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How to Keep Remote Teams Motivated

January 12, 2017

In today’s corporate environment, long gone is the thinking that to increase productivity or get projects completed on time and on budget it’s necessary for workforce teams to be located under the same roof. Also long gone is the theory that to keep motivation, morale and retention rates high, micromanaging teams is usually the best route to take.

Studies have shown that remote teams can be more engaged, put in more hours and can trump collocated ones when it comes to job performance.

For example, a study from the MIT Sloan School of Management showed that “Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are collocated,” if the proper collaboration is in place. And a study by Cisco showed that 83% of employees said their ability to communicate and collaborate with co-workers was just the same and possibly even better working remotely than it was when working on-site.

Remote teams are increasingly becoming the “working wave” of the future with motivating remote workers a key discipline for IT managers and project leaders. While successfully building cohesive teams can be challenging enough when teams are in the same physical space, factor dispersed locations into the mix and you have an even greater number of management challenges.

But fear not. The tips and tools to keep remote teams engaged, happy, motivated, productive and working towards the same goal incorporate some of the basic “old school” principles of effective team management, including team building, communication and inclusiveness. Let’s take a look at some of those.

Encourage Communication Between Team Members

Tools such as Basecamp, Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts or video conferencing are very effective when it comes to keeping everyone in the loop and ensuring that everyone has a voice. Be proactive and encourage your teams to embrace these tools and use them often to interact with other team members. Fostering a sense of belonging and treating each team member as an essential part of the team, helps your teams get a better idea of exactly what you are about. With little or no sense of your business—its goals and its purpose—there is also little or no motivation.

Show Respect

You hired your teams for their knowledge and their skillset, so show them you value that. Ask their opinion, involve them in brainstorming sessions and ask what ideas they have to improve processes or solve a problem. Treating your teams with respect gains you respect as their leader—the greater the respect for you, the greater the motivation to work diligently on projects.

Provide the Necessary Infrastructure and Training

Success breeds success. Frustration leads to stress. To that end, ensure your teams have the necessary training, hardware, software and network to successfully accomplish the job. Putting the proper tools in place to help them become “winners” is a “win-win” for everyone—including your bottom line.

Recognize Achievements

Who doesn’t like a pat on the back or recognition for a job well done? Giving praise motivates team members to work harder and gives them the confidence to learn new skillsets, which makes them an even greater asset to your business. Treating them as robots who complete one project after another is a sure way to make motivation fly right out the window. If team members feel you don’t care about the work they do, then neither will they. So send an email, make a phone call or give a gift card—a small gesture on your part can make a big difference in terms of moral and motivation.

Check-In With Team Members On a Regular Basis

Provide individual team members the opportunity to check in with you, without the pressures that are often present in a group setting. If practical, set a specific time for each member to talk with you and enforce it. Regularly checking in with team members instills a sense of commitment to both you and to the project and motivates team members to get the job done. Ask them what they feel about the workflow and if it is too much or not enough and if they are receiving enough feedback. Make them feel you are right there with them and that they are not lost at sea…drifting.

Pay Well

You get what you pay for. Making team members feel undervalued by underpaying them is sure to create unhappy, disengaged and unmotivated teams. Pay according to the value team members bring to a project—for example, their skillset or certifications they may hold. Paying team members more is a small price to pay to keep top talent working for you and not against you when they jump ship to work for your competitors.

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