It's an issue that we tackle time and time again on this blog, and that's because it's an important one: how do you establish a feeling of camaraderie amidst a team of employees who are rarely, if ever, in the same room with one another? And how do you reassure your team that yes, you do appreciate them as individuals and the contributions that they make to the company?
Being a field manager is no easy feat, and that's why we're here to help. Here are four ways in which you can better connect with your remote staff and help them to see that they truly are appreciated and are more than "just a number."
1. Spend Time with Them
This seems like such a no-brainer, but the best way to get to know your team is to actually spend time with them...physically...in the same room. When you first hire a new rep, make it so that their schedules allow them to spend a few days at the office. Show them around, give them a tour of the way things work. This is a great opportunity for you to show them the other side of things in real time, like when a rep phones in a complaint or request from another store, and how the head office then handles that complaint/request.
This takes all of the mystery out of what the head office does and allows them to actually see it, to see how their job impacts everyone else and to see just how important it is to keep the head office informed, and for the head office to keep them informed as well. You can even introduce them to the higher-ups so that when they get that inevitable all-important memo, they can put a face to the name that sent it to them.
2. Make Your Company's Culture Palpable
The answer is "yes," you can mold your company's culture into one of a more remote nature. And the truth is that you actually have to mold it into such because you can only have an office culture or a remote culture - not both. That's because, as is expected, people in the office will always be more informed than people in the field because information is much easier to access when you're around each other for eight hours a day, rather than having to consistently rely on either calling in to the head office or trusting that the head office will call you when they have a message to impart.
A good field management software package will minimize the disconnect, however, by keeping everyone on the same page at all times, keeping information constantly and consistently flowing between reps and their managers. This also means that you must be up-and-up on your training techniques as well. If one person isn't as confident on using the software or their mobile device as the next guy, then that person will be out of the loop, and a company is only as strong as its weakest link. Try to ensure that none of your links are weak.
3. Employ Mobile Technology
This goes hand-in-hand with point number two above. We can't say it enough: mobile technology is crucial to remaining on top and ahead of your competition. And it's not enough to just have the software package - everyone must know how to properly use it.
Digital forms, photographs, geo-mapping, all of these features are imperative to ensuring that your team can operate efficiently and productively and that their stress levels are brought down to a minimum. Everyone must be able to access all of the ongoing projects that apply to them in real time so that they know what is expected of them (reps) and what is complete or outstanding (managers) and how to handle the project going forward based on these facts.
4. Don't Hold Back
You don't want to throw a rep into the waters unprepared, but you don't want to hold back on them either. Give them a small project, complete with deadline, shortly after you hire them. And don't keep looking over their shoulder either. Give them a chance to prove that they are the rockstars you thought they were when you hired them. And if they fall short, offer them tips on how to improve going forward. If they fall short again, then maybe some re-evaluating is in order, and you can do it quickly before they move on to even bigger projects and potentially cause a disaster.
Here is where you must provide them with regular feedback and follow up on that feedback. Allow them to ask questions, and if you don't have the answers right away, let them know that you will look into it - and then look into it and get back to them with an answer. How can they be expected to fix a problem if a) they don't know that one exists, or b) they don't have the tools with which to fix it? Remember: communicate, communicate, communicate!
Do you get the feeling that your reps need a bit more tender loving care? The tips provided above should be able to get you over the communication gap that often comes from working with remote teams. See how your remote team stacks up against those of your peers by clicking below to receive our free Field Force Productivity Assessment.