Preparing to Manage Your Filipino Team Remotely

Building a team of skilled and cohesive employees can be tough, more so if you are establishing teams across various geographical regions and time zones. Remote teams are not a new concept, and many businesses today build and manage teams that work entirely outside of a central office location. In particular the Philippines has become a renowned location for establishing offshore teams and there is a recipe for success in the Philippines and for other locations too.

There have been many debates about the merits of remote work over the years, but not much information is shared about how organizations overcome the challenges of working remotely and succeed. To give you an idea and help you prepare to manage your own, here are three pointers to keep in mind.

Step 1 – Partner with the Right Recruitment Company

The right people are obviously the most vital ingredient of a successful remote working setup. You can’t simply pluck a random set of individuals, put them together, and expect to get amazing results.

Any business owner would agree that choosing the right set of people to work with is one of the biggest challenges every organization goes through. What makes acquiring and assembling a team of capable employees more difficult in a remote setting is that employers can’t actually be physically present during the entire hiring process. Moreover, with the many resumes coming your way, it’s almost impossible to filter out the good ones from the bad.

This is where a recruitment company comes into play. Partnering with a remote recruiting firm gives you an extra eye and hand. Equipped with sufficient information about your company and the profile of people you require, recruiting firms can provide you with a number of potential employees to choose from. Just make sure you partner with a recruitment agency that understands the big picture for remote teams. In particular you want to know that they understand the market in which your team will be placed. In the Philippines there are only a handful of top providers to be utilizing. However, that list becomes even smaller when you will need to factor in that the recruitment firm should have a strong understanding of international business principles in your home country too. Lastly, any recruitment consultancy you partner with should know how to advise you on a business set-up that is legal, efficient and attractive to candidates.

How will you know if you’ve enlisted the services of the right firm? Robert Half, Fortune Magazine’s Most Admired Company in 2015, recommends utilizing the services of a specialist staffing agency, particularly if you’re looking to hire a team with roles that include technical or industry specific skill-sets for your organization.

You need a staffing firm that offers specialization, industry recognition and a wide enough reach to satisfy your recruitment needs. If the agency has those four principles nailed, skilled candidates will follow.

Before joining hands with a placement agency, be sure to validate the company’s professionalism, ethics, and reliability by visiting their website, reading online reviews, doing research about their industry expertise, and calling companies that utilized their services.

Step 2 – Meet Your Team in Person

Whether it is a co-location or remote working set-up, in person interaction is valuable. Something unique definitely happens when team members are able to work in person. Thus, it is imperative for any company to strive to bring the team together, even if that means flying across the other side of the world just to make it possible for short periods of time.

Visiting your team for at least one to two weeks during the initial set-up phase is ideal. You will benefit from building rapport, gaining their trust and securing buy-in from all stakeholders about your commitment to a remote location. This should be followed up by at least a quarterly visit per year. You may wish to bring one or two key individuals with you per trip, people from your company with whom the remote team are in regular contact with. This will provide an enormous boost to your remote team, and will help them relate to you, to key people they report to or work with, and will make them feel like valuable members of a global organization. Furthermore, on a more personal and human level these interactions show that you have respect for their work, their opinions, their well-being and their desire to be included in planning sessions. This will buy you much loyalty, and save you from the curse of attrition that can creep into teams who don’t form tight bonds. Getting the team together also opens up the opportunity for your remote employees to form tighter bonds between themselves, especially if you organize teambuilding activities during your visits and reinforce culture of working closely as part of a remote team. You will receive huge bonus points if you can send top performing employees from your remote team to the head office for specialist training from time to time.

Step 3 – Put Weight on Regular Communication

We realize that there is only so much time you can spend in-person with your remote team. Therefore, maintaining a good line of open and regular communication is the key to managing remote teams whilst you are away from each other. A virtual weekly huddle can be a great way to share plans and talk about outstanding issues that may need resolving. Also invest regular time into individual conversations, ensuring every team member knows what is expected of them, what is coming up, what may be changing and so on. Evaluations and performance appraisals are extremely valuable tools for remote staff, perhaps of even more importance than what they are for co-located staff. Lastly, foster a culture of frankness and approachability. Ensure your remote team members feel empowered to reach out to you or a key member of staff when something is wrong, or if they are unsure about something. Often in the Philippines, where there is a culture of high power distance, lower ranking employees are too scared to speak with higher ranking employees about their concerns. This can lead to issues not getting addressed, and when concerns get brushed under the carpet, they boil away until breaking point, and you can end up losing staff unnecessarily.

Step 4 – Use Digital Tools to Manage Communication and Workflow Remotely

What better way to ensure that you get real-time updates from your remote team than by setting up communication and organizational tools that cater specifically to remote team management?

These digital tools will allow you to organize the team better and to keep everyone on the same page. Unlike in a co-located office where you can always round up your team for meetings or company updates, a remote working set-up requires the right communication tools to make sure everyone is pro-active and remains accountable for their work even without a physical figure standing next to them.

Some efficient communication and organizational tools to try are as follows:

Trello – This is a project management software that keeps track of any task that needs to get done. Trello boards are like road maps. If you have a project for your remote team, you can simply add it to a to-do list in the app so they can immediately work on and finish the task.

Asana – Similar to Trello. Asana is also one of the most popular project management tools that you can use to manage your remote team. You can add tasks, assign them to a team member, put a due date for those tasks, and so on.

Slack & Skype – These tools can serve as a virtual office where you and your team can engage each other for work and non-work related conversations. Think of them as your company’s group chat room: it not only lets you in on the status of each employee’s task but also build camaraderie among your team members.

Google Drive & Dropbox – Apart from acting as online data backups, these are a great way to share documents, files, spreadsheets and other vital information with the team. Both Google Drive and Dropbox are an easy, shared environment that enables organization and collaboration.

Be sure to assess any tool that can bring the entire team closer together for possible use.

Step 5 – Implement an Effective Information System

Build processes and systems that are clear and simple to follow. Avoid overly complicated systems as they can do more harm than good, explains Toptal software engineer Senad Biser. “If it ends up too complicated, it will take time that should be used for implementation and/or design,” he says.

“A simplified information system and process would be extra helpful to team members who do not have the time to learn the ins and outs of the organisation’s policies.”

Step 6 – Introduce Face-to-Face Communication

With a remote working set-up, you won’t be able to interview potential hires in person or work side by side with your team, but that doesn’t mean you should remain a voice on the other end of the phone. You have to build eye contact into the collaboration by introducing face-to-face communication.

By holding video chats or video conferencing, it becomes easier to develop strong relationships with your overseas based team.

What advice can you add to the list?