• United States
Managing Editor, Network World Fusion

Managing large numbers of remote employees

Aug 19, 20033 mins
Data Center

* Whether you’re managing two or 200 remote workers, it can be done

In June, remote management expert Merrily Orsini said successfully managing remote employees boils down to one yardstick – results (see editorial link below). If you give your employees clear duties and deadlines and you get the results you need, it won’t be an issue of whether the staffers work in the cube next door or across the country.

The newsletter prompted a question from a reader: “I’ve just changed jobs and now have 100 people working under me in various locations across the states. A handful work from home under supervisors. How about sharing something on how to manage your team when they are located in 5 different states?”

Orsini was nice enough to address this question and provide the answers this reader, and probably many of you, are seeking. 

When you’re managing a large group of remote employees, Orsini says the first step is recognizing the importance of communication. Regularly scheduled staff meetings and standard places for information, projects and notes, such as those found in collaboration software, are key.

“You have to build into your teams communication and event times,” she says. “You treat it the same as if you were in the same place. You can have teleconference events just as easily as you can have a meeting in the office.”

However, Orsini cautions that for an effective teleconference, the maximum number of participants/attendees is eight, with six being optimum. If you need to have all 100 people in the meeting, it should be more of an informational, “Now hear this”-type meeting with little feedback from those in the audience, or the meeting could drag on forever. If you want the feedback of the entire group, such as in a brainstorming session, breaking it up into small team teleconferences is the best way to go.

After any meeting, follow-up notes should be distributed to everyone, she adds.

 In terms of establishing a unity of thought and mission throughout your staff, Orsini says it’s not difficult if you manage with that goal in mind. “If you start every communication with [your vision in mind] then you’ll start having unity of thought and purpose, and everyone in the same page, regardless of where somebody is.”

Orsini says it’s important to remember that supervising remote employees is different than managing those in your line of sight. “What you are doing is requesting that they complete something or that there are results obtained from whatever it is they’re doing,” she says. “Just having somebody sit in some place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. is different having somebody producing results.”