Question: How do you manage virtual employees and keep them on task (and on message) from afar?
Question by: Ashley
Use Productivity Sites
"Sites like Basecamp and Asana have made virtual work management a lot easier. With the ability to assign tasks and check them off lists, you can cut down on all of the "Did you finish this yet?" emails!"
Create and Implement Structures
"A remote position can feel very unstructured, so it's important for you to create that structure via a consistent schedule for what tasks happen when, what is expected of them on what day each week, etc. Create a very consistent schedule for them in terms of day-of-the-week projects, reports, and deadlines, and do your own part to stay on that schedule too."
"Be very clear about individual responsibilities and expectations. Don't worry so much about where an employee is at any given time, as long as he or she is getting the necessary results. And as a manager, show up in person from time to time -- it makes a world of difference in terms of their level of trust and respect."
Communicate and Communicate
"The best way to keep everyone on track when working virtually? Over communicate. Make sure that goals, deadlines, and expectations are clearly outlined from the onset, and clearly articulate these milestones throughout the process to ensure things stay on track. Open and clear communication is essential, especially when working with others through a computer screen."
Stick to Your Own Accountability
"Set the proper expectations from the beginning of the relationship, and do not let people slide. Let them know what you expect, when it will be expected and how you will inspect what you expect. If they don't fulfill their agreements for work, do not let them off too easily. You must have consequences in place, and don't be afraid to fire someone until you find the right match for you."
Promote Team Collaboration
"About 40 percent of our staff is remote, so we use chat (Skype and HipChat) to maintain an ongoing connection. It's a great place to share quick updates, ideas and files. When a concept takes further explanation, we just jump into a quick video chat and talk it through -- "face to face.""
Shoot for Milestones
"It's not as easy or as spontaneous to check in with employees who work remotely, compared to team members around the office. For virtual employees, consider breaking up tasks into milestones of a project. This will ensure consistent communication throughout the life cycle of the project, saving time and effort in the long term."
Don't Go Hourly
"I like project-based rates over hourly rates. It's much easier to check if a project is complete than try to check up on just how an individual spends her time. I've got better things to do than to play nursemaid: I bring in good people and I pay them specifically for the work they've completed. It's not my responsibility to watch over their shoulders."
Review Their Work
"Especially when you have people working virtually, it's essential that you make time to regularly review their work and give them feedback. This keeps them accountable and gives you the opportunity to redirect them if they start to get off track."
Round Them Up Often
"We utilize a lot of technology to keep everyone focused, including Google+ Hangout and Yammer. Still, there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. We have daily, weekly, and quarterly meetings for virtual employees to come in and reaffirm goals, tasks, and progress."
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.