Odds are, if you’re reading this article, most of your workforce spends its days across multiple job sites. Whether they are builders conducting home renovations, caterers planning corporate functions or healthcare workers traveling to patient’s homes, their working hours are rarely – if ever – spent in an office.
The biggest challenge for these industries is in not only keeping your employees aligned to the overall company goals but also in making sure that everyone still feels like they’re part of the team. Rather than let physical distance obstruct your team’s productivity and success, here are a few tips for effective employee management.
- Prioritize regular communication.
Communication is the keystone by which any efficient business functions. Distance can act as a barrier to maintaining constant and clear contact with your employees. For example, trade workers generally don’t have a water cooler or ping-pong table to gather around, so it can be hard to get face time every day.
But just because your workers are out of sight, doesn’t mean that they should be out of mind. Make sure that you emphasize to your staff that you are accessible to them whenever they need to contact you. Leverage every technology at your disposal to bridge the physical gap between your office and your employees, and establish a regular routine for interaction.
Setting up regular meeting times can be invaluable for keeping up-to-date on a project as well as establishing a more interpersonal connection. Whether it’s relaying the latest updates from head office to chatting about their plans over the weekend, putting aside the time to build strong relationships is an essential ingredient to any workplace.
- Build a workplace culture.
Just because you’re not constantly surrounded by your teammates doesn’t mean that impossible to build a company culture is impossible. Rather, an organization’s culture and its mission should expand beyond the four walls of any business.
There are countless studies that show that the more positive a company’s culture is, the better it is for employers, employees, and the bottom line. According to a survey conducted by TINYpulse in 2015, the construction industry had the happiest worker. The survey found that those who were most unhappy faced unsupportive managers, a lack of tools to succeed and little opportunity for professional growth. Whether it’s setting up a group chat to find ways to solve a client challenge, identifying additional training opportunities or simply ensuring that everyone’s are always heard, there are plenty of ways to engage your team.
- Celebrate successes.
Just because most of your workforce is out at a job site, doesn’t mean that you should pass up opportunities for social interactions. Your team will appreciate the chance to make genuine connections with their co-workers to remind them that their work isn’t just about traveling from one job site to another. Rather, it’s a collection of real people working as a team towards real goals.
Consider setting up a monthly meeting that encompasses the entire company, division, or department to discuss the latest accomplishments and milestones. Additionally, take time to celebrate personal milestones, such as birthdays, anniversaries and other events. These are simple yet effective ways to bring people together to recognize individual and company successes.
- Provide kudos and criticism promptly.
It’s becoming the clear consensus that the annual performance review has become archaic and inefficient in comparison to real-time feedback. The Harvard Business Journal cites that 70 percent of multinational companies are moving toward the latter model and with good reason. With a heavy emphasis on financial rewards and punishments and their end-of-year structure, employees are held accountable for past behavior at the expense of improving current performance and grooming talent for the future, which can be detrimental to a small business long-term.
Particularly for offsite workers who are apt to move quickly from one task to another, immediate feedback is important. If your team is using a team chat application for direct or group messages, consider sending a positive note providing kudos to the individual for a job well done. On the other hand, if you’re providing constructive input, a group message will be less appropriate. In this case, a phone call or in-person meeting is probably more sufficient.
- Cross it off the list.
An essential component to employee communication is setting clear macro and micro goals and benchmarks at every level. Once long-term company goals and milestones are established, meet with your employees one-on-one to help them set individual goals that align with the whole team. These goals should be easy to understand, measurable, achievable and, perhaps most importantly, rewardable. You should also keep in mind that everybody loves a checklist with items that can actually be crossed off in the short term.
These goals and milestones shouldn’t be restricted to the context of the company’s mission. Familiarize yourself with your employee’s personal growth goals and find ways to offer specific career advancement opportunities.
Workforce management is complicated enough, and it can seem more daunting when the people you are managing work outside of the office. However, an effective business leader who establishes the right processes and tools will have a greater chance of success and respect by their employees.
Bob Drainville is the president and founder of Timesheet Mobile, a GPS-enabled time tracking, scheduling and project management technology provider that helps businesses manage their mobile workforce. Timesheet Mobile’s solutions are used by thousands of people worldwide, in industries as diverse as construction, transportation, healthcare and many others.