Effectively managing your remote workers – different approaches for different people!

effectively managing remote workersRemote and home working, was a massively underutilised way of operating pre-COVID-19. Often rejected on grounds of trust, complexity, technological difficulty, productivity etc. but all those concerns were rapidly pushed aside earlier this year, given a driving need to keep people working. Overnight home working become the new norm for many.

A key question of course is ‘have your managers got the skills and know how to make it happen and not just for a day or two but for the long term?’

How can managers be sure their employees are performing when they can’t see them across the desk or at the monthly team meeting? How do managers maintain motivation remotely and ensure all employees are working hard and focussed on the right things? How can managers communicate successfully and how much should they communicate?

It’s likely home working will be encouraged by the Government at least until 2021. You can stick your head in the sand about an under performer or anxious remote worker for a few days or weeks, but you can’t keep your head in the sand till 2021. Managers need to get on board with remote working being with us for the long term.

Despite it being forced on us, there are numerous benefits of remote and home working (on either a part time or full-time basis) that are now recognised by many employers. We are going to explore these below, but if you are interested in reading about managing different personalities, please skip ahead to the managing the effectively managing different personalities in the team section.

Money!

  • Cost savings associated with reducing the size of workspace – where this is possible.
  • Cost savings associated with reduced national and international travel and meetings.

Employee wellbeing

  • Reduced commute time and travel costs for employees – better work life balance, great for employee relations and above all, great for the environment.

Employee relations

  • Increased talent pool that comes from widening your geographical reach and opening up to those without easy access to transport.
  • Retention of valuable employees who might otherwise leave due to a need for more flexible working opportunities.

Not surprisingly there are a fair few disadvantages too, these being exacerbated if home working is permanent, rather than occasional.

Employee wellbeing/happiness

  • Employees miss out on the all important social element of work through interacting with colleagues, exchanging ideas and collaborating face to face. Research has shown that social connectedness, for example, is given as the number 1 priority quite often for those returning from maternity leave, way ahead of job role or salary!
  • Some employees find there is a real blurring between the lines of personal and work life struggle to deal with this.

Loyalty and retention

  • It can be significantly harder to create loyalty in a team that doesn’t have opportunities to really bond and feel part of the bigger picture. This can impact both retention and team work.

Training and management

  • It can be significantly harder to train people up if you can’t be with them, working alongside them or supervising their learning. This might impact productivity in either short or longer term.
  • There are large numbers of employees who are simply not suited to working on their own, with minimal supervision. This might be either due to the nature of the person they are, the job they do, their experience etc.
  • The difficult, challenging conversations that need to take place from time to time between a manager and an employee are more difficult to do successfully via video conferencing or the telephone. This can result in either unnecessary conflict or otherwise greater numbers of ‘unmanaged’ employees resulting from managers not even attempting to do the tough stuff.
  • Good regular communication with remote workers takes up a lot more management time than with those in front of you. More texts, emails, phone calls etc. and these can all impact what realistically a manager can get through in a day.

Discipline

  • Whilst 90% of employees can be trusted to produce high level and volumes of work, there will always be those who are not so trustworthy … and you can be sure that other colleagues will be watching and commenting on how you manage these individuals. Failing to manage them will result in a loss of respect for both manager and organisation.
  • Underperformers are far more difficult to manage remotely. Equally, misconduct is far harder to manage and sometimes far harder to pick up on too.

But as remote working is here to stay, whether it’s the preferred option or not, we wanted to share some tips for effectively managing your remote workers and the different personalities you have within your team. If you have a few more spare minutes then read on below. If you like to read more about what we’ve covered above, read our managing under performance or having difficult conversations remotely article.

Effectively managing different personalities in the team

From motivation, to communication, task setting and management different people like to be managed in different ways so we have put together a quick guide here that might just give your managers a fighting chance at this tough time to deliver what the business needs.

