As the Operations Manager at RWA Solutions, one of the main challenges that I have looked to solve is how best to work effectively with a remote team based around the UK.
It is becoming more and more common for businesses to be faced with a team scattered around the country, or even the world. Team Leaders and Managers can often be faced with many problems thrown up by the physical distance between the members, such as:
- Availability of information – you cannot always contact a remote employee to ask them questions about clients
- Crossed wires – not being able to meet regularly with the team means that you can find confusion in how instructions are delivered and received
- Seeing certain individuals more than others and members feeling isolated and consequently demotivated
- Obtaining buy-in from your team to follow processes & procedures
- Obtaining buy-in from your team to follow your instructions
Ensuring the implementation of processes and procedures is very much at the top of my agenda but the remote nature of the team and how we communicate is always my top priority.
Having worked at RWA for several years, I was well placed to step into the role of Operations Manager. I have a good understanding of how the team works as individuals and what is needed to be done to bring them together as a team and facilitate a sense of unification.
To overcome the problems identified above, we have implemented different techniques and have approached the solution in several different ways:
- Weekly team conference calls – We have a set time every week where the team will dial in for one hour and talk. There is a rough agenda, but it gives the individuals a chance to talk about their week and what they are doing. It’s good to share wins and also good to discuss where things are getting stuck as we can all discuss the options together. Conference calling is a low-cost solution that every business can adopt.
- Regular face-to-face meetings increases morale and motivation. – We meet every quarter in a central location. This allows the team to report on their progress and discuss new opportunities for our clients.
- Encouraging all team members to pick up the phone to talk to their Team Leader whenever they feel under pressure or are unsure of the next steps. This ensures no one ever feels ‘alone’ and I will also pick up the phone to individuals to have a chat and see if they need anything from the Head Office by means of support.
- Reiterating the importance of them talking to each other and asking each other for help, decreases any sense of isolation but also encourages innovation through a collective thought process and ‘bouncing’ ideas around.
- Use of a hosted Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) – We have been using a CRM system for years, and it allows everyone in the team to see what is happening with clients and opportunities and allows for multiple individuals to work on the same accounts with full transparency.
Open and honest communication is the key to a successful team dynamic, whether working in close quarters or not. This ethos has been welcomed, embraced and successfully built upon by the Solutions team and not only benefits us, but also benefits our clients.
We enter a client’s premises with the sole objective of making things better, clearing any muddy waters and essentially, making their lives easier. We actively encourage open and honest communication between us and our clients and instil the fact that a no holds barred approach is the only way for us to deliver a high-level service. We ask our clients to accept us as a part of their team and regard us as a fundamental cog in their business wheel.
Communication builds and maintains productive relationships within all aspects of ‘team’ and helps to build levels of trust that without communication, can seem unattainable. We ask our clients to trust us and wouldn’t expect them to do so if they felt that communication was in any way suppressed.
As the BT campaign historically said, “It’s good to talk”.