1) Executive Summary
The purpose of this whitepaper is to explain the various issues businesses can come across when managing teams and employees across multiple locations. We will begin by briefly explaining how these issues can impact your bottom line and overall business success, and how these issues can directly impact your employees. Furthermore, this whitepaper will provide solutions for each issue presented as well as an example of how TouchSupport succeeded in overcoming these problems through communication, teamwork and mutual understanding.
The definition of business growth used to mean opening another branch down the street or city with a full management team and employees. With today’s rapid growth and use of technology, businesses have found it more economical to create virtual offices and hire remote staff. Although this has economic benefits, it may present a management challenge that can end up costing you more than you saved. Some of the main challenges that managers come across is the lack of motivation and cohesiveness for the team, miscommunication and real time responses. These can result in delays of projects and poorly executed jobs due to lack of mutual understanding which, in the end, will affect your bottom line.
In 2016 Gallup claimed that at least 43% of employees work remotely sometimes and that 33% of remote employees are engaged in their work. More importantly, businesses can lose on average $2100 to $4100 yearly, per employee just on miscommunication.
3) Challenges and their Solutions:
a) “Me vs. Them”
Remote employees can feel isolated from the group and resort to having a more self-centered mindset instead of considering themselves and part of the team. Same as everyone, they want to feel included, but the distance and face to face contact can represent an invisible barrier that may hold them back and result in them lacking consideration or having an understanding of how their role fits into the team and company’s progress.
This can be resolved through frequent check-ins and updates as well as team meetings, where the remote employees can join through online means, such as Skype, RingCentral or other services. Hence, share information with your employees, include them in company emails, conference calls, bulletin boards and other activities to make them feel more in sync and connected to the group.
Communication or, in fact, miscommunication, is the most common issue related to managing off site employees. Sometimes it can be challenging to relay information via emails or text messages. Depending on their background and location, the way they receive information can be different from what you are used to. Information can get lost in translation or it isn’t received or read in time and then you are forced to push back deadlines and delay progress. These delays can affect your team and impact the dynamics of the entire group.
To address this issue, you need to have an understanding of your remote workers’ background and culture. Understand how they receive messages and make sure to be clear and precise. State clear deadlines and tasks the employees need to do.
According to a study ManagerComplete conducted, businesses with management teams that communicate well resulted in a 47% increase in returns for the company.
Clear communication can improve your overall bottom line.
c) Provide Feedback
This is critical for future progress and employee morale. In the office it’s simple to pop by someone’s desk to provide tips or praise, check in and supervise but not so much when they work off site. If your team is scattered, it can lead to lack of cohesiveness and miscommunication. It is important to be able to give your remote team feedback as this will improve their future performance, motivate them to do better and also reduce the amount of time you spend on sending projects back to be edited or redone.
On average, 17 hours per week is lost on clarifying communicated messages.
Through frequent updates and tips, you can steer your remote employees in the right direction. This can motivate them for future projects and increase their productivity. Giving frequent feedback can also improve their overall work quality and enhance your team’s success. You will also save time on going back and forth with the project as the chances of them doing it right the first time around will increase.
d) Long Distance Motivation
Motivating your staff in general can be challenging as you have to consider the age differences and cultural backgrounds. These can be overcome by getting to know your employees better and having day to day conversations with them when they pass by you in the office. But it’s more difficult when your employee works from home or is working from a different country. With remote staff, you have to consider more than just the age and background but also the time zones, language barriers, cultural differences, values and standards.
According to a study Gallup conducted, only 28% of staff that work from home and 35% of staff that travel constantly for work are motivated.
To improve these numbers, you should try to get to know your staff better. If possible, visit their location at least once to meet them. Call them frequently and keep them in the loop about the company progress and activities. Praise them for their good work. Send motivational quotes or images in the company group chat to make them feel included. Up to 78% of employees claim that being recognized motivates them.
e) Prompt Responses
Having access to your team in real time is vital if you work in a fast paced environment that requires immediate responses or actions. This can be difficult if your employees don’t work in the same time zone or don’t use the same communication platform as you. A delay in response time can turn into pushed back deadlines, a delay of project accomplishment and overall company progress.
