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8 Ways Remote and Traditional Management Meet in Today's Workplace

May 14, 2020 Leadership
David Roe
By David Roe

As countries around the world start looking at lifting restrictions on movement to enable people to get back to work despite the persistence of the coronavirus, enterprises are looking at ways to minimize the economic impact that consistent reduced economic activity has had on them.

While many are looking at staff reductions and downsizing business, one of the common characterizations across all businesses that is emerging is that a large number of people who used to work onsite are now working remotely and will probably continue to do so in the future. To enable that, digital transformation has become top of the C-Suite agenda with recent research from OpsRamp showing that 73% of IT operations and DevOps teams expect to either accelerate or maintain digital transformation spending through the global pandemic and into the future.

The report, titled Thriving In The New Normal, third party surveyed a total of 137 respondents on April 1, 2020. All respondents work at the IT director level or above, across IT/technology operations teams in the United States, the report adds.

Many enterprises envisage a permanent transition to remote work. Enterprises are scrambling to figure out the right tools, business processes, and security frameworks that can support the needs of remote employees.

Some of those teams will be managed remotely, and some of those teams will be managed from the workplace, or digital workplace.  No matter what happens, though, there will be a need to manage remote teams in way that has not happened before. Does this mean that traditional management techniques go out the window? While there will be some differences between the two, traditional management will stay at the heart of digital workplace. Here we explore the eight points at which remote and onsite management meet.

1. Management Effectiveness

Greg Wood is CEO of Ontario-based MASV.io. He argues that there is no fundamental difference between remote managers and workplace managers. Remote work simply removes the veneer of good management from managers who might be nice, friendly and personable, but managerially insufficient. Presence should never be confused for productivity. “In remote work and remote management, you're forced to take dedicated actions to manage, and this separates the wheat from the chaff,” he said.

High social and emotional intelligence is 100% required since you need to empathize with your employees who might be working in a tiny apartment with kids running around, or who might rather be escaping to an office to get away from issues at home. Remote work is a huge litmus for true management effectiveness.

2. Keeping Employees Accountable

Remote managers are not that different from workplace leaders, Dusan Goljic, a co-founder of DealsOnHealth, told us. Their management methods slightly differ due to the different situation they operate in. Because they are “out of sight”, remote managers have to learn how to be authoritative when their employees cannot see them. Furthermore, they must let their employees know they have somebody they can turn to. “Keeping employees accountable, motivated, and engaged is slightly different from achieving the same things in the office. That is how good communication and organization skills come in handy when it comes to managing remote teams,” he said.

Overall, there are the same rules that apply to both remote and workspace managers. However, those rules should be highlighted in the remote setting due to the physical barrier.

3. Delegating Responsibility

While remote and digital managers implement many of the same processes, a remote manager must be able to delegate and give their remote team the freedom that they require to complete their tasks without a lot of micromanaging, Angela Ash, digital marketing specialist at Belingham,Wash.-based UpFlip, said. It takes a lot of organization to do this, which is why almost all remote managers depend on a tool kit filled with organization, communication and motivation apps and software. Keeping the entire team on the same page — literally — is imperative. Additionally, the hiring process is quite different for a remote manager.

“Through work experience, documentation and perhaps a Zoom call or two, he or she must be able to spot those candidates who possess entrepreneurial traits that can be harnessed for the company's growth. A remote manager must really depend on their number 2 and the rest of their supporting team to provide the best services and products to the customer," Ash said.

4. Metric Driven

Adam Sanders is a director with Philadelphia-based Successful Release. He leads a fully remote team of 25 at Successful Release and has led large in-house teams in the past as well. He points to three differences between remote and on-site digital workplace managers.

If you can't measure it does not matter. It is very tempting to have metrics that sound good but if you can't easily measure it you have no business holding your employees accountable to it. These types of metrics are quickly ignored. When you're in a remote ;environment where it is extremely difficult to measure employee effort and time working (input metrics) you have to really heavily on output metrics. Being able to craft effective metrics, rally your team around them, and manage your team to achieve them is a skillset many traditional managers struggle with.

5. Disciplined Performance Management

Discussing and evaluating employee performance needs to be happening constantly to be effective. When you are not physically working side-by-side everyday it can become very difficult to evaluate performance and coach effectively on a regular basis. Remote managers need to be able to effectively gather feedback on their employee's performance, coach them on their opportunities, and have a strong performance management plan that spans the entire year. It is much more common on remote teams for annual reviews to be a surprise to an employee and that is typically due to a failure of the manager to manage expectations and provide accurate ongoing feedback and coaching.

6. Top Project Managers

A lot of communication happens informally from desk to desk or through hallway conversations. All these informal touchpoints are eliminated with a remote team and it has a big impact on how quickly information spreads across the team. Remote managers must rely on emails, instant messages, and meetings which all take time and planning to execute. All these little additions to your workload add up quickly and remote managers need to become very adept at project management very quickly to survive.

7. Job Description

Jacob J. Sapochnick, who runs a firm by the same name, is an attorney based in San Diego, Calif., working with entrepreneurs. He explained that the pandemic has forced his office and field workforce to switch into a remote work set up in their homes and apartments for these past few weeks.

Although remote work is not something new, as there are already 4.7 million home-based workers in the U.S. alone, the sudden shift has become a challenging hurdle not only for employees but for team leaders and managers as well. With the rise of remote managers, the question now is how do they rate against workplace managers?

A remote manager is someone who, in effect, manages a team of remote workers. His or her job entails keeping the team in check, helping increase their productivity by creating effective work systems, providing communication channels, and offering emotional support and encouragement to the team.

Meanwhile, a digital workplace manager focuses on choosing the best software and digital platforms for efficient information transfer and storage, as well as developing online policies for the business or company.

8. Purpose or Focus

Remote managers are more focused on remote working people and how to manage them efficiently, making use of whatever online platform is necessary to achieve that. While digital workplace managers are more focused on digital platforms itself, managing it, and providing the company with the best software and online social networking tools.

Adapting to Change

Eyal Feldman, co-founder and CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Stampli, an AI-based platform that streamlines the accounts payable process. Stampli is in a unique position because they are managing locations in both Israel and U.S., so how they approach remote working and learning in each country is a little different (yet they have experience with dispersed teams).

Adaptability is a critical component of leadership, Eyal Feldman, co-founder and CEO of Stampli, said. Whether you are thrown, into remote management due to a crisis like COVID-19 or your organization was built completely dispersed from the ground up, the most important job of a leader is to help your team face the challenges in front of them and work together to achieve more.

If your situation changes, you adapt to those changes and you help your team to adapt to those changes so the goals can still be achieved. People are capable of doing much more than they initially think they can and great leaders know how to get them to achieve amazing results. From this perspective, there is no difference.

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