out to you in search of feedback or insight, try your best to make it a regular occurrence. Schedule a weekly call to discuss progress and give feedback. This gives them consistency and a set of mini goals to work towards during the week.
More often than not with mobile workers, errors lie in miscommunication. There’s nothing wrong with making sure that deadlines, assignments, and other specifics are expressly clear. That’s often best executed through follow up emails, but can take several other forms (calls, texts, carrier pigeon, etc.) as well.
You don’t want to get bogged down with late-night phone calls, emails, and texts, and I’m sure your employees wont either. Set parameters for when during the day it’s best to call, and make sure that you can be available during those times.
Your availability really means nothing if your mobile workers don’t feel like they can approach you. If employee emails are constantly going unanswered and phone calls unreturned, your employees might get the sense that they are being nuisances—and that will discourage further communication.
Whatever medium you find best to communicate through, make sure that your employees feel that they can reach you easily. Set up Google Hangouts or Skype Chats, give them your cell number, and be sure to reply to emails as often as you can.
Keeping those open lines of communication will help make your mobile workers feel more tied to your company. And if a crisis arrives, it will help situations to feel much more under control.
Create an Exclusive Online Community
Simply put, to feel like a part of the team, you have to interact with the other members. Since your mobile workers may be locally-based or scattered throughout the world, the best way to do this is through an online community. Google+ is a valuable online resource for companies to do this. It’s a place to post anything from goofy pictures and GIFs to daily progress reports and updates.
By creating an online community for your whole company, you’re creating a “water cooler” of sorts for your employees online. It’s a place that they can come to during the day and see what’s going on with employees in other departments. This helps to bring a more communal sense to your company, and will foster loyalty and pride in your employees.
Use Task Boards that Everyone Can Track Progress On
Feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment is a critical part of getting employees to complete a project or task. For mobile workers, this can be harder to grasp when jobs and reports are being submitted digitally, out of the office. Completed work becomes less satisfying or motivating.
To combat this feeling, set up a system for reporting work, hours, and accomplished tasks. One great tool, Trello.com, has boards that you can post tasks on, update lists as either “to do,” doing,” or “done,” and create deadlines that can be viewed by employees located anywhere in the world.
When you can give your mobile employees a more tangible system for reporting and keeping track of tasks, you’ll give them a more concrete sense of accomplishment in finishing an assignment—like the simple joy of crossing off a to-list of chores. This also gives them an opportunity to keep other employees in the loop on what they’re doing and how efficient they’re being.
Make Them Feel Valued
The more valued mobile workers feels, and the more responsibility that you give them, the more you’ll get out of them. Mobile workers don’t need a babysitter any more than one would in an office. The trick is hiring people you trust, and being able to make them feel known and valued—however infrequently you see them. If they feel like trusted members of the company, and believe that others feel that way about them too, you’ll see their full potential come out.
There are plenty of tools out there to make it easy to hire and manage mobile workers, but nothing can make them feel welcome like a good manager. Go beyond simply using your mobile employees—empower them. They could very well be the most qualified people you’ve ever hired, so take the time to make them feel like a part of the group.
If you have a cohesive mobile team, there’s no stopping your company’s growth potential.
Creating Cohesiveness Among Mobile Workers Chad Halvorson