Managing The Remote Workforce: Using eLearning to Increase Productivity

Written by Jordan Bradley | Dec 7, 2015 7:13:02 PM

It’s a question that we’ll ponder more and more frequently in the second half of this decade:

How do I get the most out of my remote workforce?

Whether it’s freelancers, permanent employees working remotely or an employee who works from home once or twice a week, we need to know the answer to this question, and to solve the remote productivity issue moving forward.

Managing your employees can be difficult enough even when they’re sat at the desk across from you, so how can we, as managers, effectively manage our employees from afar? Is it doable?

The issue doesn't have a straightforward answer, and unfortunately there’s no simple ‘checklist for success’ here.

There is hope however – with the rise of eLearning, it’s certainly possible to transfer effective elements of this method of learning to remote working.

In this post I’ll explore how we can take aspects of eLearning management that work, and apply them to managing people that work remotely for greater success.

Trust

Unless they’re restricted to exam conditions, when our employees undertake learning online, we have to place a great deal of trust in them. Any individual could easily bypass the actual learning by using the Internet as a resource for the various knowledge assessments throughout.

Likewise, we can’t oversee every single task that our employees undertaking – especially when they’re working remotely! We have to trust our employees – hire employees who you feel that you can trust as people, then build trust by setting deadlines and overseeing only periodically or when absolutely necessary.

Initiative

Unlike other training and development methods, eLearning is the sole responsibility of the learner; your employees will only benefit from utilising eLearning to further their career if they use their initiative.

The same can be said for working remotely; whilst you can still manage your employees effectively from a different location, you are not able to directly supervise, motivate, probe or frequently interact with employees in the same way that you can face-to-face. There are a lot of challenges to working remotely, and you’ll have to accept that your employees may make mistakes – again, what matters is that you allow this to happen uninterrupted, and put your faith in them to learn from these mistakes.

Collaboration

You don’t just tell your employees out of the blue that you’ve allocated them an eLearning course for their own development, do you? Just like figuring out the correct training and development plan for each individual employee, managing your employees has to be collaborative – they’ll only resent you if you instruct them without asking for their input!

When you’re not personally present it can become increasingly difficult to explain the rationale behind particular projects. It’s in circumstances like these when it’s even more important to make yourself available and clearly explain any tasks that you require an employee to undertake. That’s why you must place an even greater focus on collaborating and communicating with your employees when they’re working remotely.

Don’t leave any stone unturned – don’t let motivation wane, make sure no one has any concerns, questions or lack of understanding. It’s easy to clear things up in person, but if there’s any misunderstandings when you’re all in separate locations, then that’s when big issues can arise!

Planning

You can have the best, most suitable management style possible for each employee’s remote working needs, but if you don’t plan together, it’s easy for things to go awry! Developments arise and circumstances change; you and your employees need to have a malleable plan from the onset that you have firmly agreed upon.

It’s important that you’re able to adapt this plan of course, but it’s equally vital that you actually have a structured plan to begin with. It’s simple enough to spot errors and prevent them from developing when you’re working together in the same location. Imagine what a waste of resources it would be if you’re not able to get a grasp of what your remote working employees are doing, to find out that their work isn’t to your agreed plan.

Play to their strengths

When assigning training and development opportunities, you would do so to enhance an individual’s strongest capabilities, or perhaps address their weaker abilities. When allocating work to remote working employees, you should employ a similar strategy.

Of what nature is the employee in question? If they’re extrovert and conversational, then work with them on a project that requires the involvement of external stakeholders. Are they technical and focused? Give your employees the type of tasks that suit their ability and preferences.