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Conquering the 7 biggest challenges of managing a remote workforce

(BUSINESS) Managing a remote workforce is increasingly common, but comes with challenges – let’s discuss setting your team up for success.

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Telecommuting is rapidly becoming a serious option for employers looking to attract and retain top talent. More workers are demanding the option to work from home – at least some of the time – and employers need to take these requests seriously.

Offering a telecommuting option can initially be attractive to employers; lower overhead, less hands-on management, increased productivity and happier employees are all potential benefits. But managing a remote workforce isn’t without its problems.

This article will look at 7 of the biggest challenges of managing remote workers.

1. Productivity

While research has shown that telecommuting leads to increased performance, many managers have a hard time trusting that employees will work efficiently while not in the office. Without the same level of ability to track and monitor outcomes, managers may not always know if work is actually getting done.

This makes having regular check-ins important, as well as having set deadlines for tasks and projects. Give employees flexibility in terms of work hours, but also be clear about your expectations – what exactly you need, and when you expect it to be done.

Productivity-tracking tools such as Time Doctor can help ensure cooperation, and you can even get in-depth email productivity analytics using a tool like EmailAnalytics.

2. Communication

According to a survey by Robert Half Technology, 30 percent of US CIOs cited communication as their biggest problem when managing a remote workforce. Without proper communication, employees and managers can feel disconnected and are more prone to experiencing misunderstandings.

To ensure proper communication, Robert Half suggests 4 tips to improve remote communication:

  • Outlining expectations: Be clear about how often you’d like remote workers to check in and be available to you.
  • Make use of technology: Without access to proper communication tools, collaboration becomes very difficult. Ensure employees are trained to use data-sharing, online meeting and project management tools.
  • Schedule real-time meetings: Build in opportunities for workers to meet face-to-face to improve communication and reduce isolation.
  • Check in with your employees: Working from home without appropriate boundaries can lead to overwork and even burnout. Regularly support and assist employees with maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

3. Data security

Employers are understandably concerned about the potential to lose important data or to experience a security breach on remote computers. Many remote workers regularly work from coffee shops or shared offices, or access the internet via other unsecured wireless networks.

Employers also have no way of restricting outside access to remote workers’ laptops or phones; if an employee allows a friend to use his or her computer while at home, for instance, the employer will never know.

Remote workers should be expected to commit to certain security measures for their work computer and data. This might include installing encryption software, restricting the use of company-issued laptops and keeping company files and devices in a secure location when not being used.

4. Training

One of the first difficulties that many companies face when they introduce telecommuting is training new hires. Even with the most comprehensive training manuals and written procedures, employees can struggle without having the in-person support of colleagues.

Having a training program in place is critical when managing a remote workforce. In addition, assign a mentor to each new hire to answer questions or offer support via phone, email or video chat.

5. Building and maintaining a strong company culture

Communicating and nurturing a strong company culture among a remote workforce can be extremely difficult. Much of a company’s culture is communicated and modeled by leadership; this is obviously more challenging when workers and managers don’t regularly work together in person.

Hiring employees who have already demonstrated similar values and beliefs as the company is a great place to start. Setting up regular one-to-one meetings between workers and management can also help, as well as periodically getting together for casual get-togethers.

6. Collaboration

Working as a team can be difficult at the best of times; but add thousands of miles and multiple time zones to the mix and it can seem nearly impossible. This is why having great tools in place is so important. Workers must be able to communicate and collaborate to share ideas and data seamlessly.

Some tools that can help with collaboration between remote workers include:

  • Skype: Use Skype to hold one-to-one or team meetings, to talk with clients or to hold group chats.
  • Dropbox: Ensure all employees have access to company files, no matter where they’re working from. Dropbox allows them to upload and share files among team members, and ensures that no important data gets lost.
  • Basecamp: This software lets you do virtually anything related to team project management, including file sharing, chatting and assigning tasks to various team members.
  • Join.me: Screen share, make presentations or hold online meetings using a tool like Join.me.

There are also a number of Gmail plugins that can boost collaboration and productivity which are worth checking out.

7. Technological Issues

When working in an office, technological problems can usually be dealt with quickly, and work can resume as normal. For remote workers, however, an issue with a laptop or software can mean hours or even days of lost productivity.

Setting up proper training and access to suitable technology can help mitigate technological challenges, as well as giving workers access to remote tech support when needed. Giving employees additional training for new software and equipment can also help avoid problems later on.

Managing a remote workforce isn’t without its challenges.

But having the proper guidelines, technologies and processes in place can help ensure your remote workers stay productive and happy.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Business News

Skilled workers can live in any city they wish and still get work [study]

(BUSINESS NEWS) A 2018 study reveals that remote work is on the rise, and the ultra skilled workers can work from any city they wish.

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A 2018 study that surveyed 1,005 hiring decision makers commissioned by Upwork sheds some interesting insights on the attitudes around remote workers and the challenges hiring managers are experiencing finding talent. The remote workforce is the future after all and this study offers both insight into challenges and solutions.

It was noted that talent is becoming harder and harder to find (up to three times more difficult than in past years). Meanwhile, remote work is on the rise, according to 55 percent of managers.

