5 Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Virtual Employees

March 21, 2017

It is becoming increasingly common for companies to utilize mobile and remote workers. The rise of the virtual workforce has increased flexibility for both employers and workers—enabling companies to find the best candidates and supporting high worker satisfaction while reducing overhead costs such as office space.

However, in a virtual environment, it can be more challenging to accurately evaluate your team’s performance and provide useful feedback. Here are five common mistakes managers make when delivering feedback to virtual employees—keep these issues in mind when communicating with your remote workforce.

  1. Not Giving Enough Feedback

Like all employees, remote workers crave feedback because they want to advance their careers, but the lack of physical interaction with supervisors is an obstacle. If everything is business as usual, managers may feel that they don’t have any specific feedback to give their virtual employees. However, this can leave workers unsure if their work is up to company standards, whether they are truly a good fit for the position, and what other opportunities are available to them. Without feedback on their performance, how can virtual workers improve?

  1. Failing to Clearly State Expectations

Compared to onsite employees, virtual workers typically have less exposure to the day-to-day operations of their companies. As a result, they might not be as familiar with supervisors’ expectations or standard operating procedures. Managers need to ensure that employees understand their responsibilities and have access to the information and tools they need to be successful. It is increasingly common for companies to make key documents and resources available to employees through cloud-based mobile workforce management software.

  1. Providing Only Negative Feedback

It’s easy to fall into the habit of only contacting remote workers to tell them when something is wrong and needs to be fixed, or when they are falling behind on a project. Managers with virtual workers should remember to provide positive feedback to virtual employees for a job well done—and communicate proactively to avoid problems and set the entire team up for success.

  1. Neglecting the Value of Personal Relationships

It is always important for bosses to build good working relationships with their staff to promote trust and loyalty. This is more difficult with so many workers telecommuting and entire companies going virtual—but the value of strong personal relationships is even greater when you don’t have the benefit of daily face-to-face interactions. “Small talk” can help build the links between boss and worker—making it easier for both sides to offer and receive constructive feedback. Strong relationships also help avoid hostility or misunderstandings when less-than-satisfactory feedback is delivered.

  1. Applying Irrelevant Performance Metrics

Performance evaluations are not as simple when you start managing remote workers. It’s easy to start focusing solely on results, rather than a combination of results and employee behavior, because you may not be as aware of their day-to-day activities. Even as more companies deploy cloud-based time and attendance software, it remains difficult to fully evaluate the performance of virtual workers. Engaging virtual workers at the outset of the evaluation process helps ensure that they understand how their performance is measured—and how they can improve.

Frequent, unambiguous communication is critical to the successful management of remote or virtual workers. Avoiding these five common missteps can help your organization address the challenge as part of a comprehensive mobile workforce management strategy.