Best practices: the 13 best ways to manage external employees

An idyllic remote office is possible with excellent communication and an established trust between supervisor and staff.

The advantages and disadvantages for companies to switch to full remote staff
More companies are moving to a fully external workforce to save money and make employees happier. But there are challenges to consider.

As more companies recognize the value of external employees, those companies need to adjust management styles and navigate how they can work what works in the office, and translate this into monitoring those who work remotely. According to a special analysis of data from US Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics by Global Workplace Analytics, the external and flexible work advice bureau and FlexJobs,
the number of people telecommuting in the US increased by 159% between 2005 and 2017
.

For an old-school traditionalist employer, a primary concern for one
remote staff
is the ability to effectively monitor. Their “biggest concern,” said Kyle Ladewig, founder of Out of Office, “is that external employees will not be as productive as those in the office.”

In a remote office, however, there is less risk of losing productivity due to unexpected (and unpaid) free time, said Charlett Beasley, analyst of Workplace and Careers. There are fewer “missed workdays. When companies give their employees the space to adapt, they meet the opportunity.”

Matt Thomas, president of WorkSmart Systems, agreed to flexible working arrangements “to enable a more variable schedule as opposed to the traditional nine to five, and to increase employee productivity and help in retaining and recruiting. “

SEE: Management of external employees: a guide for managers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Give employees the best equipment and aids

“The greatest best practice is to have effective communication technology available and ready,” said Michelle Labbe, vice president of people at the all-remote Toptal. “As soon as you have the right technology, communication runs smoothly. Employees can keep in constant touch between messages and video calls between Slack and Zoom.”

Labbe warned supervisors to be wary of employees who isolate, because “A (successful) remote company is a very collaborative, over-communicative culture and if someone is not, it is a red flag.”

Give your external employees tools “to do a great job no matter where the person is,” says Lynee Luque, vice president and head of people at Envoy, a workplace technology company. “That includes providing high-quality monitors and headphones, ensuring that meetings are set up for participation regardless of the person’s location,” and that office workers have rooms for optimal collaboration between video conferencing, cameras adapted to capture the entire room, and the best experience for virtual participants. “

SEE: Slack: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

2. Have a proven, established system

Luque added: “We do not wait until it becomes a problem. It is important to constantly check in with our distributed employees and to evaluate our tools, systems and processes based on feedback. We do this through round table discussions, weekly pulse checks and a engagement survey every six months. “

Torben Christiansen, technology director, a global audio specialist at Sennheiser, agreed. “Organizations need to ensure that employees can connect seamlessly wherever they are, to concentrate on work and not on equipment. Headsets and portable conference speakerphones play an important role, as do cloud-based software so that employees can access the anywhere, anytime tools they need, “Christiansen said.

3. Encourage external employees to make contact with each other

Supervisors, Labbe said, “should link the same interests of employees from a work and social point of view,” Labbe said. although
remote
, “employees (should) make contact with each other at different levels outside the virtual workplace”, and managers should encourage this. Toptal maintains a calendar of events for the community to introduce people who live close together or have similar interests and encourages meetings, if they are not personal, via Zoom.

Almost all external supervisors interviewed have agreed. “Effectively managing external and flexible time employees starts with managers and employees on the same page for expectations and goals,” said Dania Shaheen, vice president of strategy and people operations at Kazoo.

SEE: How to protect your zoom conference line against hackers (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

4. Promote team building

“Our greatest concern with regard to the management of external employees,” said Tim Abdu, head of human resources at The Corporate Connoisseur, “continues team building and report,” and added, “we are focusing strongly on team structure and intra-departmental relationships. The best practice for managing external employees is communication. Management and staff must constantly communicate and discuss expectations and needs. Our most successful employees and managers are those who know how to communicate and how to do this effectively. ”

5. Appreciate employees and set expectations

“To create a better working environment, organizations must ensure that all employees are involved and feel valued by leadership and management,” Shaheen said.

Start with over-communication of managers, set clear expectations for external and flexible work assignments, how and when work will be completed and how their role within the team and the organization is crucial to ensuring that they are involved and enjoy their work . “It is important for managers to check in regularly with external employees to ensure that these expectations are clearly defined for employees and to ensure that employees are on track to achieve their goals,” Shaheen said.

