Category Archives: Jan Makela

How to Deal with Remote Staff: Managing Employees That You Can’t See

Five Keys to Get the Most Out of Your Remote Staff

By Jan Makela

How to manage remote staff, by Jan MakelaOver 43 percent of the United States workforce is comprised of remote workers, that is, remote staff. The ability to work remotely is a powerful recruiting and retention tool for many companies. In addition to those obvious benefits, the organization also enjoys lower costs by saving on office-related expenses, and a boost in productivity as employees are no longer on long commutes.  

People will consider part time work if they are afforded the flexibility of not having to come into the office, and as not every role in company requires a full time employee, it can prove a perfect arrangement for the employer and employee.

But to get the most out of your work-from-home employees, you need to have some firm guidelines in place. Here are five keys to implementing a work-from-home system and methods to best manage your remote employees.Finding ways for your people to connect is the secret sauce to having successful employees that do not come to the office. Click To Tweet

1. Set Clear Expectations

Many managers worry that remote employees won’t work hard without supervision, but studies consistently show that remote employees are more productive than their office-based counterparts. When there are productivity problems, it’s most often due to unclear expectations, not slacking off. With the following strategies, you can ensure that your expectations are crystal clear.

Properly define what success looks like in the operational context of your organization. Have a frank conversation and discuss the definition of “success” for a particular project. Be sure that you and your remote staff have a shared vision. Set firm goals and identify the required outcome, and establish a timeline for specific milestones.

You should regularly check-in with your remote staff, monitor progress, and ensure that they are moving toward their goal in a timely fashion. If you’ve given clear direction on the required outcomes, you don’t have to make a personal judgement about whether someone is working hard. By investing time in the planning stage, it will pay off in productivity.

2. Relationships Matter

People are social creatures and need interaction to stay engaged. Building a good relationship with your remote employees ensures that they don’t feel isolated from the team. It also sets the foundation for good management. In a shared environment, relationship-building happens around the water cooler, in hallways, and before and after meetings. Without physical proximity, new avenues for relationship-building need to be used with remote workers.

Use instant messaging for the types of interactions you have in the hallways with office-based staff. Ask how their day is going, send a link to a helpful article or share a joke. You’re not going to just run into your remote employees, so connections require deliberate effort.

Set reminders in your calendar to make sure informal check-ins don’t get overlooked. Encourage a couple of minutes of personal chit-chat at the beginning of calls. Ask about their weekend, family or hobbies. Follow up on their comments from previous calls.

3. Be Available

Remote employees can’t stop by your desk when they need a quick answer, so it’s important that you set aside time to be available to them. Respond to messages promptly so you don’t hinder their productivity. If you can’t fully address a question right away, let them know you’re working on it.

Share your calendar. Sharing your calendar allows your remote staff to see when they have the best chance of catching you between meetings. Schedule regular check in times. Your remote staff can save their non-urgent questions for your regular meeting rather than sending multiple emails or instant messages.

Another avenue is video calls, which can build rapport by allowing colleagues to visually connect. It’s more personal than a voice on the phone or text in an email. Video calls offer another advantage—callers are more engaged and less likely to be distracted by emails or social media. Many video calling programs have polling options.

Add a personal touch by starting each meeting with a question. What method of communication do you prefer (email, IM, phone, video call)? What are your weekend plans? It’s also helpful to add a non-business touch, which will jump-start a personal connection—which has distinct business value. We learn a lot about each other visually. Create a shared picture folder. Invite team members to post an image of family or activities they have been involved in.

4. Communication

Communication takes extra effort when working remotely. To be effective, you must communicate clearly, often, and well.  When talking with someone in person, there are many subtle cues that add to the message. Facial expressions, gestures, body language, and tone of voice all help to interpret the speaker’s meaning. Those cues are often missing when communicating remotely. Be direct. Clearly state what you need and when you need it.

This reduces the need for follow up messages to clarify the request. Be warm and personable, but not overly familiar. Without non-verbal cues, jokes and casual comments can be easily misinterpreted. Share your progress. When you’re not in the same office, your colleagues don’t know what you’re working on. Let them know how projects are progressing. Share your barriers. Likewise, let your colleagues know what barriers you’re encountering and what help you need to address those barriers.

