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The Future Of Work Is ‘Remote.’ How You Can Build A Killer Remote Team

Think: Communication, trust and company culture as three keys to building your team.

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Each year more companies are choosing to leave the office behind and create a remote team. Trello and Github are just two examples of businesses, creating virtual offices that allow workers from all over the world to join.

For an early-stage start-up, a remote team can be especially beneficial. It drastically reduces company overhead, maintains a flexible schedule and helps recruit the best talent possible.

Remote teams are also cheaper and faster to get started and gain momentum. Even for the traditionalist company, the benefits of building a remote team are enticing.

But actually assembling that dream remote team in the first place is an art that’s still being refined. Which leads to the question: How do you build an awesome remote team?

Related: Will flexi-time isolate staff if it means working at different hours/locations?

First, familiarise yourself with three core tenets of operating a remote business: Communication, trust and culture. You’ll have to set clear standards for each of these aspects early on so your business can operate seamlessly.

1. Communication

Communication is hands-down the most important aspect to focus on here. Without consistent communication, a remote team will fall apart. Each member needs to understand his or her responsibilities and deadlines, and everyone needs to be regularly checking in with each other.

Some tips:

Communicate face-to-face

In a team environment, there’s no substitute for talking with others face-to-face. Scheduling video calls with your team – or parts of your team – is one of the best ways to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Skype and Google Hangouts are your friends here. Make face-to-face chats a regular part of the workweek.

Keep the conversation going

While video calls are important, you also need to create ongoing communication channels. Many companies use Slack to keep real-time chat going, which approximates the in-office experience. Trello is another invaluable tool to aid in project management and organisation.

Create a communication schedule

A remote team needs clear-cut rules on how communication will happen. Set aside days and time slots for meetings, and specify how other tools – like email and Slack – will be used. This will prevent an astounding number of problems from happening and will keep everyone equipped with the information they need to do their jobs.

Also consider monthly or quarterly virtual town hall meetings in which all employees can hear from the founder or senior management on company performance and other key pieces of information. This will keep teams engaged and aligned and create a sense of togetherness.

Related: Don’t Let Expansion Ruin A Great Company Culture

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2. Trust

The absence of trust will crush a remote team. All employees rely on one other, and you need workers who will be honest and motivated.

All workers should be self-driven to complete their tasks, as no one will be checking in every hour to see if they’re slacking off.

Hire the right people

To build trust in an online team, hire the right people. As Alex Turnbull wrote on the blog Groove, “A great startup employee doesn’t necessarily make a great remote startup employee.”

The traditional hiring process doesn’t work for a remote team. Discipline, drive and organisation are three vital characteristics that every remote worker should have. You won’t be able to look over your employees’ shoulders, so you need to ensure they’re capable of self-management.

Ask the right interview questions

Ask specific questions during the interview process to gauge the applicant’s work ethic and level of motivation. Look out for specific answers about how the applicant manages time and organises the workday. The ability to describe these processes will help create a more productive team.

Here are some of my favourite questions to ask a remote hire.

  • What tools and/or processes do you currently use to manage projects, personally or professionally?
  • How would you prioritise your work if your manager wasn’t available for a few days suddenly?
  • What does your work environment look like?
  • When you do great work, how do you like to have your work recognised?
  • What motivates you to want a telecommuting job?

Aside from interviewing via phone or video chat, I also highly recommend a round that is completely text based. While verbal communication is important, in remote roles the ability to explain your ideas or problems through clear, concise written communication is critical.

Of course, you can use employee management software; Hubstaff is one company that does this successfully. Still, it’s up to the workers to get things done, so a team that’s willing to hustle is key.

Related: Work Less And Live More

3. Company Culture

Remote teams need a company culture too. In fact, culture is more helpful for a remote team than it is for an office-based one. Because your workers are spread across different cities – or even countries – you’ll have to go the extra mile to unify your team and establish a group ethos.

Create a culture of work

In the words of Zapier Founder Wade Foster, “Culture is about how you work.” He argues that workers should be motivated to work because they find the work rewarding. And he’s absolutely right.

For a remote team, culture means working toward a common goal.

That’s why you need workers who are motivated and dedicated. If your team doesn’t enjoy the work, then nothing will ever get done. In other words, work needs to be fun for everyone on your team.

Strengthen relationships

Since a remote team is interdependent, you’ll need to get to know one other’s work styles. Learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and work on them as a group. Encourage workers to help others solve problems and answer their questions.

Learn to work remotely

Remember that every day, working with a remote team is a new experience. You may run into some unique problems – like how to reconcile time zones – that make you look at the team environment differently. You’ll adapt your policies, and think up new ones to account for these unexpected issues.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Iman Jalali is Chief of Staff at ContextMedia in Chicago, a healthcare technology company. Previously he served as president of TrainSignal, which was sold in 2013 to Pluralsight. He is actively investing in small businesses, tech startups and real estate across the country.

