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How can I trust that my virtual employees are working?

Dave’s note: For the second week, we welcome my co-author of “Get Scrappy,” Kim Shepherd, to give us her answer to the oft-repeated question:  “How can I trust that my virtual employees are working?”  You’ll recall that Kim is an expert here, managing her company of over one hundred employees around the world literally from a post office box – with every one of them, including herself, working from home in a virtual environment. Now that’s special. Here’s Kim…

By Kim Shepherd

  1. Hire passionate, entrepreneurial and highly professional people, and then step aside.

At our virtual company, the employees set the bar high on their own. Of course we have expectations and KPIs, but any slackers would soon find themselves very uncomfortable surrounded by results–oriented team.

But you can get a little piece of mind through “virtual time cards.” All our remote

beautiful young woman relax and work on laptop computer while working on laptop computer and read book at home

Virtual employees can be more productive.  It takes trusting management, good metrics, and entrepreneurial employees.

employees, for example, log their hours, and their calls are logged automatically. We can see if they’re working at 6 AM or 11 PM, and we can see chunks of time OFF in the middle of the day. But we don’t have to micromanage them. The work is getting done because they manage themselves better than a boss ever could.

  1. My employees will lose control of their time and resources.

The first thing you have to do is pull “personal empowerment” off that poster on the wall and embrace it as real. Really real. Let your employees manage their own time –– but provide tools and resources. At our firm, most of our people can work any hours they want, as long as the work gets done. We’ve made a number of time management and project tracking tools available via our CRM system.

  1. Without direct supervision, performance will suffer.

[Email readers, continue here…]  On the contrary, we monitor performance better now that we’re virtual. We have to. Clearly define KPIs and expectations, create systems to track them, and then take it up a notch: reward the strong performers.

One more thing: supervisors need first–hand experience of working virtually in order to support, motivate and coach their teams. Send the supervisors home too.

  1. I won’t be able to retain top talent.

At our virtual company, we retain almost 100% of the people we want, and we do it almost 100% virtually. We do have an annual face–to–face All Staff meeting, and team members who live near one another get together when they can. But technology makes the miles disappear. Take webinar tools: you can be face–to–face and virtual at the same time. And anything that can be in a handbook can be online.

  1. There’s no teamwork or collaboration in a virtual workforce.

Are you kidding? We do more now than when we were sticks–and–bricks. We hold weekly “dodgeball” training sessions where team members toss questions at the trainers. We’ll hold tiger team sessions to tame a particularly toothy problem. We’ve set up a “loops” system, like chat rooms for specific topics. They let us build on one another’s ideas and keep stakeholders in the . . . well, you know.

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