In today's environment, you often hear the term connected. Typically, this refers to living and working in a 24/7 global world and being connected through Internet technology.And it's true; take a look around you: How many people are continually communicating through the Internet? It's the new "in" phenomenon.
For instance, more and more people of all ages have their own website or social media page such as Facebook or they create a profile on LinkedIn, all the while racing to collect a large group of friends.
As well, a whole new vocabulary has sprung up as people talk about texting, blogging and tweeting. And people seem to love to stay connected. How many times have you seen this picture: Someone walking along while vigorously typing into their BlackBerry or iPhone, oblivious to the world around them?
Yes, technology has had a significant impact on work and how we live our lives. For instance, only recently, legislation needed to be changed to prevent drivers from being distracted by talking on the telephone or texting while driving. As well, our organizations have had to prepare new human resource policies to ensure proper use of technology at work and to prevent such things as cyber-bullying.
In addition, with more and more employees working at off-site locations and/or working from home, the world of supervision is changing. In fact, supervision is becoming a dilemma for some leaders. The question is: How do you supervise and manage people who work at a distance from you? How do you supervise an employee who you can't see?
Supervising employees at a distance is certainly a dilemma for many supervisors and yet, as the leader, you are still ultimately responsible. The following tips will help you to do overcome any obstacles and allow you to achieve success in leading and managing that mobile workforce.
Screen for success -- Not every employee is well suited to being part of an off-site workforce. Employees need to be highly skilled as well as comfortable working independently. Supervisors, on the other hand, must feel comfortable overseeing a virtual team. They must be flexible, self-confident and trusting, yet be quick to interject when work milestones aren't being met. Finally, supervisors must see their workers as partners, rather than someone they must control.
Visit the worksite -- Ensure that you have a good understanding of what the worksite is all about and ensure the employee has all of the tools and technology needed to do the job. Understand what challenges the individual may face at this worksite and take this into consideration. Depending on the distance, plan for regular visits and meetings with your employees.
Work with current job descriptions -- Know what specific tasks -- including the how, when and what -- the employee needs to be undertaking. Make sure you thoroughly understand both the job and their work circumstances. Determine with the employee how this will be reported and when.
Set performance goals -- Establish three to five goals that are specific, measurable, realistic, attainable and have a specific time frame. Monitor these goals and review the accomplishments with the employee. Stay in close touch with the employee and respond quickly, should deadlines be missed.
Apply technology -- The challenge for many supervisors is that they have trouble trusting what they can't see. One of the newer technologies, Skype, used for video-conferencing, is a fantastic way to stay in touch as this allows each party to actually see each other while having their meeting and/or conversation. It's a great way to reach out and touch someone and makes the meetings more personal. In addition, there are many great project software programs available that allow you to share and stay in touch.
Set clear policies and processes -- In spite of the fact someone is working off-site, they must follow your general office requirements for document saving, storage and security as well as human resource management and customer service. Ensure that your work processes are supportive of the challenge of working off-site.
Communicate for trust -- Don't simply reserve your contact and communication for formal business meetings, use email and telephone calls to stay in close touch with your employee and develop a good working relationship. It only takes a minute to inquire about their well-being. This allows you to develop a relationship with your employee, to hear about their issues and to resolve them quickly.
Schedule group meetings -- Either on a semi-annual or quarterly basis, schedule group meetings with all of your off-site staff. This helps to develop team relationships which they can carry back to their worksite. Link your groups through Internet technology; make an extra effort to build your team.
Schedule regular employee meetings -- Working off-site can be isolating for the employee and most would welcome a weekly telephone meeting to discuss issues and challenges and/or accomplishments. This is particularly true for new employees. As the employee becomes more comfortable and you can see the accomplishments you are seeking, then biweekly meets might work well.
Evaluate and revise -- The supervisor must monitor the success of an off-site work placement to ensure that all the processes and systems are useful in helping to get the work done. Some employees have different needs, most of which can easily be accommodated. Seek feedback on how things are working and make adjustments as required.
Co-ordinating co-ordinates -- It is important that your off-site employees know how to get hold of you should an emergency arise. Therefore, be sure that all of your contact information is available.
In today's global world, technology allows employees to work anywhere, anytime and anyplace; yet, from a supervisory point of view, out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind. Let's face it, mobile workers and/or workers situated off-site are not just a trend, this is simply the new reality in a global world. There is no need for supervisors to be fearful as it isn't necessarily new skills that a supervisor has to develop, it's more the fact that extra effort needs to be expended and the right technology tools acquired to keep in touch with employees and manage them effectively.
Source: How to supervise Staff in Remote Location, eHow website, Managing the Mobile Workforce, Leading, building and sustaining Virtual Teams, David Klemons and Michael Kroth, PhD, 2010.