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What Would Twitter Do? Lessons On Culture From 5 Top Start-ups

How Airbnb, Twitter, Skillshare, Buffer and Squarespace create and maintain great company cultures.

Sujan Patel

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What do the world’s top start-ups all have in common? They’ve mastered the art of company culture.

Brands from all over have attempted to mimic “start-up culture” – the collaborative, fun and enriching atmosphere that makes employees want to come to work each day. But fostering a start-up culture is not as easy as it sounds, especially as your company grows.

Having a strong culture, however, is the key to success and cannot be neglected. In fact, research from the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick showed that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than the average worker. So it truly pays to have a strong company culture.

But what exactly does a strong culture look like? And more importantly, how can you build one? Follow these five tips from successful start-ups:

1. Keep employees engaged

At Airbnb, employees are kept in the loop on major company happenings and big decisions. This gives them a sense of ownership and purpose in the company, which in turn fosters engagement. According to a Gallup survey, 51 percent of the American workforce is not engaged. But having engaged employees is highly beneficial.

As Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote on Twitter, “A company’s culture is the foundation for future innovation. An entrepreneur’s job is to build the foundation.”

Engaged employees create a more positive work atmosphere. And, with happier employees, as well as increased productivity, your company will have happier customers and boost sales.

Related: To Change Your Company Culture, Change Your Conversations

2. Focus on the company’s purpose

Employees want to feel that the work that they do matters. That’s why Twitter’s purpose-driven environment works so well. Its focus is on creating a collaborative, team-oriented space that helps employees come together and see the value of what they do.

In an article on Medium, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote, “Start-ups have a unique ability to create a culture of compassion that helps us improve; and in so doing, we are more likely to make a difference in the lives of others.”

In 2014, Twitter’s employees were named by Glassdoor as the happiest in the country. Much of that happiness can be attributed to the company’s culture, where employees feel that their voices matter.

3. Be proactive

Culture doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s something that needs to be nurtured and tended. Without culture, your company will have no legs to stand on.

On his blog, Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne wrote, “There’s no right or wrong with culture, it is simply a combination of [the] natural personality of the founding team, in addition to proactive work, to push the culture in a desired direction and to maintain certain values.”

Since the beginning, Buffer has made culture a priority. At each stage of its business, it’s assessed its company culture and made changes based on the company’s growth. As your company grows, you must also scale your culture. And that will almost certainly mean that the culture for a three-person team will look very different from the culture for a 20-person team.

Related: Strong Company Culture Fattens The Bottom Line

4. Stick to your values

In essence, your culture is your people. Without great people, you can’t have a great culture. That means you need to define what you want your culture to be like from the beginning – starting with whom you hire.

In an article on Medium, Skillshare CEO Michael Karnjanaprakorn wrote, “Because the best cultures derive from actions people take, it’s imperative to define expectations around optimal behaviors, which set a foundation for a value system.”

To ensure all new employees fit in with their culture, Skillshare developed specific hiring guidelines based on its core values. This allowed the company to build a team focused on common goals so people would be able to work together successfully.

5. Show appreciation

Not every employee needs to have fancy benefits like free lunches, yoga classes and snacks – but perks like those don’t hurt, either. Squarespace offers some exciting benefits for its employees, including flexible vacations, catered meals, relaxation spaces and occasional guest lecturers. The company was even named one of the best places to work in New York City in 2013 by Crain’s New York Business.

Employees appreciate being taken care of, but that’snot the sole reason they want to work for a company. Squarespace also boasts a flat organisational structure, which means there is no hierarchy or levels of management. This creates an open space for employees to collaborate and make their voices heard as well as gain access to the company’s leadership.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How The Digital World Has Impacted HR

Here are a few ways in which HR has changed.

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Almost every conversation that happens within a business environment is around growth and how technology is changing the way we do business. With few industries left untouched, the digital world has radically changed the way individuals work, creating an even bigger demand for real-time experiences.

The HR department deals with an influx of messages and emails on a daily basis, so in order to make things easier, digital has introduced a variety of different online tools that have certainly helped set the tone for the future of organisational management. With employee cultures, engagement and productivity being a few of the most important topics circulated internally, HR has a fundamental part to play in getting existing employees to adopt a digital mindset that supports this new-age culture.

The quicker businesses take advantage of technology to manage performance, make the hiring process easier and give people access to their own personal information, the quicker it will separate traditional workplace thinking from today’s thinking.

Here are a few ways in which HR has changed:

Cloud computing and online apps

With previous admin and other HR tasks being done by hand, cloud computing has now made everything faster and simpler. Professionals now have access to the latest online tools that will help streamline processes and allow individuals instant access to their own personal information without having to ask for it. This also speeds up the process and takes a lot of extra, unnecessary work off HRs shoulders.

Related: Is Leveraging Your Resources Getting The Job Done Properly?

In the upcoming years, companies can expect cloud-based HR systems to become more automated and mobile friendly. This means that HR and management will be able to access employee payrolls, CV applications and more, with just the click of a button.

