The Lingo Ledger

5 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

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Remote work certainly has its benefits. From increasing your recruiting pool 200,000% to decreasing turnover by 90%, offering employees the option to work remote can significantly help your bottom line.

However, managing a remote team doesn’t come without challenges. Maintaining a cohesive company culture can be tough and team members can feel isolated or disconnected from the overall company.

Although we have an HQ office in New York, Lingo Live’s workforce is spread out across the 6 different continents. Our Chief Learning Officer, Jesse Abing, recently conducted a survey and was thrilled to find that 97% of our remote team members are happy working for Lingo Live.

Here are five tips to keeping your remote team happy and connected no matter where they are.

Meet face to face…virtually

Facial expressions, tone, and body language provide important information that words just can’t express. While tools such as slack and email can keep employees up to date throughout the day, face-to-face interaction is necessary to build relationships and trust between team members and managers. Face-to-face meetings also help international employees who have difficulty with English comprehend and express themselves more fully.

Whenever possible, opt to use videoconferencing instead of calls for both one-on-one interactions and team meetings. Google Hangouts and Skype are great for smaller meetings, while Blue Jeans is perfect for large department meetings and full team trainings since it allows up to 100 members per call. Make sure to utilize screen-share functions whenever presenting slides, new software updates etc.

That being said, limit the number of meetings employees are required to attend. People love to work remote because of the flexibility it offers. Try to be as productive as possible during your meetings to avoid creating a rigid schedule for your employees.

Hold Flexible Meetings

If your team is globally dispersed, it can be difficult to find meeting times that work for everyone. Two mistakes managers make in this situation are:

  1. Requiring everyone to join at inconvenient times
  2. Excluding employees in distant time zones from meetings that are seemingly not critical for them to join

If you cannot find a time that works for your whole team, consider making the meeting optional for remote employees and recording it so they can view it at a later time. By making them aware of the meeting and providing the option for them to connect, team-members feel included and can join if they have a novel idea or strong opinion on the subject being discussed. Video recordings for those who cannot join saves you from explaining yourself whenever referencing decisions or comments made during those meetings at a later date.

Speak the Same Language…Literally

If your company’s dominant language is English, consider providing English lessons for any remote employees from non-native English speaking areas to ensure they can fully participate on the team. Yes, we know, you have a policy that you only hire people who speak English. But the supply-demand reality is that less than 10% of executives in emerging markets speak English fluently. Accept the reality that your remote employees are, by and large, not comfortable with their level of English proficiency.

While cultural diversity is a major benefit of remote work, lack of English proficiency can cause challenges for your non-English speaking team members that you may not be aware of.

English communication can be uneasy for any non-native speaker, but remote conditions such as conference calls tend to make comprehension even more difficult. Employees also do not have the same opportunities to use body language to express a point or acknowledge that they want to speak, narrowing the window of opportunity to share their opinions and ideas. They may come off as shy or disinterested when the real problem is listening comprehension and verbal English communication.

If you think this could be a concern for your team, share this free survey with employees to identify any language issues they may be facing.

Request Employee Feedback Regularly

Creating a culture where team-members feel comfortable enough to tell you about challenges they are facing is critical in the workplace. With remote teams, the need for structured feedback becomes crucial as you have less time to observe your employees at work.

Send out surveys at least once each quarter and have regularly scheduled one-on-one discussions to quickly resolve any challenges that your employees may be facing.

Professional Development

Don’t forget your remote team members when offering trainings to your employees. Conduct training sessions over Blue Jeans, create recordings for them to listen to on their own time, or provide third party trainings that can be accessed from all over the world. For non-native English speakers, the chance to take lessons and improve their language skills is a huge draw. Surveys conducted with our own students have shown that over 90% of non-native English speakers feel their lack of English proficiency is holding them back from getting promoted.

If you’re considering making language training an offering at your organization check out our guide on increasing engagement in language learning for tips on how to successfully implement a program for your employees.

As we’ve seen at Lingo Live, managing a team of remote workers is complicated, but when done well it leads to success and increased productivity for the company and very happy employees.

Originally published on LinkedIn.