By Goke Ilesanmi
To be able to achieve business goals, managers need to build effective teams. They also need to define success in terms of the overall team performance and allow people to be responsible for the work they do. They need to provide their team members with necessary information and effectively coordinate subordinates to achieve productivity and profitability.
Building effective teams has always been one of the challenges most managers face. Part of building effective teams is to effectively coordinate team members that are off-site. Without proper coordination, teams that are miles apart may not be able to work together productively. As Jim Clemmer, the bestselling author of “Pathways to Performance” and “Growing the Distance” puts it, “For all the big talk … and off-site strategy sessions, calling a group of people a team does not make it one. These groups are usually just a collection of individuals from the same department who meet periodically….”
When it comes to employee management, coordinating or managing satellite or off-site employees is always a challenge. But strong relationships and clearly outlined expectations make off-site workers part of a successful whole.
Dr. David Javitch, an organisational psychologist and president of Javitch Associates, an organisational consulting firm in Newton, Massachusetts, says, “Mergers and acquisitions, plus flexible time and multiple work sites, have created the need for alternative work situations–and in many cases this means off-site teams. In the electronic age, employees at different sites can be connected by e-mail, fax, telephone and web- conferencing. Whether your employees are working at a different plant, factory, office building or simply from home, addressing the issue of satellite staff is vital to your business’s success.”
Employees suited for off-site
The employees best suited for off-site work are energetic and independent self-starters who do not need an on-site supervisor. They must be assertive enough to speak up, state views and ask for assistance before situations become critical. In addition, they must be self-critical workers who can evaluate their own work and know when contributions of others are needed. They must voluntarily seek advice from others without fear of appearing incompetent or unprofessional. And most importantly, they must be able to create their own work day and schedule without the structure of a formal eight-hour day.
Challenges can manifest when an organisation has satellite offices. First, off-site workers sometimes complain that they do not feel like part of the overall team, that the spirit of oneness does not exist in them because of the physical separation between offices. Also, developing a rapport between subordinates and supervisor can be difficult since the latter is not on-site. As a result, it is easy for deadlines to go unmet. Unsupervised workers can become distracted and lazy about. “Out of sight, out of mind”, you would say. An off-site worker’s work may not be considered or valued as highly as that of on-site worker. And finally, without an externally imposed structured day, work performance can suffer.
But there are solutions to these challenges to ensure that your offsite employees’ productivity and success do not diminish. To start with, human-resource-management experts say you must clearly communicate your expectations to remote workers, including key milestones and deadlines. The milestones should be firm and short-term to ensure that work is acceptable, timely and coordinated with on-site employees. “Feedback on progress should be specific, measurable, timely and action-oriented. Above all, your remote workers should feel that they can easily seek out a supervisor for advice, counsel and input,” says Javitch.
Clarity of goals
To further ensure accountability, goals must be clearly stated and written to guarantee agreement between or among parties. Starting off on the wrong foot or in an inappropriate direction can spell doom, especially when working at different sites. In addition to goals, agreed-upon standards and level of quality will help to eliminate any doubt about what is required. Reporting relationships also should be outlined; each employee must clearly understand to whom he or she reports. Having the line of authority and responsibility clear greatly improves the intensity, effectiveness and quality of the reporting relationships.
The final aspect of off-site management to consider is communication. Communication is one of the key elements to building relationships in the workplace. Jenny Kerwin, a contributing writer for Interactive Quality Solutions says, “Partnering for performance is centred on building relationships… Communication is one of the key elements to building relationships and tools for building relationships through communication may be easier than you might think. Communicate to foster relationships.”
Often, electronic mail (e-mail) is the easiest and the quickest way to communicate. However, it can make expression of emotion difficult and can lead even to misinterpretation. For instance, somebody who is always brief in e-mails may be seen as rude to a friendlier co-worker, while a well-intended joke may lose its intention and be regarded as an insult by the recipient.
To properly coordinate your teams through communication, the most effective means of sending and receiving messages is a combination of regularly-scheduled telephone conference calls; video- and web-conferencing; e-mails; faxes, etc. While the visual component can help facilitate personal relationships, nothing can replace face-to-face meetings. Therefore, ensure that face-to-face meetings are regularly scheduled so that you can get the best from your onsite and offsite workers and achieve high level of productivity and profitability.
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GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.
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