People analytics

One of the many benefits that digital has created for HR is the availability of employee data. More companies have started using online applications to monitor employee performance and company productivity. HR departments have started tracking employee behaviour and patterns through their selected app, making employee feedback easier and more efficient. If any employees have complaints, questions or queries, logging these requests online will make it easier for HR to deal with, considering the amount of content they receive, every day. This will also help them to make more effective decisions.

It’s no secret that a company’s most valuable asset is their people, and when looking to motivate employees, track employee training and individual performance or set up a training programme, then online is the way to go. By having a more holistic understanding of your people and how they’re performing, HR can better support a culture of feedback, engagement and motivation. This kind of approach will also enable employees to better align their personal goals to bigger business objectives.

Real-time feedback

Because the digital age has created the impression that things can get done quickly, in real-time, employees feel the need to give and receive feedback with an instant response. Real-time evaluation is much more effective for something that needs to change than an annual or quarterly review would be.

If new procedures, policies, meetings or activities get announced, employees can immediately give their feedback on a specific topic or outcome. This will also help you know when to make changes both within the organisation and with employees. For example, employees who don’t measure up to their KPI standards can be subjected to additional training or can be let go in favour of someone else who can come in and do the job better than they do.

Related: What Happened To The Workplace? How To Make It More Human

AI, VR and AR

Gone are the days where robots, VR and AR were simply jargon used among tech geeks. These terms have officially made it to everyday conversations, between business owners, employees and HR leaders. Virtual Reality (VR) which can be identified as a recreation of reality, is now being harnessed by companies in their training activities, as well as Augmented Reality (AR) which enhances technology. These elements are starting to become far more integrated into internal activities, helping employers engage better with employees, making activities more interactive and fun.

While many advancements have been made to the HR department and even HR management courses at colleges, there are countless others to look forward to. New tech innovations are introduced every day, creating even greater opportunities for businesses to align their goals with HR.

Professionals will need to keep up to date with the latest trends and develop their own strategies to stay within the path of progress. Much like all things digital, we all have mixed emotions when it comes to new trends but in order for companies to stay relevant, they will need to adapt their company goals to meet these challenges. Technology is only going to keep moving forward.

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A Culture Of Discipline Critical For SMMEs To Thrive

Employees are the heart and soul of every organisation, especially for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs).

Thabang Rapuleng

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Employees are the heart and soul of every organisation, especially for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs). As a result, the implementation, as well as enforcement of clear workplace policies and practices is critical to the success of these companies.

With South African Labour Law as strict as it is, we are still finding a significant number of SMMEs that do not have any formal policies and procedures, which increases the risk of these companies not complying with labour laws.

This is often as a result of SMMEs not having the necessary manpower or finances to have fully-fledged human resources (HR) departments. It can therefore be a common occurrence to find SMME owners at the helm of HR divisions.

An owner-run HR department will also not necessarily be overly familiar with labour laws. The company will often do something that is “good for business” but not advisable in terms of the law. This could lead to poor decisions being made and could be detrimental to the future of the company.

Related: 3 Steps To Find And Keep Top Talent In Your Business

Poor communication of policies and procedures is another area of concern for many SMMEs, resulting in employees often being unaware of HR policies and making them likely to infringe on these policies. New employees may also find it difficult to adapt to the business and employees could end up losing what could have been a valuable asset to a growing business.

A culture of discipline is essential

Discipline with regards to the enforcement of policies must be considered as a day-to-day management function, rather than a once-off or ad hoc event. This approach will ensure an issue is resolved before it spirals out of control.

For example, if an employee takes an extended lunch break, and the employer allows it to happen, it will send a message to other employees that this is perfectly acceptable. Employers will soon find other employees adopting a similar approach, possibly resulting in a large-scale disciplinary process. If the employer took the time and initiated a disciplinary discussion with the one employee, it would have communicated to other staff that this type of behaviour is not tolerated, avoiding a potentially bigger issue.

This is not just an issue in SMMEs. CDH often finds large corporates also struggling to maintain discipline on a day-to-day basis. In some cases, corporates tend to wait until an employee has made a significant mistake or serious act of negligence before intervening.

Record-keeping is your ally

Keeping a record of all disciplinary matters is an essential part of creating a culture of discipline in the workplace. It is critical that all verbal and written warnings are recorded and kept in the employee’s file.

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

Under South African Labour Law, an employee must always be allowed to state his/her case in all disciplinary matters, irrespective of the seriousness of the infringement.

Before the employer issues a verbal or written warning, the employer must notify the employee of his/her infringement. The employees must then be given the opportunity to state their case and if the employer is not satisfied with their explanation, the employer may then legally issue the warning.

For more serious matters, which verbal or written warnings will not solve, you must follow more formal steps, such as disciplinary hearings. However, if you maintain a culture of discipline on a daily basis, you will rarely have issues escalating to such a degree.

Correcting an overall workplace culture is far more difficult than rectifying a small incident. When an employer has to correct an entire culture that is deeply entrenched in their business, the process can be more expensive and take much longer.

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