Published by Kerry on 01 Jun 2010 at 12:14 pm
As the internet takes hold in the four corners of the world, it becomes increasingly possible for organizations, from businesses to nonprofits, to hire a remote workforce. We’d like to share some of our tips with you.
A workforce for the digital age
WiserEarth has had the privilege of an international workforce for its entire “life,” which brings local cultural understanding, native language skills, and practically 24/7 coverage. But with any remote communication, a remote workforce does have its challenges!
Management from afar
With members of the team located everywhere from Jakarta, Indonesia to Paris, France, we’ve found several strategies helpful:
- Trust and empower your employees: You can’t always see immediately what your virtual team is working on, but similar rules apply to them as to staff that come into your office every day. Empowering virtual team members to tackle projects they are excited about, as well as checking in online to offer help rather than micromanagement, will ensure that they maintain a high level of motivation.
- Set clear goals and boundaries: From a distance, it is easier both to misunderstand and to stray into tangential projects, without anyone on the other end noticing. While it is wonderful to nurture creativity, you also want to ensure that objectives for main projects are clear. At WiserEarth, we use SMART goals to define individual goals against our strategic goals.
- Have an accessible virtual workspace: We use WiserEarth groups to jointly edit documents. Other tools like Google docs can enable quick additions and can also give the inspiring feeling of working as a team!
- Have regular check-ins and allow for cultural misunderstandings. Skype (with or without video) is great to keep in high-touch contact, but instant messenger can also serve well in a pinch. E-mail is great due to its asynchronous nature but it has the potential to create misunderstanding. A dose of patience is key.
- Employ the buddy system. Some experienced members of our team serve as mentors or helpful sidekicks to new remote team members, more like a co-worker than a boss. This ensures our virtual members always have multiple members they can turn to with varied types of questions, or if they just want to feel connected to the rest of the workforce!
- Eliminate paperwork. Contracting people overseas can be complicated. It’s best to either establish an MOU and regrant agreement with a local NGO or use one of the many freelancer website payment services such as Odesk for example.
Photo by Brajeshwar
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