7 Best practices to build a successful distributed team

best practice
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Over the past few years, the working location landscape has changed. The growing remote workforce has enabled distributed workforce to emerge. From the Gallup 2022 survey, 8 out of 10 people work remotely or in hybrid mode, while only 2 out of 10 work full-time on-site 1 Distributed workforce achieves revenue growth and gains market share quicker than competitors who do not do so. However, building a distributed team can be very challenging without a proper approach and best practices in place.  AYP is a leading example of future work. We have assisted our clients in expanding to over 17 countries compliantly, we also allow our employees to work from anywhere with candidates from multiple cities and countries joining our company every month.  In this article, we'll discuss how we set goals and expectations with clear communication channels that help us all stay united and build trust in reaching the same vision while upholding a strong team culture that encourages our employees to feel connected and take ownership in various locations.

1. Clear goals, roles, and responsibilities

One of the greatest concerns in managing a distributed team will be performance measurement and evaluating all team members' contributions fairly.  Since a distributed workforce operates in various locations and could work separately in a remote work setting, evaluating employee performance without micromanaging can be challenging.  AYP will suggest setting a clear, transparent, focused, and flexible performance measurement metric system. In AYP, we practice the OKR (objective key results) setting 2 According to Harvard Business Review, instead of emphasizing the tasks delivering value, the strength of OKRs lies in de-emphasizing specific tasks.  Objectives are given by the company to provide qualitative and high-level inspirational goals. However, employees will determine the key results to measure the quantifiable outcomes, often used to measure their success in reaching the company's objectives. In such a way, employees take ownership of setting the stretch goals they want to achieve instead of being managed passively. 

2. OKR setting to build strong teams

a. Clear Goals: An objective is shared across the team in AYP so that everyone can clearly understand the common goal at the department level and contribute their key result at the individual level, regardless of our geographical location. 

b. Transparent: In AYP, we practice visible OKRs so that all employees can view each other's OKRs, including cross-department OKRs; this promotes transparency and accountability.

c. Focused: All employees, including the top management, will update the weekly progress and plans on our quarterly OKR page. With clear goals to achieve each week, all team members will concentrate on moving in the same direction. 

d. Flexible: Distributed teams can be fast-moving and unpredictable; key results are flexible to adapt according to business performance and customer demands.

Infographics-AYP-Employee-Sharing-OKR-AYP-Blog Interested to know more about how we measure performance effectively? Speak to our HR experts to learn more. Virtual collaboration tools:  Online collaboration tools must be in place to allow employees in different time zones to access information, interact, leave notes, and find documents quickly. In AYP, we are using Confluence along with Google Drive. Google Drive is a valuable tool for external sharing and storing documents in folders. On the other hand, Confluence is useful in creating pages and organizing documentation as the office's intranet:

3. Project management tool: Confluence

a. Knowledge management: It provides features like search, labels, and categories. Users can use comments and mentions to inform team members of the support needed, timeline, and schedules to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

b. Real-time collaboration: Page edits by multiple parties simultaneously are available; members can view the latest updates and receive notifications. Team members can also leave comments and assign tasks with a deadline to specific members, thus integrating project collaboration and communication.

c. Search functionality and time zone: Information can be found quickly from the search bar. Schedules and deadlines can be configured according to the user's local time. These functions are crucial for team members working apart from each other in different time zones. 

Infographics-Good-Project-Management-Tool-AYP-Blog

4. Online Communication Tool: Slack

Apart from project management tools, communication tools are essential to keep the team connected worldwide. In AYP, we use Slack as a communication platform:

a. Work-Life Segregation: We understand how important work-life balance is to our employees. If the employee is taking leave or having a public holiday in their country, they can select the "out of office" or snooze function until they resume work. Hence, we do not use WhatsApp as the primary communication tool to ensure work-life balance.

b. Easy to use: Slack is easy to set up and use, with a simple interface that allows users to quickly send messages, share files, record voice, and video messages, and share screens for presentations. 

c. Integration with other tools: Slack integrates with other tools, such as Google Drive, Trello, Zoom meetings, calendar, and Confluence. Users will receive notification of any new page edits from Confluence and get the Zoom meeting links according to the calendar reminder without logging in to Zoom to streamline the working process. 

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5. Lead with flexibility

Working from home or even work from anywhere job description advertising headlines have gained substantial traction in recent years. One example is Airbnb's announcement about working from anywhere, including other countries, which led the company's career page to be viewed more than 800,000 times after the announcement 3 According to a pulse survey in 2022, with 10,646 knowledge workers across 6 countries, 94% want more flexibility in "when" compared to 80% in "where" they work 4. In AYP, apart from the flexible work culture of letting employees work from anywhere during their WFH days, we encourage our employees to embrace a growth mindset and view challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement, as shared by Jolin, the Managing Director of AYP.  Infographics-Lead-With-Flexibility-AYP-Blog Although clear expectations and goals are set, we allow our remote team members to be flexible and take ownership of how they want to achieve instead of how many work hours they have worked, promoting innovation and creativity. As shared in our approach in setting OKR earlier, they are given the autonomy to set the key results they intend to achieve by the end of each quarter.  By working out an individual 13th week plan, remote workers can stay focused on their action plan, take the initiative, become the leader of their work, and evaluate their achievements every quarter, regardless of where they are located. "Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach," Tony Robbins.

6. Fostering employee engagement 

Although AYP's employees work all over different countries, we understand a great team culture can only be complete with human interaction. Therefore, we have organized regional gatherings and team-building activities where our management team will make an effort to visit all our employees in different cities from time to time.  Regional gatherings enable face-to-face interactions, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Team building activities promote collaboration, trust, and communication among remote team members, enhancing engagement and morale.  AYP-Managemnt-Photo Distributed workforce can often feel disconnected, leading to reduced engagement and productivity. By creating opportunities for personal connections and team bonding, we can cultivate a sense of unity, improve collaboration, and ultimately boost engagement within the distributed workforce, shared Jolin.  We practice one-on-one meetings with our direct reports to let them share ideas, concerns, and feedback comfortably because we understand the challenges of managing remote teams where all members work in isolated workplaces.  We also encourage collaboration that fosters a culture of teamwork, where employees can work together, share ideas, and support each other in different brainstorming and strategy workshops, leading to increased adaptability and flexibility within the organization.

7. How to start a distributed team with legal compliance?

Hiring talents from anywhere using the same employment contract across different countries isn't a compliant way to do so. In this case, engaging an EOR (Employer of record) can help you expand confidently in a lawful way.

a. Compliance: Employment laws vary across different countries. Get legal advice and support from an EOR. Most importantly, get your full legal liabilities shared by them as your legal employer. 

b. HR Administration: Get your multinational payroll pay according to the country's payment due date and currency in real-time exchange. 

c. Flexibility: Hiring without setting up an entity in your targeted country. In such a way, your business can scale quickly and exit quickly for project-based jobs. 

d. Reduced Risk: Hiring without an entity minimizes all your possibilities of getting legal and financial penalties with the local laws. An EOR can also help minimize other risks, such as language barriers or cultural differences.

  Build a great and strong distributed workforce by consulting our Experts on how to do so! Follow us on LinkedIn to get more guides and industry updates.

References

  1. Returning to the office: The current, preferred and future state of remote work. August 2022. Gallup.
  2. Use OKRs to Set Goals for Teams, Not Individuals. December 2020. Harvard Business Review.
  3. Move over WFH, hello 'work whenever': 94% of employees want to ditch the 9-to-5 for flexible schedules, new survey says. Oct 2022. Business Insider.
  4. Future Forum Pulse Summer Snapshot. July 2022. Future Forum.
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