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The Unseen Team

The workplace and how people do work is changing fast. Technological advancement has meant that we are seeing a shift from people who are physically located together to more ‘remote’ ways of working. The changing workforce with it’s differing needs and expectations is a key driver. More employers are adopting flexible and diverse work practices as part of attraction and retention strategies. Employers for whom this is simply ‘business as usual’ working understand the business benefits; the ability to recruit from a wider talent pool, reduced footprint in terms of physical office space.

For the manager new to this way of working this means a shift in how they lead and manage folk they see infrequently. Typically these types of workers include: Job sharers, people at remote locations, home workers, staff out on the road, night/weekend shiftworkers, virtual teams.

Common concerns that come front and centre for leaders include:

  • How do I ensure that they know what I expect of them and how they can contribute to the team’s success
  • Can I trust them to work consistently without supervision for days or weeks at a time?
  • How can I see them in action so that I can offer constructive advice and guidance to develop their skills
  • How can I be aware of any difficulties or problems they may have which are affecting their performance?
  • How do I keep them up to date with changes in the company?
  • How do I ensure that they feel part of the team and not left out of things?
  • How do I collect information to be able to carry out work reviews and appraisals?

Some tips for you to think about

  • Are there communication problems which inhibit good performance? Ask your people and follow through on agreed solutions.
  • Schedule regular catch ups by tele or video conference
  • With home workers remember to check out the health and safety issues relating to working at home
  • Remote workers who have previously been left to their own devices may feel resentful about now being ‘managed’. They may have independent ways of working and not always follow procedures.
  • Set clear expectations around outcomes. Measure them against those outcomes.
  • To be able to give balanced feedback on performance and future development you will need to spend time with them to see them in action.
  • Think about how you will discover potentially serious changes in performance, for instance attitude, which may not be reflected in work measurement outcomes. Building in 360 feedback to the review process can help you navigate this.
  • Look to bring your remote people together a few times a year; it helps them to feel more connected with each other, with their work, the company and you… their leader

Nightworkers/weekender shift workers are often the last the know about new stuff; often their managers find it difficult to schedule time to meet with them. Whilst coming in early to talk with someone at the end of their shift is one solution, it’s not ideal. You’re fresh and ready for the day ahead – they may be tired and just want to go home (I remember this from my days in the food industry; I would be there at the beginning of their shift when they were fresh and willing to spend time with me). Below are some pointers :

  • Visit them periodically so there is no feeling of their being left out
  • Avoid the temptation to use emails and voice mail simply because it is more convenient to you.
  • When something new is being launched, start with these people first so they don’t feel left out.

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