The things you have to know before you start outsourcing business tasks and setting up a remote team.
Remote teams are no longer just the domain of small businesses. Even large companies such as United Health, Xerox, American Express and Deutsche Bank are integrating remote teams in their workforce.
Remote teams contribute to the profitability of the business because it reduces cost of operation, increases productivity and lowers the employee turnover. But setting up an effective remote team needs time, effort, strategy and execution.
Here are some of the essentials needed to set up a remote team:
1. Determine the purpose of the remote team
Before you launch a venture or undertake a new activity, you must always establish the purpose first. The purpose answers the “why” of your business. Purpose sets the ball rolling and charts the course to where your business wants to go.
Defining your purpose is essential before building your remote team because it will guide you in the entire pre- operating stage. You will know who to hire and what to look for in candidates. It will give you clarity in what you want to achieve and most importantly, cultivate the ideal culture of productivity in your organization.
2. Prioritize the project manager or team leader
Once you’ve decided on setting up a remote team, the first position you have to hire is the project manager. Often referred to as the team leader, the project manager is the person in charge of the remote team.
He will be your set of eyes and ears in the remote team. In the organizational hierarchy, everything flows through the project manager. You will consult with him, and he will report directly to you. His primary responsibility is to make sure the remote team is on schedule in accomplishing the identified objectives.
3. Set up the frameworks
When you are working with virtual teams, especially with virtual assistants who come from remote locations where cultural, social differences and time zone differentials are prevalent, it is absolutely important to set up frameworks.
Frameworks act to stabilize operation. The different areas of responsibilities are defined, and the respective tasks are summarized for everyone’s information.
Create the organizational chart to give everyone an idea on where they are in the enterprise. This reduces confusion and prevents team members from over- stepping their boundaries.
4. Establish the workflows
A workflow is a schematic on how work moves along an operational funnel. Each area of responsibility has its specific workflow. The purpose of a workflow is to make work more efficient by defining the process itself.
For example, a workflow for an accounting project could look like this:
Client uploads files to CRM > Account Officer downloads file > Assigns to encoders > Head Auditor reviews work > Head Auditor transfers files to Account Officer > Account Officer uploads files and notifies client > Client downloads file from CRM
5. Create the operational guidelines
The only difference between running a business in a brick-and-mortar establishment and in the virtual world is purely logistical. You still have to ensure the mechanisms that lend organization and efficiency in a brick-and-mortar establishment are in place in the virtual world.
The usual reference guide is the Operational Guidelines. This documents not just the various workflows and descriptions of the frameworks but also the rules and regulations of the organization.
All the Frequently Asked Questions must be answered by your set of guidelines. If a team member has questions or concerns, he should be able to find his answers in the Guidelines.
Make sure everyone on the team has read it then dedicate one half-day to discuss its provisions in full.
6. Recruit right- fit talent
Selecting candidates for your remote team can become a tricky proposition. There is so much talent everywhere in the world. It is hard to measure up the accomplishments of one candidate to another because conditions are different.
This is why instead of focusing too much on the candidate’s resume and his technical and fundamental expertise, you should shift your focus to his behavioral profile.
Remember that your remote team may be composed of people from different nationalities, each with their own unique set of cultural practices and social traditions. It is very important that everyone on the remote team gets along.
Here are a few ways you can assess the candidate’s behavioral profile:
- Create a set of three short essay questions that will force the candidate to initiate a deep- dive into his own consciousness. For example: Your ship capsized and there was room for one more person on the lifeboat. Who would you save: Your child or your mother?
- Ask the candidate to list down his five non- negotiable core values and ask him why he chose those.
- Give each candidate a task to perform with the group then measure success based on the level of completion.
It’s very important to assemble a team of people who can work with each other and accept each other’s social and cultural nuances. Conflict will always arise within an organization but people who understand each other will work to find immediate resolution.
7. Set up the technological profile
Once you’ve set up the frameworks and the workflows, you now should design the technological profile.
The technological profile is a summary of programs and hardware that you will need to support operations. It is usually divided into the following:
- File Sharing
- File Security
- Repair/ Maintenance
Everyone on the team must have the programs installed in their computers. All hardware must be in fine- working condition to avoid work stoppage and further delays.
8. Design an evaluation process
The only way you can assess the performance of the team is by conducting a regular evaluation.
Create a performance formula to grade the quality of work rendered by each team member. For example, if you are running a lead generation campaign a sample evaluation process would be:
Accuracy; ability to procure accurate information = 50%
Statistics; volume of contacts connected = 40%
Work ethics; attitude, general conduct, time- keeping = 10%
Compile the data on a weekly basis and provide your team members a copy of the month end evaluation. This will be used as the parameter for gauging their performance for the succeeding month.
9. Schedule weekly meetings
Communication is one of the most important qualities to have in an organization. Efficient communication channels prevent careless mistakes from happening, reduces the probability of over- sights and incidents of misunderstandings.
This is the value of having meetings scheduled every week. You have the venue to update the team of developments and address pending issues and concerns. End-of-week meetings are important for setting the stage for the following work week.
It is also an opportunity for you to solidify your relationship with your team. This further improves the channels of communication and fosters trust, transparency and respect.
Setting up a remote team has its set of challenges to deal with. But as long as you establish the ground rules and the guidelines for building the team that you want, you will be able to assemble a group of people you can build your business with.
Felix Tarcomnicu is the co-founder of the cross-promotion tool Cross Promo. He blogs about businesses, entrepreneurship and startups.