By using online platforms such as Skype, Slack, Ximble and others, you can contact your team in real time and ensure everyone is equally notified and aware of company projects, work shifts, and deadlines. You can have your team available and informed 24/7 through communication platforms and devices. Using these mediums will simplify and speed up the process of sharing, delivering and receiving information in real time.
f) Team Cohesiveness
Building and managing a cohesive team across multiple locations is a key factor for having a successful business. This is when all your team’s goals, motives, ideals and work become united to share a common goal. Difficulties, commonly known as ‘tribalism’, can occur, where groups are formed among employees. It’s natural for people to feel closer to someone with similar age, background or job position. If these groups continue, teams lose cohesiveness and internal conflicts begin, which can ultimately affect the business progression.
To prevent tribalism and create a more cohesive team, you need to utilize the strengths of each individual. Assign tasks and create groups where each individual is different but brings a specific skill to the team. Create a balance amongst team members and create a flexible and understanding environment. Determine the mission in advance and, through communication and feedback, lead your team to strive for the same.
4) Case study TouchSupport
TouchSupport is a company based in the US that allows companies to provide the best service possible to end users through business process optimization services. They build intuitive customer support solutions to aid you retain loyal customers and generate a happy client base.
Problems TouchSupport faced
While the base of operations is based in the US, TouchSupport has employees across the globe and struggles with maintaining team cohesiveness. They faced challenges with scheduling various teams across multiple time zones and locations as well as tracking their remote employees’ work hours.
What TouchSupport Needed to Overcome Their Problem
TouchSupport was in need of a tool that could help them be in touch with their remote staff and communicate in real time without compromising project deadlines. They required an all-round platform from which they could track the work hours of their remote staff as well as save time on repeated follow-up.
TouchSupport selected Ximble to help them improve their staff efficiency and communication effectiveness. Ximble provided them with a cloud based platform that allowed their remote staff to request open shifts remotely, contact other employees in real time and stay on track with current projects and deadlines.
The End Results
• TouchSupport was able to save up to 8h on staff management
• Effective coordination of multiple time zones and location schedules
• Remote clock-in and shift trade capabilities to entire team
• Aligned employee schedules with internal projects
• Eliminated miscommunication and repeated follow-up
Using Ximble provided TouchSupport with the ultimate tool to improve on teamwork and cohesiveness by enabling a constant flow of communication and providing easy access to all relevant project and company information in one place. TouchSupport employees were able to use Ximble on their mobile phones and receive notifications and messages in real time, no matter the location or time zone.
To summarize, we have mentioned the most common issues businesses can come across when managing employees or teams across multiple locations. As companies grow larger by the day and hire remote employees to save on expenses, the difficulty to manage such employees with various backgrounds across multiple time zones can prove to be more costly than anticipated. These issues, although challenging, can be eliminated through communication, sharing information and cross-cultural understanding.
If managers adequately use their knowledge about employees and strategically form teams, they can overcome tribalism and form a more cohesive and effective team. With frequent and clear communication and updates, remote employees can align their values and business goals with on-site employees. Motivating remote staff through group chats and team projects can enhance their productivity and even increase the success of the whole team.
To ensure a successful business, one must look at the company as a whole. Each department should be considered as a limb that belongs to one body, each employee is a cell that makes up the specific limb. In order for this body to function effectively, all limbs must coordinate and work together.
6) About Ximble
Ximble is a cloud-based platform for employee scheduling and time tracking that simplifies tasks managers come across on a day to day basis. With Ximble, your staff can take advantage of the self-service scheduling system and request shifts in the open schedule as well as swap shifts with other employees to ensure adequate shift coverage. Employees can also request time off and paid leave, which managers needs to approve.
Ximble’s time tracking module simplifies the clocking in and out process as employees can do so through their mobile devices. The module provides managers with a clear overview of labor costs and paid time off. As the system tracks the employees’ worked hours, you can easily run payroll in seconds.
Furthermore, Ximble offers a secure chatting platform that enables real time communication amongst all employees and managers. Also, Ximble offers a notification system that sends push notifications and SMS to employees to notify them of newly assigned shifts and updates.
Ximble gives you the opportunity to manage your entire workforce through the palm of your hand.