London. Rome. New York City. Right around the corner. In unprecedented numbers, virtual employees, whether full-time telecommuters or contractors, are taking over the workforce. In the past five years, according to a study conducted by Nemertes Research, virtual workers in the U.S. have increased 800 percent in the past five years. Yes, you read that correctly – 800 percent! And that percentage continues to rise as more of the unemployed begin consulting and opening contracting businesses. Even more employees work from home now as companies realize how beneficial it is to their bottom line.
The hardest challenge for you – the leader, the manager, the business owner – is to effectively manage your in-house team along with your virtual workers positioned all around the country and even the world. Your management skills are challenged in different ways when dealing with your virtual workforce. The following are some tips to consider.
- Goals: Only independent, highly motivated workers should be on your virtual team. You must tell them what hours you expect them to work as they will be on their own without your watchful eye. Set clear goals and deadlines, too, and let them know if you want them conferenced in for meetings. This allows the virtual employee the flexibility to get their work accomplished within your guidelines.
- Forget Micromanaging: Build trust among your virtual workforce without micromanaging. This means no constant phone calls, hourly progress reports or frequent requests for updates. You must have confidence and allow each worker to do their job without your interference. Have faith in their abilities and your life will be easier, too.
- Remember Them: Some contact is good. Whether by phone, email or Skype – it is important to keep them motivated, goal-oriented and make them feel they are an integral part of your team. An online calendar-sharing program such as Google Calendar works well so that everyone stays linked.
- Train Them: Ensure your virtual employees are trained correctly in your company values, mission and goals. If they need a technical upgrade, invest in the proper equipment they need to get the job done. Even though they work in another location or from home, they are still part of your team and should have the same conveniences as your office staff.
- Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Your virtual workers complete your team. Remember to include them in all decisions. If necessary fly them in for important meetings, hold a video conference or simply pick up the phone. Their input and opinions are an integral part of your business.
Understanding how to properly manage virtual employees goes a long way in creating a productive, efficient team. Their influence is of paramount importance to running a successful business. Always keep them in mind!
How do you effectively manage virtual employees? If you are a virtual employee, what tips would you like to give your manager?
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