Managing remote workers requires a different skill set than working with traditional employees. The lack of in-person communication and oversight can make it difficult for managers to help remote employees identify and meet goals. By adjusting your approach to each worker, however, you can facilitate professional development for everyone on a dispersed team.
When you are managing remote workers, communication is crucial. Near the beginning of the employment period, schedule a video meeting with each person to discuss goals. Ask what the person wants to get out of the job, find out where he wants to grow as a professional and inquire about specific skill gaps. Identify specific goals, and then work out a plan of attack for each of your remote workers. A solid set of steps benefits both parties; it gives you a framework for monitoring progress toward each goal and helps the employee figure out where to start. Check in regularly with each worker to offer guidance and answer questions.
Training traditional employees in new skill areas happens naturally over the course of employment. Often, the training occurs gradually through casual interactions and office conversations. With remote workers, you may find it more difficult to pass on your knowledge or set up mentoring between colleagues. To help dispersed team members meet their goals, it is important to take a more direct approach to training. Suggest useful online courses, or research professional development course options at a university in the employee's city. Create video versions of in-office training seminars. Use online screen-sharing tools to set up one-on-one training sessions with other employees; doing so can also help build stronger colleague relationships. Most importantly, be proactive with your training so remote employees do not get left behind the rest of the team.
Many office workers learn new skills on the job, but people who are not in the office may be pigeonholed into a single area. To ensure remote workers have the same opportunities as in-office staff, make a point to delegate responsibilities evenly. Help workers build complementary skills by assigning tasks they do not usually handle, pairing them with another team member for guidance. Find tasks that can be effectively handled from out of the office and hand them off to the remote team members. Give each remote employee enough work to feel challenged, rather than simply assign tasks that fit within the job description. In the process, you can build trust and gauge the employee's capabilities.
In the process of managing remote workers, professional development can take a back burner to the logistics and burdens of creating a cohesive dispersed team. A proactive approach gives each team member adequate attention and training to meet his career goals.
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