It’s 2023 and over 50% of LinkedIn job searches are for fully-remote positions. But fostering authentic and productive relationships with remote employees can be a head scratcher: how do you empower new hires virtually, while giving them space to take ownership of their work, assert their autonomy, and make YOUR life easier? We all want confident, motivated, and team-oriented employees… but creating an environment where remote employees feel like confident members of the team can be a frustrating challenge for new and experienced managers alike. When helping companies build out successful remote internship programs, we focus on empowering managers with a playbook of actionable strategies, including:
- Give a killer first day: First impressions are everything! Treat day one how you would for an in-person employee: celebrate their arrival, outline the importance of their work and how it fits into the larger organization's goals, and pre-empt their nerves by taking the extra time to virtually introduce them to key team members. By integrating them into the fold immediately, you can inspire a sense of belonging, security, and accountability to their new team.
- Set clear expectations: Without the ability to connect several times a day in the office, blurry or miscommunicated expectations are the biggest pain point for remote work. The more questions you answer upfront, the fewer opportunities for mistakes, so take the time during their first week to make sure you are both on the same page about:
- Hours they’re expected to work, be online, and response times, with exact times of day when appropriate.
- Meeting cadences and expectations. We recommend all meetings default to camera-on, to help foster more genuine connections.
- How their project timelines affect the team’s timeline
- Clarify your communication channels: Your organization might use email, IMing, texting, voice memos, or carrier pigeons to communicate internally – it’s in your best interest to help new hires understand your specific communication preferences so that they do not get lost and waste time. If you prefer email for large products and Slack for quick or casual comms, articulate that upfront and model back to them the response time that you expect. For reaching MIA remote workers, we find that calling and texting are most effective in a pinch.
- Schedule regular check-ins: The number one trend we notice when speaking to successful employer-employee pairs is that a regular one-on-one meeting cadence is essential for building trust, connection, and accountability. Choose a time and day every week, and stick to it – regularly canceling or rescheduling can send the message to employees that they are deprioritized, and in the absence of in-person communication, some employees might read into the cancellation in unproductive ways. Setting the expectation that employees will be asked to report on or show their progress in-meeting helps hold them accountable, and provides a great avenue for weekly feedback.
- Encourage open communication by building trust We find that remote employees are much quicker to feel disconnected or undervalued than in-person employees. You can foster engagement by taking the extra time to make remote employees feel “seen.” Reserve some time at the top of your one-on-ones to ask them about their life and check in on their goals. Write down what you learn, and follow-up on big items when appropriate. At Ampersand, we also like to start off meetings by sharing our personal and professional “bests” - even if just for 3 minutes before diving into business.
- Be flexible where you can: Employees seek remote work because it grants them more autonomy and time. You can use this to your advantage as a manager by finding low-impact ways to compromise and show your trust, such as letting them work from different time zones (so long as they are online when expected) or completing deliverables in off-hours (so long as they come in before the deadline).
- Provide feedback: Establishing a strong remote working relationship requires constant communication and maintenance, so don’t wait for an annual review to exchange feedback.At the start, try check-in every other week during your one-on-one to exchange notes on how communication and work style fit have been progressing. Be honest, and make space for honesty.
All of our recommendations boil down to clear expectations and proactive communication, in the pursuit of employer-employee trust. While building bulletproof trust with remote new hires might take more intention and checking-in, when done right, you end up with highly autonomous and dependable employees, fueled in part by their gratitude for the time, freedom, and ownership their role provides.
Feeling daunted by the thought of onboarding your remote new hires, or banging your head against the wall trying to get your remote employee to show up for meetings? Try out our Accelerate training platform, or let our coaches work with your employees to fix the problem.