Managing a Mobile Workforce
Technology changes the HR Landscape faster than HR Professionals can keep up with it. Instant communication with employees has both eliminated their ability to ignore their employers after hours, and enabled them to work a more fluid workday so they can take care of everyday errands without having to take time away from work. Whether you feel it’s a positive or negative change, mobile workers have changed the way you manage your employees.
You don’t have the luxury of walking into the office and seeing your busy little subordinates working away at their computers. You don’t know what time they got to work, you don’t know what time they left, how long their lunch break was, or how many times they went to the bathroom during the day. The good news is you shouldn’t really be paying attention to those things anyway. As teleworkers become more prevalent, there are some management principles you’re going to have to do.
Performance Metrics – As an employer, you now have to do your job. What do your employees do? How much of it should they be doing, and when should they have it done? This is something you should communicate to all employees prior to their start date, and talk about on a regular basis (regardless of whether they’re telecommuting). This isn’t just to ensure that they’re performing the way they should be. It also helps you ensure you’re not overburdening your employees as you start to add new duties to their job description.
Equipment – Ensure your employees have the tools they need to perform the work you require them to do. It sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. They likely need high-speed internet and a working laptop. It would be nice if you could pay for that.
Compensation – If you’re looking for the brightest and the best, you’re going to need to compensate appropriately. With a team scattered across the globe, your compensation packages may vary. Your recruitment team will likely want to target areas that are densely populated with people who possess your desired skill-set. If you’re lucky, this will be in an area where wages are a little lower, but it’s not likely. Pay your employees competitively based on both their skillset, and location. Getting a “good deal” financially on an employee means it will be easier for someone else to scoop them up.
Checking In – Once the metrics have been put in place, you will need to follow up daily for the first week or so to ensure the employees are putting the time in, and that the metrics themselves are reasonable. This is also a great time to develop a rapport with the employee. You won’t bump into them at the water cooler, so you’ll need to put in that extra effort to ensure they feel like they’re appreciated and work for a real organization and not a faceless internet company.
Adding the Personal Touch – At some point, you need to give your telecommuting employees something tangible so they can tell their friends they actually work for people. Keep track of information like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. and make sure to send a card, flowers or gifts. As your telecommuting workforce grows, you’ll want to invest in someone to manage them specifically. Having a full-time manager to focus on just the personal side (and compensation and benefits) of your mobile staff can make all the difference in ensuring your employees feel like they’re working for a team.
At the very least, understand that the overarching theme in managing telecommuters is communication. A mobile workforce is a great way to solve a geographical shortage in skills, but it takes work. Mobile employees are NOT a cheap source of labour. You still get what you pay for, and they’re a lot more work if you expect great things from them.