The key to making any relationship work, business or otherwise, is communication. Not being clear with each other can lead to a host of misunderstandings, and those misunderstandings can quickly grow into something unmanageable.
It is especially important for teams who work remotely to have clear communication because they don't have the same opportunities that someone working in an office setting may have in that they can't just waltz into management's office whenever they feel like it to clear up an issue. They have to rely solely on the directions they are given while in the field, so it is equally important for management to be clear on those directives as it is for the team to confirm that they understand them.
Here are three ways in which teams who are working remotely can effectively communicate with each other:
1. Individual Communication
Mentioned earlier, because field reps work alone, they don't have the same opportunities that someone working in an office does, so they can't simply watch what their co-workers are doing in order to learn the task at hand; they are forced to rely on the directives they are issued while in the field.
Though, imagine if the only communication you had with your team each day was a company memo - you'd probably start to feel isolated and like what you did didn't really matter; after all, if you screw up, who's going to know? While that might sound freeing at first, it is actually a breeding ground for the kind of negative energy that can eventually lead to that rep walking out the door and finding a new job.
It is for this reason that individualized, one-on-one communication is very important. It gives the rep a voice when s/he might have otherwise felt like s/he wasn't afforded one. And you don't have to limit the topics discussed to business either - we're all human, and we should take care to remember that. It's probably more important that your discussions get a little personal once in awhile so that the rep doesn't feel like some programmed robot or "just another number" to management. When they know you care, it makes all the difference.
2. Team Communication
Office employees get to go to lunch together - or even just eat lunch together in the company cafeteria - or have that morning conversation as they all gather around the Keurig, waiting for their coffee to brew, Remote teams do not have that luxury, yet it is still just as important for team members to be able to communicate with each other - particularly because it is so much more difficult for them to do.
So how can you actually get remote employees in the same room with each other? Well, you can organize physical meet-ups, like company-sponsored lunches or drinks together after-hours, or you can jump on the digital bandwagon and organize chat sessions where everyone can join a room and either talk shop or just let off steam by engaging with each other on topics that aren't related to the job at hand. After-hours gaming sessions are great for the latter.
Allowing your team to bond with each other is one of the best ways to prevent your team members from feeling isolated and like they're lost in a sea of store locations with no one caring whether or not they come back alive, so to speak.
3. Communication at the Company Level
Field reps should always be "in on the conversation"; that is, whether a new strategy is being tested out or even if just a brand new idea is being lobbed around, letting your team in on the "secret" allows them to engage with the topic and feel more like part of a team, as opposed to just a staff member who's being ordered around by management.
Even better, reps who are up-to-date on the latest and greatest involving their company's products will feel more confident in their knowledge of those products, and that knowledge will then, in turn, be passed on down to the customer.
Is your team effectively communicating with each other? See how you fare against your peers in this area by clicking below to receive our free Field Force Productivity Assessment.