Successful Leadership in a Remote Workforce
You won't have a hard time finding websites, books, articles, blogs, and skywriting telling you how to best manage your remote workforce. This group is called telecommuters, work from homers, work shifter's, remote work teams, distributed teams, and more. All of these mean the same thing and all of these groups require the same management.
You will also find that all of the advice you can receive through these myriad of distribution channels are pretty much the same highlighted information turning and being told over and over again. The advice has tags like hold regular conference calls, measure production not time, health workers with their personal life, stay in touch on a regular basis, and the usual other bits and pieces.
All of the above is of course correct, that's why it's being repeated over and over again. But it's just the surface. It's just answers at their highest level, and coincidentally least useful. Very rarely will these new sources tell you why you need to do what needs to be done thus preventing you from being able to think outside the box find new answers and find the right management style to handle your remote workforce. Understanding the why of it is key.
A key element that is rarely listed as required of a successful remote workforce is a strategic program put in place before the creation of an open remote job. The remote work program must be strategic in its thinking, undo. The expectations must be explicit, the reporting structure must be formal and easily understood. Senior management must sponsor this remote worker or workforce and everyone must have a clear understanding of what the expectations are of the program.
Just as with all business organizations, a remote workforce will learn to work as a unit differently every time. When you take a workforce mobile there are some fundamental changes that are required in order to get the work done well and within expectations. Managers can manage time easily, but with a remote workforce what is more important is outcome. This should be true of any business environment as outcome is ultimately what is going to define success, but it is also the last step in a very long process and difficult manage until it's over. Time being the easier target is often what management focuses on. Remote workforces do not work that way.
Central to any strategic remote work program is training. This training includes in-house managers as well as out of office workers. This training will teach remote contributors to manage themselves to a degree, but also manage their expectations and outcomes. Collaborative technologies are important and are central to the success of a remote program but without a strategic can't built around this technology can't work.
Ultimately a remote workforce will succeed depending upon how thoughtfully a plan is put together, and of course implemented. Although it is an old axiom is a true one, plan the work then work the plan. Remote work programs are just about the removal of facility requirements, redesigning a business, or being more flexible with employees’ time. They're about improving efficiency, organizational and cultural change, and if they are not approached as such they will fail.