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What are the best tools to manage a remote employee?

Carrie Scott's Profile

Answers

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Consulting CFO and Business Operations A..
Company: Growth Accelerator
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor, Growth Accelerator) |

Travel
Skype Video
Structured weekly meetings (however brief)

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Mutual trust and clear lines of communication and follow up are key.
Depending on the role that person plays, set parameters for core working hours, a quiet room to take conference/video calls, etc

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Management/Employee objectives.

This is a top-level add-on to Len comment, using tools to make the relationship easier via Keith's comment.

Stacy Cordier
Title: Managing Partner
Company: SSGT Partners LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Managing Partner, SSGT Partners LLC) |

In addition to tools mentioned previously, I would add instant messaging. It can be used for casual conversations that you would normally engage in "around the water cooler" which will make you both feel that you are on the same team. It will also reduce your email "clutter" by allowing quick answers for non-critical discussions.

Ivan Makarov
Title: Controller
Company: SmugMug
(Controller, SmugMug) |

Instant messaging and video teleconferencing. We've been using Google+ Hangouts with good success to envolve people in meetings and have more than telephone participation.

Fletcher Riehl
Title: Owner
Company: Consulting COO
LinkedIn Profile
(Owner, Consulting COO) |

We use a combination of a few things. 1) Google hangouts is a cheap way to have multiple remote employees in the same meeting. We use an HDMI cable to hook up a laptop to large television. Then we place a cheap Logitech camera on top of the TV so people have the perception of looking at each other. Finally, we place a microphone in the middle of the conference room so everyone can hear. Google automatically places the person talking on the main video feed.

We also use some other daily communication tools, such as Hipchat. It works a little better than gchat because it includes everyone in the chat. It's best to break out each room in Hipchat amongst different departments so chats are not too cluttered. Every employee also uses Trello, so we can track what they are working on at any given time. We set up three boards: Backlog (what you need to do), In progress (what you are currently doing) and Complete (what I just finished). It helps to break tasks into sub 10 hours so there is a steady flow. This way its easy to see if anyone is getting stuck.

Topic Expert
Malak Kazan
Title: VP, Special Projects
Company: ERI Economic Research Institute
(VP, Special Projects, ERI Economic Research Institute) |

In addition to the tools and depending on the role, have the remote employee travel to the office for a meeting or special project that will positively impact their engagement and performance outcomes. It may be once every few years or a few times a year (depends).

Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Consulting CFO and Business Operations A..
Company: Growth Accelerator
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor, Growth Accelerator) |

Echoing / restating what I'm hearing:
-Expectations and roles have to be more closely watched. Make sure objectives and resources are watched and *frequently* reviewed.
-Google+, Skype and other IM tools are like your "open door". Keep it open, and standardize as a company. There are some teething pains here (people who IM constantly, people who ignore their IMs), so it is a process of education as well.
-There is no replacement for seeing the person you're talking to (non-verbal cues, etc); Skype for 1-1, Google Hangouts, etc. Video Conf is practically free, and among many of my clients it is an *expectation*.

Fletcher, great leads on Hipchat and Trello.

Maybe someone on this thread wants to set up a Resource page?
-Chat tools.
-Video Conf tools.
-Project tools.

Great conversation people....Thanks!

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

The trend is growing --

“In a recent Accountemps survey, one-third (33 percent) of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said remote work arrangements, such as telecommuting and working from satellite offices, have increased at their companies in the last three years.” (PR Newswire 09.14.2011)

“TechCast, a virtual think tank based at George Washington University, forecasts that 30% of the employees in industrialized nations will telework 2–3 days a week by the year 2019. What’s more, they estimate the market for related products and services at $400 billion a year.” (TeleworkResearchNetwork.com / Kate Lister / May 2010)

Todays’ telecommuter uses some or all of the following tools: Laptop, VPN, Instant Messaging, OWA, On-line Meeting, SmartPhone Mobile Computing, Desktop, Remote Desktop, Collaboration/On-line Workspace, and Video Conference.

A Manager should use the same tools they would use in a traditional office to manage a remote employee. But just keep in mind of the pitfalls, and develop plans to counteract these issues -

Issue 1 – Employee Exclusion - “Employees in virtual environments may develop perceptions of exclusion or isolation due to their need to rely on technology to communicate with others; common forms of communication technology (e.g., email) do not provide a high level of information richness and can inhibit social exchange (Marshall, Michaels, & Mulki, 2007).” (Cornell University study Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues Spring 2011)

Issue 2 – Remote Responsiveness - “Some remote employees struggle when attempting to coordinate their work with their managers and other employees or when attempting to receive timely feedback.” (Cornell University study Remote Work: An Examination of Current Trends and Emerging Issues Spring 2011)
Current technology services available today are not integrated into your organization; do not include a central point to perform employee control and oversight; do not offer the ability to collaborate, i.e. forced vs. naturally occurring; and relationship development is non-existent.

