3 Ways Managers Are Boosting Inclusion Among Their Remote Tech Team

Contributed content / By Jessica Thiefels / 26 March 2019

Remote employees often feel left out, and it’s your job to make them feel part of the team. Learn from three managers who have made changes to include their team members, no matter where they are in the world.

Your remote employees are working hard—yet, many of them feel left out. As someone who’s both worked as a remote employee and managed them at Jessica Thiefels Consulting, I’ve seen both sides of the equation. If you’ve never experienced this yourself, consider the challenges illuminated in recent reporting from Fast Company:

  • 52% of remote workers feel their onsite colleagues don’t treat them equally
  • 41% of remote workers believe their colleagues say bad things about them behind their back
  • 64% of remote workers think that their colleagues make changes to projects without warning them

This data is important to take into account, especially when nearly 1 in 5 companies outsourced tasks to remote workers in the past year and 36% of employees have side jobs. 

Side gigs

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Considering this substantial ratio, as the manager of a remote tech team, making sure everyone feels included is an essential part of your job. The more your remote workers feel they’re treated unfairly or not being heard, the more likely they are to disengage or leave altogether.

With the average cost of hiring a single person at more than $4,000, alienating your remote team is a risk you can’t afford to take. 

Use these tips from managers, plus three bonus ideas, to increase involvement among your remote tech employees. 

The Managers’ Stories

Directors, COOs, and technology founders alike are all working to bring their remote technical team together to ensure execution of projects and company priorities.

More importantly, they’re using these simple tools and ideas to ensure their technical talent feels included every step of the way, even when they’re not in an office. 

Empowering Personal Connections and Value

For a remote team, building the camaraderie that’s lost by not being in an office and empowering everyone to do their best are two critical initiatives. Hamzah Malik, Managing Director of Regent Branding, tackled this challenge right away:

“When I started Regent Branding, I quickly realized that I had a core issue, which was that everyone was in different countries. We have web developers in Bangladesh, app developers in Ukraine, designers in Russia and back-end engineers in Serbia. I was working with a disjointed workforce in different time zones, which was causing frustration.”

Instead of letting this frustration lead to other issues, he took matters into his own hands. First, he created a group chat on WeChat, strictly for personal communication. Getting to know someone on a personal level fosters a greater understanding of how they operate within the business world. 

Malik’s next step was to empower all of his remote employees:

“I then spoke to every team member individually and explained that I was making them a ‘Regent,’ which is a way of saying they’re one of the best at their jobs in the field, and part of an elite team around the world with similar skills. This created an identity for them all, as they were proud to wear the badge of ‘Regent’ and perform their best work.”

Now, his 18 ‘Regents,’ who still operate across the world, are in touch on a weekly basis across WhatsApp and Skype. They hold “a large ‘all hands’ meeting every month to ensure everyone is on the same page,” as another simple way to building engagement within a remote team.

Improving Onboarding

The hiring stage is a critical time in an employees’ experience with your organization. Making a great first impression on teammates who aren’t in the office to learn from you face-to-face can be challenging— but it’s more important than ever. 

Elena Carstoiu, COO of Hubgets, says onboarding should be a critical focus for your organization:

“Use it to integrate people faster into the team and help them sync with the company culture. An efficient onboarding can have a huge impact on your overall team’s performance and it can also influence the future of your new teammate.”

Using online collaboration software and tools to connect new employees right away is beneficial for improving interaction while making your life easier. 

Carstoiu goes on to say, “Personally, I think that the transfer of company knowledge is the biggest gain in building a collaborative work environment with the help of technology. New employees get to learn the ropes of their new job faster than ever because the technology provides them with instant access to work information while helping them bond with the team.”

The best way to facilitate this process improvement? Use strategies like putting a communication tool in place.

Making Daily Standups a Priority

Most tech teams are familiar with the term “stand-up,” referring to the short organizational meeting often held every morning within tech teams. Fun fact: they’re named this because standing is less comfortable than sitting, ensuring the meeting is quick and efficient. 

Daily meetings boost inclusion among remote tech teams who might operate independently throughout the day. Everyone gets a chance to speak up, share about projects, and ask for help when necessary. 

That’s why Cynthia Huang, CEO and co-founder of Altcoin Fantasy, made it a priority to maintain these daily meetings with her remote team.  

“We make sure we do a quick 10-minute stand-up to go over everyone's tasks for the day and to follow up on other tasks where work might be outstanding. This keeps the team engaged because we're actually chatting live instead of messaging or emailing back and forth.” 

The good news? Held either via video or voice call, standups are an actionable, easy way to make everyone feel included and connected.

Keep Improving

Test out these ideas to find the best ways to increase engagement with your technical team. Once you see what works best and drives up employee productivity, tweak and modify your strategy accordingly along the way. 

Provide Educational Opportunities

Did you know that more than 55% of developers are already seeking training, according to a 2017 Developer Learning survey?

Survey authors explain that “they seek out training in order to meet current or upcoming needs or to advance their careers.” Take this off their plate and use it as a way to bring your remote team together. 

In fact, 18% of job seekers value a company that offers professional development opportunities – second only to a competitive salary.

Job Seekers

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In light of how much job seekers value flexibility, consider ways to meet their needs remotely.

Conduct “in-person” trainings over video calls, either led by yourself or by bringing in another expert to teach the team. Give everyone a chance to spend time as a group virtually and level up their skills together.

Assign Employees With Their Own Point of Contact

It can be frustrating to have multiple people to get in touch with for each individual project—especially if those people aren’t responsive. 

One way to avoid this is by giving everyone their own point of contact if possible, suggests Laura DeCarlo in a recent Forbes article. Instead of having 20 employees to manage, lower-level managers can have just 4 or 5. This helps employees be heard, whether they’re onsite or across the world. 

Make Fast Communication a Priority

In addition to assigning a single point of contact, make quick communication a priority. 

From the same study reported by Fast Company:

  • 84% of remote employees said concerns and problems dragged on for a few days or more
  • Even worse, 47% said they then let it drag on for multiple weeks. 

Don’t let a development hold-up bottleneck the process. Instead, build fast communication into your company culture. If you find that projects are consistently finished late, look to this area of management: are remote employees trying to do their part, but being held back?

Boost Inclusion Among Your Remote Team

Your remote team works just as hard as those at your headquarters. Some studies even show that they’re more productive.

Make sure these critical employees are included, within company culture and their teams. It’s easy to feel left out when you’re not walking around the office with everyone else, so managers will need to make that extra effort. 

When you put processes in place, however, the dynamic becomes just like any other area of your business. Check-in as needed and stick to what you know works. 

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