Are Your Management Practices Keeping Up with Technology?

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Are Your Management Practices Keeping Up with Technology?

The global mobile workforce

In a world where mobile technology offers new opportunities for working and learning, the modern office is no longer constrained by the walls of a building. Suddenly, the world is at our fingertips, anytime, anywhere. Yet, while technology propels us forward, many managers are lagging. In a world where work looks like this—

The global mobile workforce

—why are some managers still operating like this?

Manager standing over employee

Are you still wondering:

  • How can I manage my employees if I never see them?
  • How can I create a cohesive team if we’re never all together in one place?

If so, you may be lagging behind the work environment that current technologies have created.

C2 helps managers answer those questions so that they are well equipped to manage today’s mobile workforce.

How Can I Manage My Employees If I Never See Them?

Losing sight of employees can seem like loss of control, but how much control did you really have anyway? Yes, you could see that Joe was dutifully sitting at his desk every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. But how do you know he was doing any work? Maybe that productive tapping on his keyboard was an especially exciting game of solitaire, or maybe he’d just sold his old record collection on eBay.

When you can no longer measure employee productivity by time spent at their desks, you measure results achieved. This requires you to determine proactively what you want employees to do and how you’ll know that they’ve achieved the desired results.

Take the time to meet regularly with employees to discuss their tasking and priorities. Be clear about

  • What they should produce
  • When they should have it completed
  • The criteria by which their product will be evaluated

If it’s a big project, break it down into manageable steps so both you and the employee can see progress, and so you can make necessary course corrections before it’s too late.

Electronic systems like SharePoint can help you to set project milestones and monitor them regularly. You can set up a task list and have employees check off completed tasks. At a glance, you can see the progress that each employee is making. And once you can see those results, is it really all that important to see the person at his or her desk?

Focusing on results can be a bit more challenging in service-oriented jobs like Help Desks, in which employees are fielding incoming requests as opposed to creating deliverables. The types of results you’re looking for will be different, but you can still set criteria to evaluate those results. For example, you can set standards for how quickly calls should be answered and addressed.

All of this planning may seem like extra work, but it’s work you should be doing anyway. It’s just a good management practice to:

  1. Work with employees to set clear goals
  2. Follow up on their results and provide feedback

As an added benefit, this work will make performance management easier. Instead of offering vague comments about “doing a good job,” you’ll be able to offer concrete data that let employees know whether they have exceeded or fallen short of their goals. And since you will already have discussed goals and expectations, employees will already know where they stand. No uncomfortable surprises.

How Can I Create a Cohesive Team If We’re Never All Together in One Place?

Another common complaint of the virtual office space is that it’s harder to build a team when people are not collocated. Anyone who’s ever had a long-distance relationship knows that being together isn’t the only thing that bonds people. In Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong, researchers Carl Larson and Frank LaFasto identify eight principles for excellent teams, which in summary are:

  • Clear, elevating goals
  • Results-oriented structure, including clear roles and accountabilities, effective communication systems, a method for monitoring individual performance and providing feedback, and information and communication tools to support fact-based decision-making
  • Competent team members
  • Unity and commitment to the team
  • Collaborative climate based on based on honesty, openness, consistency, and respect
  • Standards of excellence
  • Principled leadership
  • External support from the organization

Notice that not one of those principles requires that team members be collocated. In fact, current technologies offer many capabilities to help people stay connected. For example, LinkedIn connects us with thousands of like-minded professionals. Skype lets us converse face-to-face with colleagues around the world.

What’s missing from the virtual office space are those chance encounters that serendipitously create results we never even considered. As the manager, you must learn to be proactive in creating collaborative encounters. You have to take the time to know what you want to achieve and then do the work to make it happen. Here are some ways that managers have successfully established and maintained virtual teams:

  • Constantly remind team members of the larger mission and their role in fulfilling it. Tie your activities to this mission to create a shared sense of responsibility.
  • Schedule regular meetings for team members to stay in touch. During these meetings, be sure to:
    -Send an agenda in advance of the meeting so team members can prepare as needed
    -Allow time for team members to share what they’re doing and request help or answers to questions
    -Inject some fun into meetings—for example, play a silly game that lets you see a different side of your coworkers. One game we’ve used successfully is Two Truths and a Lie: Each person makes three statements about himself or herself—two of the statements are true and one is a lie. The rest of the team must determine which statement is the lie. We’ve also had some fun matching baby pictures to their rightful owners
    -Allow time for the type of informal conversations that often occur while people are waiting for a meeting to start
    -Assign different roles for the meeting ahead of time to make sure everyone has a chance to contribute. Occasionally ask employees to run the meeting.
  • Use Skype or other video technology to allow team members to see each other.
  • Use and encourage team members to use messaging technology, like Microsoft Lync, to ask those quick questions that don’t require a phone call or email.
  • Show team members how they can use technologies to share their desktops so they can work together almost as if they were sitting side by side.
  • Establish goals that require employees to work together.
  • Regularly reach out to each employee to chat one-on-one and see how things are going from his/her perspective.
  • Keep the team informed of everything that’s going on in the organization, even if it doesn’t directly affect them. It will help them to feel more a part of the organization.
  • Celebrate team successes.
  • Model the behavior you want to see in your employees. Be proactive in staying in touch with them. Don’t wait for them to come to you. And use the technologies for staying in touch that you want them to use.
  • Schedule activities for your team to learn together. For example, if the organization has just launched a new initiative or a new system, your team can bond as they work together to figure it out in a way that works best for them.
  • If budgets allow, schedule in-person team events periodically so team members get to see each other.

In Summary

Change is always hard, and mobile technologies are creating major changes in organizations. By managing proactively, not only can you lead your workforce through these changes successfully, you can improve your effectiveness in leading.

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