When you became an HR manager, you might have anticipated a bustling office building where you could easily approach staff and just pop into their office or ask them to join you at lunch. With remote HR management, that’s not an option.
So, as a human resources manager, you need to be proficient at remote HR management, which is why we constructed this guide. If you want to know how to be a great HR manager for remote teams, read on. We’ll give you all the tips and tricks to ensure you can excel at your job, even as the environment changes.
Remote HR Management Challenges
The first step in solving any problem is defining what exactly the problem is! Working with a remote team in and of itself isn’t an issue. However, remote work can generate unique remote HR management problems, for employees and the HR managers trying to work with them.
Most people assume that the number one challenge for remote workers is a lack of supervision. While HR managers, and managers in general, seem to be very concerned about employee autonomy, that concern is likely misplaced. Studies show that remote workers are typically more productive despite less supervision.
So what are the real challenges to being an HR manager for a remote team? In our opinion, the major issues are social isolation, lack of information, culture in remote teams and general distractions.
It’s common for workers to feel lonely when working remotely. Office friendships are tricky to form when you’re working from your couch. Social isolation wouldn’t be detrimental for performance except that it leads to employees feeling out of touch. They may not feel like they belong to the company team anymore.
For an HR manager, that’s an ominous sign. If your remote teams don’t feel a sense of loyalty to the company or have camaraderie with their coworkers, they’re more likely to experience burnout and eventually jump ship.
Lack of Information
Working remotely can make it difficult to get information from coworkers and other managers. In an office, you might be able to drop by a coworker’s desk and casually ask for a small but vital piece of information, like a client name or product price. With remote work, every simple question requires some sort of message, and sometimes it takes a while to get a response.
Not being able to get the information you need when you need it can be frustrating for employees. It can slow down their work, which is bad news for the company as a whole.
It’s no surprise that remote employees often face more distractions than they would in an office building. Kids, pets, and suboptimal workspaces can all lead to employee frustration and poor performance.
Supporting Remote Teams
Now that you know the primary issues when dealing with remote teams, let’s look at a few solutions. By checking in with remote teams regularly, offering them a range of communication options, establishing standards, and offering support, a great HR manager will quickly minimize the problems remote workers face.
The best HR managers establish regular check-ins with their remote teams. It could be a one-on-one call daily or weekly. Or, in the case of more collaborative groupings, a daily or weekly team call would suffice.
No one wants a call like this to turn into the dreaded meeting that could have been an email. However, regular and predictable check-ins create a forum for remote employees to ask questions and ensure management hears their concerns. That way, HR managers can be proactive about any remote work issues that arise.
Offer a Range of Communication Options
It’s tempting to rely mostly on email for managing remote teams, but great HR managers know they need to provide richer forms of communication to get the most out of employees.
Video conferencing is great for small groups because everyone benefits from visual cues and hearing tone of voice. Video calls also have the benefit of feeling personal and are ideal for discussing more sensitive subjects.
The statistics show the increased level of video meetings of all types: one-to-many, one-to-one, many-to-many.
Of course, too many video conferences can quickly become a time suck. It’s a good idea, then, to have instant messaging services available as well. When a remote employee needs information fast, messaging via Slack or Microsoft Teams can facilitate faster answers which means less frustration.
Establish Norms and Standards
Once you have your various forms of communication set, it’s time to create standards and norms. If you’re doing daily check-in calls, then establish a time and an agenda so that remote workers know what to expect.
As a good HR manager, you should also set up communication expectations. For example, your company may decide that they only use email when it’s okay to receive an answer within twenty-four hours. If someone needs something faster than that, they should use the company’s preferred instant messaging service.
Norms and standards will help remote teams avoid distractions and stay focused on the work at hand.
Offering emotional support seems like a vague undertaking at times. With remote teams, HR managers do well when they provide virtual events that keep team members loyal to the company and build camaraderie.
Some companies do virtual cocktail hours or pizza parties, but you could also consider running a virtual contest. A super-savvy HR manager might even send out care packages. Those are small physical gifts that you mail to an employee’s home. Have the employee open the care package in front of the team during a video call. Unboxings like these always improve morale!
To be a great HR manager for remote teams, you need to do all the things you would have in an office, but at a distance. That can be challenging, but with technology today, it can also be exciting and rewarding.
By checking in regularly, communicating in multiple ways, setting standards, and offering support, you can ensure your team will excel, even if they’re working from home or other locations.