In the past, discussing how to manage remote engineering teams would have been considered a futile venture. But today, with the emergence of the new world economy-cum-gig economy, it's pertinent for organizations to position themselves toward this great requirement.
Any organization that fails to prepare for this should be prepared to phase out. You don't want that to happen to you, do you?
Today, remote engineering teams are part of the new normal of the 21st century, especially during the Covid-19 outbreak and beyond. Also, this has been enhanced with the numerous technologies and platforms that thrive on creating a smooth virtual working environment for remote engineering teams. Like traditional working environments, remote teams are productive if managed effectively and efficiently. And, of course, remote engineering teams have their ups and downs.
Part of the benefit of managing remote engineering teams is that it requires less time for unproductive meetings, which can be input to work. Also, it can hire the best talents from around the world. On the other hand, remote engineering teams sometimes struggle with time management, the availability of staff, communication, and choice of platform.
How to Manage Remote Engineering Teams
The success or failure of a remote engineering team usually begins from the top. How one manages a remote engineering team would tell clearly if the team is headed toward success or appalling failure. This is why learning to manage remote engineering teams can be as important as the remote team itself. Studies by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers revealed that the percentage of remote engineering teams has surged from 13% to 74%. This surge occurred between March 2020, when people were restricted to their homes because of the Covid-19 lockdowns, and March 2021, when the lockdowns were no more. The study has also shown that various organizations opted for virtual work environments during the restrictions.
- Normalize video conferences over messages to enhance bonding
One of the biggest challenges of a remote engineering team is that you do not get to see your staff daily. A remote engineering team usually lacks the friendship among employees and the bonding from which a traditional working environment benefits. This daily casual encounter contributes to staff cohesion, making them have a sense of relationship with one another. To build such bonding in remote engineering team settings, you must prioritize communication.
It is a truism that regular communication in a remote engineering team builds bonds between employees and contributes to communication culture.
In addition, inconsistent communication among team members can lead to a lack of development and initiative and inefficient design, testing, and output.
You must remember that video conferences are more efficient than emails and text messages. This is because video conferences can communicate your staff's posture, body language, and facial expressions. They can also be interactive, giving the team members enough time and space to engage with each other. The regularization of video conferences will help you institute a culture of connectivity among your remote engineering team members joining the conference from various, if not all, parts of the globe. It enhances the idea that all the team members are working to achieve one purpose.
- Normalize Documentation for Clarity
In remote engineering teamwork, technicality is necessarily followed. This is why documentation is done regularly to prevent any room for error, especially if team members are from different time zones. If instructions and guidelines are not well recorded, errors may lead to stalling work progress. Not regularizing documentation can also result in the job going back and forth. Hence, doing work is inefficient and disruptive. This calls for the sole necessity of documentation if work progress and coordination are to be achieved.
Normalizing documentation can help you avoid misinterpretations, stalled work, loss of team members, low enthusiasm, and other negatives. In all, the presence of communication coherence and clarity can contribute to the minimization of such ills.
Documentation is a management skill necessary for all remote teams who wish to progress and achieve success. You must always look back at your documents during your work and when making crucial decisions. You can also share written instructions and information with colleagues. By doing these, whatever is meant to be resolved, will surely be resolved on time.
- Make Sure Your Scheduled Meetings Accompany Detailed Agenda
Remote team managers are careful planners. Before meetings, a coordinator should draft agenda for the meeting and keep it on time. Video conferences are usually the simplest way to connect people worldwide. However, generic video conferences are made to include team members who may not find matters discussed relevant to them. Too many meetings can deter work progress if they become too overwhelming. To solve problems such as these, team members should spend as much time as necessary to be sure that the most important matters are discussed in the meetings.
The remote team manager can also endeavor to hold timely meetings, sometimes with only remote team members concerned about matters requiring further elucidation. Meetings should be aimed at achieving efficiency. To be sure that resolutions and matters discussed in meetings are not aimless, certain follow-ups and checks and balances should be made to ensure that instructions are adhered to.
