An ideal team in today’s context would be either fully remote or hybrid, with an appropriate proportion of remote and onsite employees. Here we deal with the question of how to manage diverse teams whether remote or hybrid.
Remote and Hybrid teams are here to stay
The advantage of fully remote teams is that you are no longer tied to a specific office. Roles that are primarily documentation-oriented, screen-based work, backend processing, writing and data management, IT support, phone or chat-based customer care, and back-office work can easily be managed remotely.
Based on your business needs, time zone, client coverage, and cost reduction targets, you could keep your remote employees in any of the locations that serve your business goals. Certain kinds of skills are easy to find in one region versus others. Similarly, certain locations may give specific language advantages. Such advantages are hard to draw in an entirely onsite work.
However, some roles cannot be done remotely. This is especially true for those requiring hands-on skills or tasks that must be done by hand or physical presence. For instance, critical positions in logistics, shipments, manufacturing, in-person training, repair, maintenance, nursing, medical, etc. have to be onsite roles or some proportion of hybrid.
Regardless of the composition of teams, a good mix of remote and hybrid teams is a new reality that is here to stay.
Remote and hybrid team management comes with challenges never seen at such a scale by managers before. Two push-pull factors determine a successful management approach when they manage diverse teams.
The first is the diversity brought by teams working at different locations, countries, or even different work modes. This challenges the goal of driving consistency.
The second is the expectation on managers to exert control on teams to ensure consistent outcomes and quality, which in turn can challenge the flexibilities brought in by diversity.
1. Diversity Push
The big challenge with a remote and hybrid team is that it creates a large spectrum of diverse preferences, work styles, languages, behaviours, and thinking patterns. Geographically distributed, culturally diverse, and linguistically different employees have been groomed for decades with different styles, thinking patterns, and ways of approaching the work.
While being good, this diversity may hamper collaborations and accountability in remote or hybrid settings. In another instance, it could create more solos among remote workers, even if they are virtually working on the same project or present in the same meeting for the exact cause.
2. Control Pull
Before the pandemic, while there was some remote work, dealing with total remote work was a territory less chartered by most managers. Psychologically, most corporate leaders drive their managers to show they are in complete control and are on top of things, especially when the projects under question are uncertain, new territory, or highly volatile. When most managers had to deal with remote work and manage diverse teams suddenly during the pandemic, they had no other known strategy than taking complete control to look good upstream. Managers did not see their employees physically. So, they developed this anxiety about potential failures or missing deadlines. Micromanagement was triggered as a coping mechanism.
However, this micromanagement is the biggest hurdle to managing a remote or hybrid workforce. Among other behaviours, the most prominent becomes when managers and leaders want their employees to do things in a specific way.
While keeping an entirely onsite team consistent and tied to a common way of doing things is feasible, it becomes utterly impossible in hybrid or fully remote settings. Collocated teams could seek feedback from each other. But in remote or hybrid settings, micromanagement brings down the productivity. Due to distances and fear of missing deadlines, several project managers take a route of full control of project deliverables.
Getting hybrid team management right
There are two critical approaches to breaking silos among remote or hybrid workers, driving a high level of collaboration, ensuring fruitful interactions, and ensuring clear-cut accountabilities among remote employees without exerting much micromanagement.
1. Acceptance of diverse styles
First, managers must recognize that all employees have different styles, thinking patterns, and approaches to the work. These styles would be more prominent and predominant when the remote workers do not see management supervision. Therefore, expecting remote team members to follow the same styles consistently could cause an adverse impact. Thus, managers must acknowledge differences in work style and leverage the relative strengths and advantages such adversity brings.
2. Drive by outcomes
Second, managers need to paint a picture of the ideal output they expect. They need to be as specific as possible. Part of that picture, they should describe their criteria for how they will evaluate those outcomes and manage diverse teams.
Once these two things are clear in employees’ minds, in most cases, they will self-evaluate their outcomes using the specified criteria before they bring the final result to the manager. This approach avoids confusion and conflicts, keeps remote and onsite employees comparably productive, and keeps the projects on track. Such accountability drives a higher level of ownership and collaboration among remote employees. The collective impact is that it reduced the need for micromanagement.
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Dr Raman K Attri is a multifaceted personality as a scientist, author, speaker, L&D leader, and artist. Awarded as one of the Brainz Global 500 leaders, Transformational Business Leader of the Year, and one of the most Admired Global Indians of the Year, he is featured in over 200 media features. An award-winning learning scientist, he specializes in the science of speed in personal and professional performance. A prolific author of 50 multi-genre books, he writes on leadership, learning, performance, and workplace learning. He is an authentic accelerated learning guru who walks the talk by earning two doctorates and over 100 international educational credentials. Permanently disabled since childhood, Dr Raman K Attri is a hallmark of positivity and inspiration. He has transformed his inability to walk into a unique expertise to teach others techniques to ‘walk faster’ in what they do. His remarkable achievements inspire others to strive for excellence in their personal and professional lives.