Forgive me for the cryptic title on today’s post. I won’t keep you in suspense. The answer is, management development should include “virtual” management of remote workers.
My guess is that managers are being asked to supervise an increasing number of remote or virtual employees. Even if they only do it on a part-time or sporadic basis. A great case in point – – the news headlines last winter that said, “75 percent of the population will suffer below-freezing temps this week”. My first thought is, if you didn’t have to go into a physical office…why would you?!
Regardless of the reason, when you’re working from home, the company
probably definitely expects employees to still get the work done.
That means managers still need to manage. The challenge is that organizations haven’t really spent a lot of time teaching managers how to build relationships with employees, monitor their performance, and coach them when their employees aren’t sitting right in front of them. That’s not the manager’s fault.
Let me repeat that – – – it’s not the manager’s fault!
I found an article on the Association for Talent Development (ATD) website about the concept of “virtual proximity”. The idea being that good managers shouldn’t let four walls or distance interfere with their ability to manage. I could see virtual management being a necessary component in today’s management development programs. For starters, organizations should address these four areas:
- Relationship Building. In a physical office environment, managers can walk by an employee’s desk and immediately engage in conversation. In a virtual environment, it’s different. Managers might want to schedule a quick one-on-one with employees for the sole purpose of building relationships.
- Recognition. Like relationship building, managers can easily walk up to an employee and recognize them for a job well done. I’m not saying that’s always the right way to give recognition, but let’s face it…managers often do it. Virtual employees need recognition too and managers need to find a way to convey those messages in ways that benefit the employees and the operation.
- Collaboration. When it comes to projects, virtual employees need to get the same opportunities to brainstorm and weigh-in on ideas as the team working in the office. Collaboration technology solutions can help with this, so no one feels they are being left out of the loop.
- Technology. Speaking of technology, it’s important for managers to learn about today’s technology tools. Just because we’re talking about managers building relationships with employees and effectively managing their teams, doesn’t mean they can use the help of technology.
It’s time for organizations to realize that managing remote employees isn’t the same as managing the workforce you see every day IRL. Managers should go through management development on the differences and they should be given the tools to effectively supervise both in-office and remote workers.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Oklahoma City, OK16