Work is no longer a place people go to. It is something they do. As more companies leverage the power of mobile technology to create flexible virtual workforces that are equipped to face the challenges of the dynamic modern business environment, managers must adapt to new virtual management philosophies.
With virtual work teams heralded to become more commonplace, virtual leadership is a necessity for successfully run organisations. For managers on the front line, it’s a case of move with the times or be left behind.
Here are the six secrets to effective virtual workforce management:
#1: Schedule regular meetings
The bigger and more mobile you become, the more important such back-to-the-floor activity is. I schedule regular meetings using the most appropriate modes of communication. Consider conference calls for general business updates, web conferencing when personally introducing new processes, and mix up training and business planning between web conferencing and face-to-face meetings.
#2: Commit to open communication
When you’re not regularly face-to-face with your team, it can be easy to let daily interaction slide, so you must always be engaged, consistent, and flexible. I always try to keep the lines of communication open by employing at least two different mediums. Provide real-time feedback, be sure to acknowledge good work, and hold back on strong criticism until your mobile team has had the time to properly adapt.
#3: Build trust
Trusting your employees to meet expectations without direct supervision is essential to becoming an effective manager of virtual workers. From day one, communicate goals and expectations clearly and effectively. Goals should reflect quantifiable end results, not process or hours spent on specific projects or tasks. Implement a results-based management program that sets and measures your established goals.
#4: Have a meeting place
Offer employees who work virtually access to a professional workplace when they require it. They need to know they can get professional services and support when required. Provide professional locations where your team can come together face-to-face for meetings with colleagues and clients, or to work on special projects.
#5: Mix your mediums
I’m a great believer in meetings that matter. That means bringing the right people together to get talking, thinking, and making key decisions. You can only do so much via any single communication channel, so the more virtual you become the more important it is to employ a combination of communication mediums. Don’t fall into the habit relying solely on email. There’s a world of video conferencing, instant chat and collaboration technology out there.
#6: Stay the course
It requires conscious effort and a high degree of commitment to adapt to a new management philosophy, so give yourself time to adjust. Trust in yourself and in the plans you have put in place. Ensure that you are continuing to manage as a virtual manager and don’t fall back into a traditional style of management when the going gets tough.
Ruth MacKay is the founder and managing director of OURTEL Solutions where she manages a 100 per cent virtual workforce. She is passionate about helping businesses gain a competitive advantage, improve profits and retain top talent through leveraging proven virtual workforce models. Ruth is also the author of the new book, The 21st Century Workforce. For more information visit