Whilst you don’t need any prior knowledge or understanding of psychometric profiling to relate to the personality types below, we have used the insights gained from using psychometric profiling over the past two decades. It’s a tool that helps our clients understand their own particular management styles and preferences and that of each and every member of their team. If you’d like to find out more about how personality profiling or virtual training on this topic can help you better manage employees, get in touch. But for now, let’s see how we can apply our knowledge of psychometrics to remote working.

Let’s start with love it or hate it!

You might find that some staff love working from home. This is most likely if they are naturally a task focussed person. These people often thrive given the opportunity to have uninterrupted, heads down space to churn through large volumes of work or to really get stuck into the detail. Be careful though not to let a task focussed person so focus on the task that they lose sight of the big picture!

If not task focussed, then many others are predominantly people focussed in their approach to work and life. These people often find long term remote working de-energising, lonely and isolating. It can also stall their creativity. Having people around them in their home environment whilst working can help, but never understand the need people focussed people have to regularly interact with colleagues and customers.

Now, moving on to managing the personalities – can you recognise yourself and co-workers in one of the descriptions below?!

Group 1: results driven

In terms of the four ‘behaviour’ groups identified when using most psychometrics, the first group are those who are results driven, often quick decision makers, independent operators (who needs a team?), task focussed and always seeking efficiency. They tend to be direct and straight to the point in their communications with others (why start with ‘hello’ if you can dive straight into the detail?) and they are competitive and often comfortable with conflict. Not great listeners, not great team players or collaborators and a tendency to have impatience with others, which can put them on the receiving end of complaints of bullying.

Managers of these individuals, to keep productivity and engagement high, might consider communicating with them as follows:

  • Communications should focus on the task.
  • Be straight talking and direct, no waffling or lengthy build up to what you want to say. Get off the phone when the conversation is done.
  • Check they have understood and heard your instructions, but avoid going head to head or treating them like a child. However don’t let them exceed their authority, you might need to set clear boundaries.
  • If your meeting needs a video conference for 15 mins rather than 30mins then put 15 mins in the calendar. They won’t love you for being inefficient with time.
  • Don’t drown them in the detail, another good reason to keep your communications short and to the point!
  • They love to achieve so give them a goal to work towards and recognise successes when the goal is achieved.

Group 2: the real ‘people’ people!

They get their energy and ideas around other people and tend to be the life and soul of the party outside and inside work. They bring in endless energy and lovely optimism. They love social interaction but can disengage quickly if they feel they are being ignored, sidelined or their egos not stroked often enough. The public praise they love is often missing when they work from home and as a result managers can unintentionally impact their productivity, plus its so hard for managers to pick up on who is unhappy when the whole team is remote working. Generally enthusiastic and optimistic, they like to be centre of the universe and talking is both their passion and their strength. Their challenges include impulsivity, making hasty decisions, not always thinking things through properly, hating the small print and kicking off against process and procedure that they view as boxing them in.

A few top tips for managers of these energetic lively people:

  • Be friendly, endlessly approachable and ensure your interactions give them an opportunity for lots of talking and discussion. They want to be listened to and they want to be involved.
  • Give them projects that invoke their inquisitive, enthusiastic nature, ideally within a team or working with other people – variety is the key!
  • Whilst they don’t like to be micromanaged, they can get distracted easily so put in place specific measures to keep them on track, checking in with their progress regularly in an unobtrusive way.
  • Be on the lookout for disengagement and withdrawal which can be the first signs of distress when they are home working and feeling isolated.

Group 3: Patient listeners, team workers, caring and friendly employees who we depend on for their stability, regularity and hard graft.

They are the workplace ‘rocks’ and work often cannot function without their input. Be careful though not to take advantage as they tend to dig their heels in or kick off when they get to the point of no return if you have asked one too many favours! Not always the fastest to make decisions and seldom risk takers, but its often great to know who in your team will play it safe, follow the rules and do what they are asked to do! The downside is they aren’t the most excited when presented with something new and often reluctant to speak up if that means putting their head above the parapet.