6. Receive regular feedback from employees

Shaheed continues: “Employee feedback is one of the most under-utilized tools, but it can provide managers and HR professionals with a wealth of knowledge about what keeps their employees involved and makes their business flourish.”

SEE: Infographic: dealing with negative feedback (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

7. Set up an online office


Distance work
doesn’t work if you don’t have an online office, “said Adrienne Cooper, FitSmallBusiness.com Chief People Officer.” Our biggest tool is our online office. “Employees can” meet “and chat online.” We mainly use Slack, with Zoom for video calls and meetings. “

“You need a system that stores and shares documents so that people can work together no matter where they are and regardless of the time of day,” Cooper said. “Include external employees in our social activities. People trust each other and work better together when they know each other. Casual socializing really helps people to get to know each other personally. Schedule video lunches and coffee. Encourage our external employees to exclude from all communication during virtual meetings. ”

8. Set clear expectations, nix software for employee monitoring

“Overall, the best way to guide external employees through a results-based approach,” said Teresa Douglas, co-author of Remote Working: Secrets to Success for Employees in Distributed Teams. “Set clear expectations, give your employee a reasonable workload and schedule regular check-ins to see if they need resources to complete the job. This is how you tackle things before they become problems, without the additional costs or privacy issues surrounding
employee monitoring software

9. Be flexible with your flex workers

“The secret to success is a combination of research, experimentation, and the willingness to turn around,” Douglas emphasized. “Hiring external employees gives a company the opportunity to hire from the global talent pool, rather than being limited to employees in a certain area. With planning and a good communication plan, these employees can achieve excellent results, to the advantage of company results. ”

SEE: Avoid time-wasting meetings: 10 tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

10. Managers must be “people-people”

“The best managers in this situation are people managers,” Abdu said. “These are the managers who share empathy (s) knowledge in their subject. People managers are able to communicate effectively and understand the needs of all their employees.”

Avoid conventional ‘supervision’ and focus on completed work instead. “We tend to discourage self-monitoring, but prefer projects and tasks to be executed on time,” Abdu said. “We expect the external employee to participate in meetings on time and be an active participant and we would like to see all our employees active and involved with Slack to help their colleagues.”

11. Schedule online check-ins

In addition to keeping in touch, there are other ways in which companies monitor their external employees. “We have weekly conversations, monthly meetings and are all connected daily through Slack,” says Suburban Jungle founder and President Alison Bernstein, whose staff is completely remote. “With Slack we can have an ongoing conversation – whether it’s our latest blog post or press hit, to share our achievements, congratulate each other and more. Our monthly personal breakfast meetings are a sensational way to brainstorm, reconnect and all come together at powwow. ”

12. Set up an external entry system

For other companies there is a set program for immediately after hiring a new external employee. “Successful management of external and flex workers starts with effective on-boarding, which usually depends on expanding the culture of your organization beyond the four walls and through a screen,” said Gayle Wiley, chief people officer, Life-size (a company) for video conferencing systems)).

Wiley recommends “dumping email almost completely in the first few weeks and engaging video from the beginning to spend as much face-to-face time as possible,” arranging video meetings with key stakeholders to create a sense of promote self-sufficiency and ensuring the employee feels connected to the wider community. ”

At Lifesize, a “New Hire Buddy Program”, an established employee connects with a new one. Voluntary ‘buddies’ often make contact early, and less often over time. “These relationships go a long way toward answering organizational questions, along with serving as a contact for others in the organization.”

Clarify guidelines and ensure that flexible work agreements are based on your company values, Wiley said. “For example, when they work remotely, your employees are ‘Leading with Integrity’, as in ‘doing the right thing’ while no one else is watching. Fundamental values ​​help to set expectations regarding appropriate work behavior, along with how work becomes done.”

13. Never micromanage and be result-oriented

Focus on the quality and timeliness of the work of an external employee.

Regarding the external office culture: “In general it is best to adopt a relaxed management style, especially if the employee finishes his work on time,” says Calloway Cook, president of Illuminate Labs.

Also: “Hiring people with a high level of discipline and high internal motivation and a tendency to be driven for results,” said Stacy Caprio of Business Coach.

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