ASK THE EXPERTS: 4 tips for managing remote teams on Salesforce
By Andy Mason
Whether your team already utilized remote working or it’s a situation in which you’ve just recently found yourself, managing a team of off-site workers is very realistic on Salesforce, you just need to know how to go about it from both a technology and a human perspective.
You won’t necessarily have the same level of interaction with co-workers as you would when standing around the water cooler or making coffee, but this doesn’t mean your professional collaboration has to suffer, nor does your ability to have good relationships with team members.
In some cases, there are real tangible benefits to having a team of remote workers:
- No travel time or costs – staff no longer have to commute, which creates extra time in their daily schedule (making them more productive and energized), and cuts down on expenses.
- Increased productivity – Remote workers tend to work in uninterrupted blocks and have access to all essential information (business data/documentation etc) online, which can make them more productive.
- Make better use of global teams – Having teams in different parts of the world, in different time zones, means you have a 24-hour productivity cycle and aren’t limited by your domestic trading or working hours.
- Enhanced communication – Digital communication can sometimes be ambiguous, but giving your team access to multimedia communication systems will mean files and data can be shared, visuals discussed, and any ambiguity eliminated by these extra tools.
There are of course challenges to having a team of remote workers, whether you’re building a team from scratch or transitioning to a partly or completely remote workforce after having an onsite team:
- Fostering team relations – while remote workers are equipped with great tools for professional collaboration, sometimes the social element can suffer, which naturally impacts motivation and morale.
- Employee isolation – ‘isolation’ has been the word on everyone’s lips recently, and you’ll need to take steps to ensure employees don’t feel cut off from the rest of the team. It can be tough working alone each day, and even a five minute chat can help staff feel more involved.
- Uncertainty around the right tools – if remote working is fairly knew to you, it can be difficult to know which tools to utilize to get the most out of your team, particularly if you’re in a specific niche or vertical.
The positive is that these challenges can be overcome with a bit of work, as businesses around the world are experiencing great success with remote teams.
We’ve worked with some of the greatest minds across the ecosystem to learn what they’re doing to keep remote workers engaged and productive, and how you can do the same. Here are four tips for managing remote workers on Salesforce:
1. Over-communicate where necessary
Things can get lost in translation when communicating digitally. People don’t have the benefit of body language or tone of voice, so sometimes even basic instructions can be misinterpreted. Additionally, staff can soon get the feeling that communications are transactional and business-related only, so you need to maintain a rapport with your team to keep spirits high.
“Try to over-communicate with your colleagues, since you don’t have the luxury of body language. Communication is crucial in the remote work environment, so it shouldn’t be overlooked. Luckily, there are plenty of technology tools available to facilitate it (e.g. Slack, Zoom, project management tools, collaboration tools, etc.).
“Schedule regular short standup meetings (whenever possible, try to use video even if it’s uncomfortable for you) or at least reports in Slack so that everyone is on the same page. Share information on how employees can reach each other and their managers directly if there is such a need.”
“I’d say to over-index on communication and give people a reason to interact on subjects that are not work-related. We’ve been doing a lot internally to connect in unconventional ways. Virtual lunch hours, “share your hidden talent” Slack channels, and more regular all company check-ins. It has given lots of people who don’t typically work together with a chance to interact and connect.”
2. Don’t underestimate the value of scheduled breaks
Just because staff may be working from home, doesn’t mean they don’t need to take breaks. In fact, they may actually take fewer breaks than they would at work, as there are fewer distraction tasks and conversations between coworkers.
They need this time to recharge and approach work with renewed enthusiasm, so make sure your team still knows it’s okay to take five every now and then.
“Remember that just because teams are 100% remote doesn’t mean everyone should be working at all times. Even though you don’t need that extra 10 minutes to move from conference room to conference room, leave those 10 minutes free. Don’t let scheduling etiquette fall by the wayside.”
Susannah Kate St-Germain
“Encourage staff to take regular breaks to help keep them sane! Follow the usual office hours and avoid any overtime; it’s important people don’t stretch work into their personal lives, even if they’re at home. At the same time, they have to eliminate any distractions to ensure they’re just as productive during work hours.”
3. Encourage the team to learn new skills
The shift to remote working has resulted in serious changes to our everyday work lives, both in the things we do and the systems we use. This has left a lot of teams suddenly needing extra skills to cope with business change.
One thing you can do, particularly if some of your staff are experiencing downtime due to disruption to BAU, is encourage them to upskill and work towards learning a new technology or system, or research which tools would improve business processes in the current landscape and make a case for them.
“Most organizations vastly underinvest in skills training for their employees. The reasons for this are numerous, but one common explanation given is the lack (or perceived lack) of time.
“With the recent and sweeping changes to the way we live and conduct business, what better time than right now to provide staff with additional training resources to keep them focused and sharp, and upgrade their skills at the same time.
“This is not only a way to ensure that your teams are ready and prepared to bust out of the gate when we can all get back to the normal state of affairs, but a great way to keep morale high. People naturally want to feel productive and that they are contributing, when much of their traditional ways of doing this have been stripped.”
4. Assemble a dedicated remote working success team
The best way to assess what’s working and what isn’t with remote working is to actually measure your success, both in terms of tangible business data (ie the impact it’s having on results), or by speaking to employees to find out their successes as well as the challenges they’re facing.
Remember that you have a team of individuals who are all coming from a different perspective, so you need to find solutions that work for everyone. You also need cheerleaders who are going to celebrate your successes when they do arrive, and keep team members engaged with initiatives and activities.
“We’ve set up a remote working taskforce, who have been working hard to keep us engaged with each other. They have arranged events such as after-work drinks, quizzes, exercise classes, meditation and cooking classes!
“These are all being led by volunteers in the company and are a great way to stay connected with your colleagues. It’s funny how quickly you forget you are sitting in your living room when engaged in one of these activities.”
All teams are different of course, but taking a more human line of communication with staff to learn their short- and long-term frustrations is a great way to make improvements.
There’s a lot can be said for swallowing your pride, admitting to your staff that things are very much still a work in progress and that you’re relying on their feedback to nurture an environment that works for everyone.
Honesty and compassion are perhaps the two most important factors when managing a team of remote workers, particularly in uncertain times.
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