The overarching attitude toward offices becoming temporary anchor points is increasing, indicating that commutes are becoming less common (albeit slightly). Companies are increasingly embracing remote work, and according to 38 percent of those surveyed, it will become the predominant workforce.

A major challenge remains that company policies aren’t caught up to remote work – they are lagging behind or non-existent according to 57 percent of organizations.

Over half of all companies surveyed are using more temporary, contract, or freelance workers and the majority of hiring managers believe agile teams will become the norm in the near future.

Perhaps the juiciest tidbit, the fact that skills are viewed as more important than location suggests that at the end of the day…

remote workforce

If you have the skills, you can live basically anywhere. Remote and freelance work offers a variety of opportunities and means you don’t have to be synchronously local to a team to get work done. This means that you don’t need to be in a big city like New York or Los Angeles to get the big work and have access to opportunity.

Companies are struggling to find talent, and despite a lack of policy support, are opening up to remote work. Adding to this challenge is that more and more Americans are less mobile, due to concerns about cost of living (or other things in our lives), hiring managers are having a harder time finding the right talent to fill their own vacancy.

Skilled workers (those who have the abilities that are in demand and desired by their industry) have the ability to pick and choose where they want to live and it looks like now and the future, companies are coming to meet them. This is good news, and offers more and more opportunities, as well as flexibility for hiring managers.

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Indeed and Glassdoor are now owned by one Japanese company – what’s next?

(TECHNOLOGY) Now that Glassdoor and Indeed are owned by an international brand, how will their main competitors (and search engines) react?

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This year, Glassdoor, one of the most popular job and recruiting sites, has been acquired by Recruit Holdings Co. Ltd. (RCRRF), a Tokyo-based firm in a $1.2 billion cash transaction to become part of Recruit’s growing Human Resources Technology segment.

Recruit Holdings operates Three areas of business: HR Technology, Media & Solutions, and Staffing. In 2012, they acquired CT-based Indeed, which continues to be the number one job site in the world. Glassdoor will continue to operate independently as a part of Recruit Holdings, which holds companies in North America, Europe, and Asia, but it is noteworthy that a Japanese company owns two of the biggest players in the job search game.

The possibilities from this merger are not yet clear, but given that Recruit holds both Indeed and Glassdoor, the opportunity for integration and grouped pricing could eventually be useful for recruiters and HR/Hiring professionals. Although the company has not formally announced that integration is a possibility, considering the stiff competition from LinkedIn Jobs – it would be a great way to gain some competitive advantage.

The acquisition could help Recruit take on Microsoft (who owns LinkedIn) and Google to keep the two from dominating the online job boards, to which are essential for job seekers and talent seekers.

Of course, nothing is set in stone, but the possibilities are there. Recruiters should consider the possibilities for pricing and plan for how they will use the platforms (and how they will integrate Google for Jobs) to best collect the candidates they need.

Job seekers be prepared for more logins and more search sites for jobs and recognize that the possibility of Google no longer indexing Glassdoor (just as Indeed is not indexing on Google jobs).

The conflict between Indeed/Glassdoor, Microsoft, Google, and maybe even Facebook (look at Facebook.com/Jobs) is going to be an interesting battle to watch. JobBoardDoctor described the conflict of Indeed vs. Google as an old-west shoot out at high noon.

I suspect that with all four players in – it’s going to be a cold war in the recruiting world. Sit tight folks. Let’s see whats next!

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Business News

This fake company weeds out crappy clients

(BUSINESS) The former CEO of Highrise used a fake website to weed out toxic clients. How can you keep problematic customers out of your business?

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Sorting through your client list to weed out potentially toxic customers isn’t a process which garners the same attention as a company removing problematic employees, but it’s every bit as important — and, in many cases, twice as tricky to accomplish. One innovative journalist’s solution to this problem was to set up a fake website to act as a buffer between unwanted clients and his inbox.

If you’re anything like Nathan Kontny, your inbox is probably brimming with unread emails, product pitches, and pleas from people with whom you’ve never met in person or collaborated; unfortunately, many of these “people” are simply automated bots geared toward generating more press for their services.

Nathan’s response to this phenomenon was to create a website called “Trick a Journalist” in order to see which potential clients would sign up for the service.

Hilariously enough, the trap worked exactly as planned. Anyone signing up for Trick a Journalist was blacklisted and prevented from signing up for Nathan’s CRM software, with Nathan’s justification being that the CRM software in question should never be used for something so egregiously predatory as Trick a Journalist.

By creating a product which sets apart unwanted clients from the rest of the pack, Nathan succeeded in both attracting and quarantining present and future threats to the integrity of his business.

While this model may not be practicable at face value, there’s an important lesson here: determining the lengths to which your clients will go to gain the upper hand BEFORE working for them is an important task, as your clients’ actions will reflect upon your product or services either way.

Ruthlessness in business isn’t unheard of, but you should be aware of your customers’ tendencies well in advance of signing off on their behavior.

Of course, one minor issue with Nathan’s model of operation is that, invariably, someone will connect Trick a Journalist to his brand and miss the joke entirely.

There are less risky routes to weeding out potentially problematic clients than blacklisting them via a satirical website — though one might argue such routes are less fun — but the end result is essentially the same: keeping unsavory clients out of your inbox and off of your product list.

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