Effective team management in remote work settings:
A skills tracking perspective

Most organizations rely on work conducted in teams. Individual employees cannot complete some tasks alone, so using team talents makes these organizations compete effectively and efficiently as teams are found to be more flexible and responsive to the changing needs of the organization. With the uncertainties that came with COVID-19, working remotely with virtual teams has become the norm for many employers. Unlike face-to-face teams in office settings, remote teams use computer technologies that allow physically dispersed employees to work together to assigned tasks and organizational goals.

For maximum productivity, concerted effort should be made to effectively manage remote teams in order to overcome the challenges that come with working remotely. The burden of managing virtual teams is reduced when project managers adopt the skills tracking perspective.

Benefits of Working with Remote Teams

  • Increased Productivity and Work-life Balance: Most employees and employers have noted increases in productivity to be one of the benefits of working remotely. This assertion is backed by a survey conducted by Owl Labs in its Global State of Remote Work 2018 which revealed that about 76% of remote workers felt they were more productive working from home, and  91% felt it provided better work-life balance. The State of Work Productivity Report noted that about 65% of full-time employees believe that remote work can increase productivity in the workplace. With the decrease in commuting due to working remotely, the Global Workplace Analytics estimates an increase in productivity levels equal to 5 million man-hours.
  • Decrease in cost: Working with remote teams allows employers to reduce costs mostly associated with renting large office space for all employees, paying utilities, office equipment, janitorial services and other overhead expenses. Employees save on travel time and cost.
  • Hiring of top talents: Companies that work with remote teams can hire high performing teams with the requisite skills from across the globe. Geographical location and cost associated with recruitment and relocation are reduced removing the barriers to hiring top talents with requisite skill sets for team projects.

Challenges of Working with Remote Teams

  • Managing projects: Managing projects in a remote setting is undoubtedly challenging for most project managers. Without the right project management tools and skills tracking software, project managers find it challenging to form their virtual teams for project execution. They are often stressed having to meet project deadlines and targets when project teams are dispersed across multiple locations. Without the physical presence many employees struggle with reduced access to managerial supervision and communication. In complex projects, keeping track of individual and team tasks becomes problematic and more demanding.
  • Tracking employee productivity: With the flexibility of work hours for virtual teams, keeping track of individual and team tasks becomes problematic and demanding for project managers especially in complex projects. Tracking productivity and task completion for multiple remote workers as well as project-wide progress in a timely manner on a daily basis becomes an overwhelming task for project managers.
  • Technological and resource challenges: Working remotely means employees would have to create or set up a workspace with minimal resources to work from home. They would also have to learn to deal with technological challenges which otherwise would have been addressed by the technology team in a physical office setting. Poor internet network, computer breakdown and challenges in using remote working tools and software are the common challenges faced working remotely.

 Skills Tracking Perspective to Remote Team Management 

  • Put the Right Project Management Tools in place: Assembling a project management software that allows project managers to assign tasks, monitor progress and track the skills acquired by employees is the most common way to improve remote teamwork. This project management software and other remote working tools should be made accessible and easy to use by the remote team.
  • Form the Right Team: The first step to forming the right team is mapping out the skills set required to execute a project. The next is to form a team with the right skills. Most project management tools allow for the integration of skill tracking software. These automated skills tracking software can easily find the right person with the right skills in one single search. The AI powered ranking of skilled employees with full visibility of team, project and task history embedded in this software makes it easy for project managers to quickly form the right team without bias.
  • Develop Standard Operating Procedures: It is important to make clear what the team is expected to accomplish and ensure that members understand their responsibilities. Setting ground rules and expectations for the team drive productivity and success. Communicating the agreed standards of procedures (SOP) to the team to allow them to complete assigned tasks efficiently. Procedures  should be flexible enough to allow creativity in task completion and skills tracking. The team leader or manager must always show leadership to keep the team motivated.