Research Triangle Business Advisors
April 2012 Newsletter
Over the past ten years many of my
clients have had issues in dealing with managing multiple company locations and
the people in them. This month's newsletter article presents an overview of the
actions we took to overcome those issues. Dealing with remote locations is a
"double-edged" sword - consistency is paramount, but getting there always
Managing Employees in Remote Locations
More and more we see it
every day – The businesses with multiple locations in our own town. We see
health clubs, restaurants, retail stores and more. For those of us who travel
we even see it across the state and the country. No business is immune to this
reality of business growth. Consulting companies, software companies,
architectural firms, engineering companies, bio-pharma companies and every
industry is facing the issue of managing multiple remote locations and the
employees in them.
Even with the many Web
based and on-line collaboration tools available, most managers find handling
remote locations extremely difficult. These managers face communications
weaknesses, trust and confidence issues, process failures, goal alignment
disconnects, and more. The following are some suggestions on how to improve your
success with managing employees in remote locations or those working from home.
Improvement Starts With You
Every company has a
unique culture that is the result of management and employee style. That
culture needs to be tuned-up to handle remote locations that are constantly
pushing to initiate a new or extended culture. To combat this tendency
executives and managers need to set the tone by doing the following:
Your employees must be motivated and working together across the company
locations. Collaboration, creativity, and sharing must flow easily across the
company. This will not happen unless, you are available when the remote people
need you; you don’t get annoyed when you get a phone call, email, or text
message; you don’t forget to return calls or follow-up; you make time to manage
the remote teams.
Good company communication is not easy in one location, it approaches being
impossible when dealing with remote locations. You don’t have the benefit of
seeing the body language, using effective feedback, or the benefit of “hearing”
the full explanation because people don’t want to type all that text in emails.
As the manager you must take the time to over communicate, make yourself
available, and be willing to communicate at a scheduled or ad hoc time.
If you don’t know the people in the remote location you don’t have a chance at
effectively managing them. Make time to build a relationship with the people.
Take them out to lunch on a regular basis. Spend a day a month (or more) in the
remote location so you can have informal talks with people. Have “round table”
discussions or conference calls where the remote employees set the agenda. And,
that agenda does not need to be all business. It should, at least occasionally,
be about their needs.
Treat all the employees the same. Be fair and consistent across all locations.
This will build trust and morale. Do everything you say you are going to do –
every time. Only commit to 10% of what you know you can do and nothing of what
you think you can do. Your reliability will show respect and get you respected.
Assign backup people for critical tasks. Making sure you have someone to fill
in if an employee quits or there are other emergencies will go a long way to
keeping operations running smoothly. For example a designer in the main office
can pick up design work for someone in a remote location.
On a periodic basis ask what is working and what is not. Allow the people in
the remote location to tell you what they think needs to be changed to improve
operations. Keep records, measure results, foster innovation and continuous
improvement. This will allow you to see what areas of the business need your
If you are considering
moving to multiple locations or if you already have multiple locations there are
several key things you need to make sure you do right. The following list is
the minimum required or must do list:
clear communication and feedback processes between the main and remote
clear reporting and accountability structures, who reports to whom for what.
that base goals for the remote locations are the same as those for the main
and document all of your processes and procedures, for your main location before
you try to go to additional locations.
performance measurement and feedback systems between the main and remote
location that are documented, clear and easy to use.
clarity with the remote management teams that they are as important as the
people in the main location, and they are part of the company – not an
your most trusted and capable people in your first remote location. Avoid hiring
an outsider to manage a remote location.
you are the senior manager you should be no less in touch with the remote
managers than the managers in the main location.
Change is Difficult
The bottom line is that
to manage one or more remote locations is a different management job than
dealing with just one office. As the manager leading a team in a remote
location, you must change the way you manage and the amount of time you spend
working with and managing the people. This article lists a lot of things that
you will probably have to change in order to be successful. Don’t try to do it
all at one time. Pick one thing from each list above and get good at it. Then
pick the next two and get good at them. And, so on……Good Luck
Cary | Raleigh | Research Triangle Park |
Greensboro | North Carolina
Contents © Copyright Research Triangle Business Advisors
( RTBA ) 2012, All rights reserved.