Managing A Virtual Staff

By Sara Fell,     Add your comments

Sara Fell, CEO of Flexjobs, offers four key principles for managing a virtual staff.

With more and more companies investing in telecommuting staff, here are some basic principles involved in successfully managing the staff.

Interview for fundamental characteristics and skill-set

From the interview process on, it’s important that I have a good sense about the person -- particularly their sense of integrity, willingness to be proactive, ability to communicate openly, attention to detail, comfort with technology, and reliability.  I would not hire someone for a virtual team if I felt they didn’t possess all of these to a high standard.

Invest your time in training and relationship-building

Take time to lay the groundwork upfront with whatever processes, software programs, etc., your team-member will be using as part of their job.  Do your best to make sure they understand and completely comfortable asking questions.  Also, welcome them to the team with enthusiasm and openness.  All of these will help get them off on the right foot… and running!

Maintain regular, friendly, respectful communication

There are two parts to this. 
1. The regularity and ease of communication is important to maintain the sense of “team.”  For us, that’s a weekly staff meeting by conference call, mixed in with other calls/ims/emails throughout the week that are answered promptly.  We also use tools to help us stay connected and in sync, such as GoToMeeting and Google Documents. 

2. The tone of communications is more important with virtual relationships, because you don’t have the ability to rely on expressions, quick hellos in the hall, or other casual office interactions.  So take the time to ask your staff about how their day is going, and make similar small “talk” when you have the chance. It’s a great way to personalize and build the working relationship, even from afar.

Value your virtual team

The old “out of site, out of mind” idea can creep in with a virtual staff, and you don’t want to let it!  Make time for communications that aren’t just task-oriented… such as brainstorming, catching up, or just saying thanks.  It’s important to cultivate collaboration, and to let them know that they are an important part of the company’s success (or failure, if appropriate). 

Sara Sutton Fell, CEO, FlexJobs

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