If you are managing remote employees, it is the Manager's responsibility to counteract these two issues.

Jodi Ampo
Title: Freelance Writer
Company: Private
(Freelance Writer, Private) |

Managing remote employees is possible with the help of the following tools:

1. Communication and collaboration software
- This includes the Skype chat, Teamviewer as screensharing tool, and Jing project.

2. Software for time and attendance OR for measuring productivity
- This is essential for the manager and the employee to accurately keep track of the total hours of work performed. Including real time monitoring of productivity for your remote employees. Time Doctor would come in handy for this since it can track time w/o violating the privacy of the employees and provides screenshot of their computer screen esp. during work mode.

3. Project management software
- This software would help managers and their remote employees keep track of their tasks and projects on the same virtual environment. Examples of this are Basecamp, Teambox and Asana.

It's important to always do your own research despite these suggestions. Afterall, it's best to try out those that would really work for us. Goodluck!

DANIEL POIRIER
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Pro Tech International
(Chief Financial Officer, Pro Tech International) |

This is more of a management question than a technology question. The mode of communication is not as important as the quality. I use e-mail with a heavy dose of telephone, (and Skype), conversations. My most important tool, however, is the proper training of employees with a heavy dose of trust in their ability to do their job. Micro-management of remote employees is neither desirable nor achievable. Control over employee work comes from frequent, and consistent, communication of objectives as well as close monitoring of financial information derived from employee activities. I am able to monitor activity with what I consider one of the worst tools out there, Quick Books because my approach to employees is one of empowerment and not of control.

Topic Expert
Mike Caruana
Title: Director of Financial Services
Company: Diamond Resorts International
(Director of Financial Services, Diamond Resorts International) |

If your employee is a phone rep, there are several applications that allow you to track their call activity and outcomes (dispositions). Interactive Intelligence has an excellent offering called Client that the remote agent will log in to. Their other app called Supervisor allows you to see what stage (Available, At Lunch, etc…) they’re in, how many calls they’ve made/received, the duration and outcome of those calls, etc. There are also several canned reports available.

There are other applications out there as well, but just know you have options in creating a line-of-sight into your remote phone agent’s activity.

Jeannel Lee
Title: IT
Company: Bright Minds
(IT, Bright Minds) |

Time Doctor is one of the tools that could help you manage remote employees, which could help you assure that employees are working during work hours even employers and employees is not in the same building or office. Constant communication is the key in order to manage remote employees and VoIP tools are very useful like Skype. There are lots of tools online that could help you manage remote employees but depends on what you needed most. Here’s an article that could also help you know more online tools to manage remote employees.

Kritika Pandey
Title: Software Analyst
Company: SoftwareSuggest
LinkedIn Profile
(Software Analyst, SoftwareSuggest) |

Basically, for remote employees, any software or tool should be a cloud-based to manage projects, team, task, client, report, time and much more! The tool should provide you the best investment package as it gives you lot more features as compared to the other competitors. There are some best tools to manage employees they are:

1- Trello: It is a project management tool that uses cards and lists to keep you organized. Trello is not only great for distributed teams, but also for teams working from the same office.
2- Slack: Slack is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services. Slack integrates with a large number of third-party services like Google Drive.
3- Paybooks: Paybooks is web hosted Employee Management System and can be accessed from anywhere, anytime without the need of any hardware, software, or IT support.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

Haven't gotten a chance to say this in while, but:

There is NO BEST software, there is only software that works the BEST for you!

Everyone has likes and dislikes. Should a product disappear, then one might say that more people didn't like it, but there are so many reasons these days for software to disappear that even that simple logic doesn't hold true.

Kritka mentioned three softwares. I've used two, and dislike one of them. More the half the battle on whether a software is good or not is buy-in from the community that needs to use it.

No buy in, the the software isn't worth a dime.

My suggestion is to ask for suggestions (not the best, more like what are you using and why) and then spend the time to trial the software.

No trial software - go to the next potential system.

John Abraham
Title: Customer Service & Telemarketing Industr..
Company: SmartInfoReports
(Customer Service & Telemarketing Industry Analyst, SmartInfoReports) |

Managing remote employees nowadays have become very easy due to availability of technological tools like webex, R-HUB web conferencing servers, gotomeeting, gomeetnow etc. Using these tools, managers can now effectively communicate with their remote workers from anywhere anytime.

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