How To Build a Remote Team

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7 Best Practices for Building and Managing a Remote Team

While bringing most sectors to a halt, the pandemic made e-commerce an outlier. Several e-commerce companies have witnessed extraordinary growth during the last twelve months, including, Shopanova.

Along the way, we learned valuable lessons on how to build a fully functional and integrated remote team.

We had to scale up our operations on the back of increased demand for our services. We needed additional resources to help deliver those services with exceptional quality and due diligence. And, it had to be a remote team.

Why? Because (gestures in the general direction of the world).

This isn’t to suggest that remote teams are problematic. In fact, our experience has been quite the opposite.

Remote work comes with flexibility and greater freedom for employees. They are not bound by strict office hours. It benefits both employers and employees as the right team can increase efficiency while being accountable.

Which raises the question, how do you set your team up for success? How do you empower them? More importantly, how do you build the right remote team?

Based on our experience, here are seven things to keep in mind when building or managing a remote team. When things get back to normal – whatever that normalcy will be like – we may return to the old way or a hybrid module. Remote may be a thing of the past. Or it will remain with us in some form.

But no matter what we choose, we believe these seven principles will always stay with us.

1. Hire for culture, train for skill

This is the most important thing to look for. How well will they fit in with your team? Will they be colleagues you look forward to meeting? Will they bring the right vibes to your office?

Skills can be taught later. Attitudes can’t be. Don’t just read the resume. Get a read on the person. This is especially true when you are building a remote team.

2. Define your core values

A business’s culture is its most important asset. Get it right by defining your core values. It’s one of the most important things for founders to do.

It doesn’t matter much when the team is small and led by founders. But as the team expands, it’s important to have your values written down and documented.

But please don’t fill it with cliches. Don’t write a boilerplate line like ‘Growth through sustainable practices that bring synergy…’

No, this isn’t the ‘Vision’ page of your website. This is serious stuff.

Think about it this way. If you could only have three employees in your company, who would they be? What would they have in common? How would you describe them to others?

List those traits and distill them till you find your five or six core values.

3. Under-promise and over-deliver in your job description

Most companies overpromise and underdeliver. This leads to animosity between employers and employees when the actual job goes beyond what was stated in the description. Employees feel cheated and become cynics.

That’s why employers should underpromise in their job descriptions by overemphasizing the challenges of the job. Put elements of the worst-case scenario in the job description.

Now when they have to do mundane tasks or challenging projects outside their skillset, the employees will know that they had signed up for this.

Add your core values too. That becomes a cover letter for your job description.

4. The three-round interview

The first round should be just a screening of the individual. You are not looking for technical expertise or experience. No, you are trying to feel their vibe.

Ask them what they like about your culture. The primary focus here should be, ‘Do I want to invite this person for a second call?’

In round two, bring someone who will be directly overseeing that person. They will analyze the technical skills of the candidate. Also, if you involve supervisors, you get buy-in.

In the third round, let the founders or leaders interview the person. Here again, the focus should be on the ‘fit.’ Ask yourself if you can see this individual working with you for ten years.

5. Pay well

Everyone wants to put employees first until the discussion turns to compensation, but this is the acid test of your commitment. Falter here and nothing else will matter.

Employee compensation shouldn’t be seen as a cost – but as an investment. That’s what we have been doing at Shopanova. We believe that paying people well will benefit the company in the long term.

6. Familiarize people with the systems

This is extremely important when everyone’s working remotely. You need your employees to be well-versed with your systems and standard operating procedures.

This means that you will have to put special emphasis on the initial training. As we like to call it at Shopanova, have a ‘special ops team’ for onboarding.

7. Engage outside business

In a completely digital world like the one we are living in now, this will be a challenge. But find ways to have fun outside work. For starters, you could have lighthearted, open meetings. Or maybe watch a movie together.

You could also have a reward program for fun. You could encourage people to talk about their hobbies, their problems, and how they are navigating these trying times.

Your video calls shouldn’t be just about work. They should be about getting together as a team. Your employees should know that you see them as human beings and not just team members.

If you do all the above, will you have a team without disagreements? No. And that’s the point.

You don’t always have to get along. You may argue. But you will be brought together by the common goals.

What you will have is a ‘tribe state of mind. That’s where you overcome the differences and collaborate. That’s the culture you want.

A culture that will attract the right people and repel the wrong people.

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