5. Connection to the Organization

You may find that remote employees lack the buy-in and engagement of those people was not as high as people who experienced some exposure to the home office. If your employee completely works from home, consider including them in home office training events and allow them to meet people that they may interact with but never see.

You may find that relationships improve and turnover of remote works decreases. Finding ways for your people to connect is the secret sauce to having successful employees that do not come to the office.

Both the employer and the employee—part or full time—can benefit from working remotely. For the employee the advantages may be obvious but employers also benefit from less overhead, increased cash flow and access to a larger talent pool. When implementing a work-from-home arrangement, it’s imperative to follow the five guidelines to best position your employee—and the company—for success.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave, for which he received the 2017 Quilly Award. Jan has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners, and professionals. For more information on Jan Makela, please visit www.StrengthBasedLeadership.net

Seven Methods to Put Management Pillars into Practice

By Jan Makela

Jan MakelaPeople management has drastically changed since earlier decades, where the corporation was king and people were just workers to serve operational efficiency. The operational model for today is mission, purpose and sustainability. Today, teams and team leaders are kings. How can you improve your team or organizational bottom line? Here are seven proven methods that will help.

1. Vision and mission: In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey wrote, “Start with the end in mind.”What is it that you want? What is in it for others to follow you? There has to be something bigger than you that others can grasp and buy in too. Why does your organization exist? It is not to make money that is a result.

Workers today want to work for organizations that can show a purpose or cause. Google’s mission, for example, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Today Google dominates 75 percent of the U.S. online search market. Workers today want to work for organizations that can show a purpose or cause. Click To Tweet

2. Goals: Everyone sets them in January. Whether it’s to lose weight or exceed your sales forecast, most people begin setting and evaluating their goals at the first of the year. And then what happens? The goals go in a drawer or hidden in an electronic file never to see the light of day until someone asks.

So put your goals on display so that the team and you can see the goals on a daily basis. Why? Out of sight means out of mind. Keep your goals in front of the people in charge of accomplishing them and ask them about their progress on a routine basis—preferably on a weekly basis. Ask them how they are doing and what can you do to make the goals easier to accomplish. Watch what your team does.

3. Expectations: Only 30 percent of employees know what is expected of them at work. Your goal is to get people to work and perform together. People will live up or down to the perception of your expectations of them. If they think you believe in their abilities and expect them to do well, they will. Remember, if people don’t know what you expect, don’t be surprised by what you get.

4. Feedback: Feedback is craved by high performers and by all employees as well. Positive feedback grows and negative feedback stifles. Catch your employees or team members doing the job right and watch when they continue. They will do more of what generates positive feedback.

5. Treat everyone fairly but not equal: The people you work with are all unique individuals, and although you need to treat each one fairly, that does not necessarily mean equally. They have different values, wants, backgrounds, skillsets, experience, and most likely are at different stages of their careers.

One size fits nobody. Great managers play chess; average managers play checkers. In checkers all of the pieces move in the same direction. In chess, all of the pieces move differently and the key to success is knowing the differences between the pieces, how each piece moves and how to create a strategy that maximizes the moves for all of them. Another key piece of the puzzle is showing your team that you genuinely care about them. They need to know you have their interest at heart, people want to know that someone at work cares about them as a person.

6. Provide tools and resources to do quality work: Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “I think I will go to work today and do a bad job.” Most people want to do quality work. Part of that is having the tools and resources to do a quality job. Ask your people what you can do to make their job easier. Reaffirm your commitment and caring to them.

If they say, “I need a new widget maker,” get it. Provide them with the resources they need to succeed. If they say they don’t need anything, your response should be—”I guess I can expect quality work.” You want to take away any and all reasons people can conjure up for failure. You only leave a path to success.

7. Celebrate success: What do organizations do when they accomplish a big thing? Well, they move on to the next “big” thing. It is important to stop and celebrate with your teams. Allow people to share the memory of what has been accomplished. Simple things like handwritten notes are important too. Write notes to your people, yes the old fashioned hand-written notes, saying thank for what they did and how their contribution lead to the overall achievement of the group. They might even post them on the wall of their work space, on their desk or possibly even on the family refrigerator!

