Friday, June 27, 2014

Managing Remote Employees

A growing number of Americans are working from home. The increase in the use of contract employees is just adding to that rapidly increasing number in the U.S.  At last count, that amounted to some 3.3 million people working remotely (not including the self-employed), or 2.6% of the U.S. employee workforce. That number is expected to increase by 63% in the next five years. Given the rapid increase in contract employees that number could grow even larger.

With more companies allowing their employees to work remotely managers are increasingly tasked with overseeing workers scattered across cities, states, and time zones. Remote work has created an entirely new subset of employees, with their own habits and routines.

New technologies are making telecommuting more feasible and before too many years, the challenge of managing a team of remote workers might be the norm for many supervisors. With this increase in remote employees comes also the need to establish an understanding of how best to manage the people and the work. Below are a few recommendations.

1.       Making clear, reasonable expectations for their workday.

2.       Helping them develop habits that help them focus and achieve their goals.

3.       Developing a structure that supports their priorities.

4.       Help them develop boundaries with people, technology and other distractions. 

5.       High-quality communication is especially important with remote employees. Stay connected with them and available.

6.       Watch out for overwork. Employees working out of their homes can have a harder time setting boundaries between their work and personal lives. Some might prefer to work at 2 AM. Others might work until 10 or 11 at night. While others might like chunk work throughout the day. There is a danger for employees to overwork themselves and burn out. It's the boss's responsibility to guard against this and make sure employees take enough time for themselves. 

7.       Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins. At least once every few days managers should make time to check in with their remote workers. The goal is to maintain an open line of communication so that any potential issues get addressed and don't have a chance to pile up.

8.       Establish a culture of trust and respect. Trust, of course, is essential to all work environments. When you're working away from your colleagues, however, it becomes even more important.

Great managers of remote workers do everything that great managers of physical offices do, there's just a little more distance between the two.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Choosing Your Professional References

While recently working with candidate in preparing their client presentation, I asked for professional references. Standard procedure. This experience reminded me however as to the importance of carefully selecting whom you provide as your references. There are numerous writings on the internet regarding this topic, and I don’t want to reproduce what is already readily available, but instead just take a moment to stress the importance of this part of your job search. This candidate provided high profile co-workers from a previous employer; not only peers but supervisory types of references. The candidate provided references that were in a position to be able to accurately speak to their work product and provide a positive reflection upon the person’s abilities and work they had done at this past employer. Well, they could have anyway. The problem with these references was that the company had a policy against providing opinion, aka: references, regarding former employees. So all these references were basically under a gag order by their employer. So bottom line, none could help. All positioned well to be excellent references if only they could have spoken to me. Instead I only got title and employment dates. That was not so useful.

So I asked the candidate to consider other individuals they worked with at this employer that have since left. That is one possible solution anyway. So we are still working through that but it certainly reminds me of the importance of considering whom you use as references. And in this case, know the company’s policy of providing references. Be certain to talk to each reference to see if they are in a position to be able to provide useful information.

In the spirit of this topic I have included a link to an article on that adds some additional useful information regarding references. It’s a quick read. Straight and to the point.

How to Choose Your Job References

How do you pick the directors, coworkers and direct reports to be your job references
By Lisa Vaas