A few ideas for managers:

  • Be friendly, approachable and patient in your communications.
  • Take time to confirm your verbal communications in writing where the detail would be valued by them.
  • Give them projects they are familiar with, that are clearly explained and that won’t take them too far out their comfort zone.
  • Don’t neglect their training as this will increase their confidence.
  • Give them an opportunity to speak in virtual meetings by asking them direct questions, don’t let others hog the discussions.
  • Don’t let them disappear from your radar when calling around your team each day just because others are more vocal or more demanding. Be aware that silence is just as likely to mean they have no clue what they are supposed to be doing and are waiting for instructions, as they are in fact getting on with things!

Group 4: Task focussed, highly organised, structured and pretty risk adverse

You can generally trust they will deliver a project on time and within budget. They will probably have a clear plan of action that is followed to the letter and regularly reviewed. You’re in safe hands as they will pay attention to the small details. However, be aware the paralysis that can be brought on by over analysis. Getting bogged down in the detail means they can miss the bigger picture, as well as forget to interact with colleagues who might need to have input to what is being done. Their bluntness can come across as rudeness which can upset some and their insistence on adherence to procedure can at times drain energy and inhibit creativity.

Top tips for managers:

  • Keep your interaction and communications on the task in hand and avoid too much chit chat. Follow up verbal communications in writing.
  • Give them projects that work to their natural strengths of structure, discipline and organisation.
  • Have a clear structure to how you manage remote workers, diarise regular team meetings, issue agendas well in advance with clear instructions and keep to time during meetings.
  • Their natural inclination will be to keep a low profile so you will have to work extra hard to engage with them as an essential and valuable member of the team. Don’t allow home working to give them a veil to hide behind!
  • Pay attention to the detail, if they show it to you, they probably want you to read it!

We are all a complex mix!

Whilst the above simplifies our team workers into just four different groups, never forget that we are all in fact a complex mix of many things, our personalities, our learned behaviours, our past and life experiences, our skill set and our emotional maturity all play a part.

This means that managers have to take time to consider each individual they manage and create an approach that works for each of them. Different things for different people is critical, not just a nice to have. We recognise that this will take time but if remote working is to be successful, with difficult issues managed in a timely way, staff kept engaged and productive, training delivered when necessary, team working smooth etc. then managers will have to step up as never before! Be under no illusions that this will require extra effort but that extra effort, at this moment in time, can make the difference between your organisation being one of those that not only survives, but thrives, rather than one of those that fails at every hurdle.

In the press

And finally, the press is full of businesses saying how amazing home working has proven to be in recent week after our lockdown came in, how home working is now our future. Twitter has just announced every employee in the future will be a home worker and they won’t have office space. One report suggested office rents will fall 70% due to businesses shunning the offices they used to have. But be very careful not to be blinded by tales of current success. We have set out some of the challenges earlier in our HR Blasts.

Jaluch has had a remote working team for over 10 years, with some full-time remote working, some part-time remote working and others choosing to be in the office each day. We believe that Twitter’s approach is too simplistic. Different people need different things and that can change at different times of their life. Remote working is not utopia. It is just one option amongst a number of options when it comes to how we work and be under no illusions that it takes skilled and confident managers to successfully manage those out of their sight line. Be careful not to assume success based on a few weeks trial at a time of hyper emotion. These are not normal times so proceed with caution and remember that every employee is an individual.

How we can help

For training for managers, supervisors, leaders, staff representatives or even HR, take a look at our training pages.

For pragmatic, commercial advice on all things HR, employment law, employee relations, furlough, Covid and remote working, take a look at our HR pages.

For specific support managing any especially troublesome or challenging individuals during this period of home working, you don’t need to be held hostage or feel you have no power to manage those who don’t show due respect. Remote workers can be managed and need to be managed to ensure remote working is successful and good for everyone. Call us!

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