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July 15, 2020

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How to Keep Remote Teams Aligned

As the world begins to slowly reopen, many organizations are choosing to keep their employees at home. Not only do they want to keep everyone safe, but many are also finding that operations can continue and employees can stay productive while being remote. In addition to the abrupt change in work environments, organizations are also dealing with shifting priorities, changes in personnel, and budget cut to name a few. A recent example is a financial services company whose growth has stagnated, so their priorities have shifted to improving their processes, reducing costs, and creating touchless experiences for their customers.

As a result, strategic objectives are changing, project priorities are shifting, and team efforts are being realigned. Amidst this dynamic environment, it is critical that remote teams are aligned to these changing goals and priorities. Here are tactics that can help you and your team continue to stay aligned or to realign if you find you’ve gone off track.

Define/Redefine Shared Purpose and Goals 

Research shows that productivity increases by 56% when employees understand how their work contributes to company objectives. Start by defining, or redefining your team’s shared purpose and goals against overall functional, departmental, or company objectives. Be careful not to assume individual team members are clear on how their purpose and goals have shifted, even if enterprise-wide communications have been sent out.

Reinforce the team’s shift in purpose and goals through multiple communication channels. For example, document them in the team’s shared workspace (i.e. MS Teams, Trello, Sharepoint, etc.), discuss them in team meetings, and follow up individually by phone or chat to ensure understanding, remote work can mean that you have to add extra communication.

Being clear on shared purpose and goals allows remote team members to focus their energy on being productive, rather than figuring out what to do. 

Create Linkages

Knowing why a task is essential helps team members get and stay motivated to work. This also helps your team prioritize each task with an understanding of how it fits into the team’s overall shared purpose and goals. Remember to tie each task that a team member is responsible for back to the team’s goals. Most of us have a stronger sense of engagement in our work when we understand how it fits into the bigger picture, and ultimately how we contribute value to our customers. Reframing a quality analyst in customer service is ensuring customers’ access to their financial accounts in their time of need is more powerful than scoring customer service reps’ calls.

When you meet with your team, review each member’s actions and deliverables so that they have a firm understanding of what is expected of them, and by when. Reminding team members how they contribute value is an excellent way to keep them engaged, connected, and aligned.

Use Collaborative Technology 

Collaborative technology can help you and your teamwork better together and creates a feeling of togetherness even when you are apart. Platforms like MS Teams, Trello, Miro, Asana, Slack and many others can work well. They allow for a collaborative workspace and offer many ways to communicate individually, or as a group. Additionally, they allow a team’s work to be ‘visual’ during a time when much of our work has become unseen.

Communicate Often and Effectively

Clear and effective communication amongst your team is a critical component to team success. Operating in a remote environment has introduced new challenges to how, when, and with whom we communicate with and requires a more thoughtful and deliberate approach.

While there are many technology-enabled communication platforms (email, chat, etc.), relying solely on these mechanisms can limit the effectiveness of what is being communicated and may contribute to members working in isolation.

To foster engagement and partnership, incorporate face-to-face (video) communication regularly to allow team members to see each other, ask questions, and provide feedback. It is more effective to communicate complex messages or information face-to-face, where you can check for clarity and understanding. Consider adding a brief daily huddle to discuss progress on tasks, barriers, schedules, etc. to provide everyone with up-to-date information and keep everyone connected.

For simpler and less complex information, using email or chat can be effective. In these instances, confirming receipt of the information or message is important as it can be easy to overlook an email, chat, or comment in a group discussion. 

To foster creativity amongst the team, it may be useful to schedule unstructured meeting time for brainstorming and idea generation. Incorporate any new ideas, projects, or tasks into the team’s goals and ultimately in other communication channels going forward (i.e. daily huddles).

Having a frequent and open stream of communication will allow everyone to be on the same page, increase engagement, and ultimately enhance the team’s overall performance towards achieving its goals. 

Conclusion

Now that work looks different, it is essential to flow with the changing tide. The rapidly changing and dynamic environment requires teams to stay aligned to contribute value to your customers, organization, and other stakeholders. While working remotely may or may not be permanent, a clear strategy for how to keep your team aligned is necessary. 

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