The seven pillars can help separate your organization from the competition in your industry. If you are team leader, it can help you and your team standout within any organization. People who are working in organizations with purpose are much more likely to be promoters of their employers and managers. Not only do they come to work to do quality work, they are less likely to leave and go elsewhere for employment.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Jan has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners, and professionals. For more information on Jan Makela, please visit www.StrengthBasedLeadership.net.

Five Pillars to Success as a Manager

By Jan Makela

Why does your organization exist, and why should anyone care? Organizations exist to perform—period. Be for-profit or non-profit, they all exist to do something, make a product, or supply a service.

Today, many employers say they’re having trouble retaining their younger employees—specifically Millennials. At 82 million strong, Millennials are the workforce of the future. Studies have shown they want to work where they can make a difference and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

It’s imperative to realize that the people in your organization—especially young people—are the fuel to your long-term success, and the one person who affects that outcome more than any other is the frontline manager. Fortunately, there are five defined pillars of success that managers can rely on to help them succeed in their aim to boost employee retention.

1. Engage employees with a compelling vision of what is expected, and provide the mission to achieve that vision. Why? What’s in it for the employee to want to achieve for you? People respond when they are doing or contributing to something bigger than themselves. When national crises such as earthquakes or hurricanes occur, people are driven to volunteer not because they have to, but because they want to. Your vision and the culture you create are the reasons you exist.

Tell your people that without them doing what they do you wouldn’t achieve the results that you desire. The way employees view a job and its role in their life is evolving. Employees don’t just come to work for a paycheck. They seek a purpose, the opportunity to do what they do best every day, and to lead a life they desire for their families and themselves.

2. Make decisions based on productivity. By keeping your eye on the goal and having your people similarly focused, everyone will understand why certain decisions are made and can buy in. If disagreements occur in discussions they are welcomed because they are focused on achieving a better outcome toward the end objective. When disagreements occur, be sure to ask what the ultimate goal is.

3. Motivate every team member to take action. People are more likely to take action if they know what is expected of them. When expectations are clearly defined, employees are less likely to disappoint their manager or their peers. Employees will work together without your direction or approval when they all know what is expected and have bought into achieving the desired results. Most people are going to live up or down to their perception of the expectations of them. If your people don’t know what is expected, don’t be surprised by what you get.Employees are not going to care if the manager doesn’t care. Click To Tweet

4. Have the assertiveness to drive outcomes. Are you more concerned with the process or the outcome? Managers are in place to strive for positive outcomes. Employees may find ways to produce an outcome that the manager never thought of. Provide employees the freedom to experiment and try new ways of doing things. Keep progress results in front of the employees. If they do not see the progress they are making as a team, they will lose interest over time and productivity will wain.

When your staff see that their work is making a difference they will continue to contribute. If you avoid providing appropriate feedback on your employees’ progress, you’ll immediate notice a decline in the contributions of team members. Remember, feedback is the breakfast of champions—be generous with your thoughts and expectations.

5. Create a culture that you want. Culture impacts every aspect of how you get things done, from hiring and developing the talents of the employees to customer service. Define your desired culture and then take it from words to actions. If you don’t like the culture you currently have or the results that you are currently obtaining, you are the only person who can change it. Your actions have to mirror what you desire. Do you allow the negative behavior to go unchallenged? Realize negative behavior brings down all your good employees. Your employees are watching and if they see you doing nothing, your lack of action has sent a powerful message. You don’t care!

Employees are not going to care if the manager doesn’t care. When employees know that the manager truly cares about them as a people, they will walk through fire for the manager. When people believe the manager doesn’t care the employees will let the manager walk off a cliff. This caring gets to the heart of employee engagement.

By creating a workplace where people want to come to work instead because they have to come to work managers will see positive changes. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I think I will do a bad job today.” Help them achieve the results necessary for the organization, but in a way that each and every employee’s contribution is recognized and appreciated.

Jan Makela is an executive coach, highly-sought after speaker, and best-selling author of Cracking the Code to Success and Be the Manager People Won’t Leave. Jan has a long and successful history of working with companies to ensure quality hiring and training practices. His specialty revolves around strength-based leadership development, with a particular focus on working with senior and mid-level executives, business owners, and professionals. For more information on Jan Makela, please visit https://strengthbasedleadership.net/