The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

March 6, 2013

Balancing Act: Remote employees require care to feel like part of team

(Continued)

Beyond that, Condren said, he holds weekly video conference calls with his staff to help his remote workers become better team players. He also sets aside 45 minutes to an hour each week to check in with his remote workers. “It’s a little extra effort to make sure they are giving me the updates that happen casually in the office.”

Condren says adapting to a virtual workforce has allowed him to hire talent in any geographic market with the skill set he wants. And he has been able to hire them at competitive salaries.

In the current economy, such flexibility can be critical for a company looking to attract top talent. CareerBuilder’s Jennifer Grasz says the recession has created a less transient workforce, making it difficult for workers to sell their homes and relocate. “Employers are turning to remote work opportunities to navigate the skills deficit.”

Even from a distance, managers say there are ways to hone in on remote workers who are having problems. Billie Williamson managed virtual teams as a partner for Ernst & Young and would focus on the tone of someone’s voice during a group conference call. She would even listen for silences. “Silence can mean consent, or it can mean the person you’re not hearing disagrees or is disengaged.” If she sensed a team member was lacking engagement, she would follow up immediately.

It may not always be possible, but managers find bringing virtual employees to the home office a few times per year to network with co-workers and business leaders has value. “As manager, your job is to pull your team members together every once in a while, regardless of where they work,” Williamson says. She also feels that remote workers need to be coached honestly on their career opportunities; some may never advance unless they work from the headquarters.

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