When a scheduled meeting has a detailed agenda, the meeting will run smoothly with the full participation of members and resolutions on expected outcomes. It is also important to checkmate if resolutions made in a meeting are leading to milestone achievements.
By following this principle, there would be a possibility for employees who had difficulties attending the meeting to be able to have a grasp on what was discussed in the meeting. They can also get to know about meeting resolutions and questions asked in the course of the meeting. However, suppose the meeting had no coordinated agenda or issues were discussed randomly. In that case, follow-ups or adequate checks may prove futile.
Having a detailed agenda for meetings can significantly harmonize the efficiency of meetings and employees' enthusiasm. By doing these, remote engineering teams can hold meetings to resolve issues once and for all.
Managing remote engineering teams is a serious business. Every remote engineering team manager must be prepared to trust his employees and call on them whenever possible. Detailing meetings with organized agendas in video conferences can aid cohesion, engagements, documentation, follow-ups, and checks and balances. Many teams are used to the usual physical relationships with their employees. They are also used to employees tapping them on the shoulder in the course of making inquiries.
In a remote engineering team, managers must be sensitive enough to read body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. For beginning managers, this may be strange because they work with technological devices rather than in a traditional working environment. But with time and dedication, they can get used to it.
- Clear Communication is Key to Success
While managing your remote engineering team, clear communication is a reliable key to achieving success. Due to a detailed communication organization, team members understand the nature of the job requirements and objectives. These communication tips may include, even though they are not limited to, documentation, follow-ups, and sensitivity to a worker's time. Sometimes, questions posed by engineers require answers that must come quickly, that is, within 30 seconds. It appears easier in a traditional working environment, especially if the question requires you to skim through documents for an answer.
Suppose your remote engineering team has issues to resolve. In that case, clear and pristine communication will help you to resolve them in the shortest possible time. As a manager, providing as much information as possible and establishing communication channels to resolve issues efficiently and within the shortest possible time is crucial. The same goes for planning, setting goals, and making resolutions to tech issues.
- Be Transparent
One way to achieve a cohesive remote engineering team is to be transparent in all affairs, especially in the payment of workers. Transparency is also required when documenting team processes, expectations, reviews, and checks and balances. This helps to build workers' confidence and make them committed to the objective of the job.
- Have a Reliable Working Platform
Sometimes, having a reliable working platform makes your work less stressful and tasking. As a manager, you must be able to employ a working platform that best suits the job and interests of workers. If a platform is not user-friendly or develops difficulties from time to time, work may be stalled, and work morale may depreciate. It is better to employ platforms that can easily be explained to your employees and that they will find user-friendly. As a manager, a reliable platform will save time and stress and aid documentation and the preservation of files for use anytime.
This is important because you may have employees working from different continents and time zones and may find some platforms very stressful to work with. However, generic platforms are sometimes easy to work with and can be accepted in multiple countries. In all, achieving efficiency and smooth work progress is impossible without connecting to the right tech platforms, which your employees may find easy and accommodating.
Management is one of the most important necessities in a remote engineering team. This is so because, without efficient management, everything is liable to go astray. A remote engineering team may have enthusiastic team members willing to work efficiently. However, such willingness and commitment may lose acceleration in the face of an inefficient manager who ignores important management tips. As a flock of healthy sheep requires the management of a shepherd, it is like a remote engineering team requires a progressive manager to achieve success.
This piece has outlined some tips which can be helpful to managers of remote engineering teams. Sometimes, a manager is likely to experience issues unrelated to these tips. In that regard, it is important to seek the opinion of team members or experienced managers. Some of these tips include: having a reliable platform, being transparent; understanding that clear communication is key to success; making sure your scheduled meetings accompany detailed agendas; normalizing documentation for clarity; and normalizing video conferences over messages to enhance bonding. If these tips are followed religiously, managers of remote engineering teams will be capable of building a remote team that will achieve nothing short of success.