10 Best Practices of Working With Remote Staff
The emergence of remote working has taken the business world by storm and in traditional industries like accounting and tax, it is entering the mature phase.
However, from the perspective of CPAs, when you are working for the first time with remote staff, it brings along a certain amount of ambiguity. It includes mismanaged expectations, uncertainty about tenure, work commitment which results in the process becoming a bit too challenging.
Often times I have heard my friends say, “This isn’t working out the way I had expected.” But trust me, this can be easily sorted if the following 10 practices are adapted (see below in descending order):
10. Always Interview and Test Before you Hire
There is no alternative to your own personal assessment of your staffing requirements. So you should never overlook the interview process. That is how you evaluate if a candidate fits your needs and wants. Just the way you would interview a local candidate, you can effectively interview a remote staff over a video call and know in detail about their skills, background, and experience.
9. Leverage time-zone Difference
While a number of concerns have come to me revolving just around time-zone differences, it’s very common for employees from an organization working in different time-zones. If you look at the brighter side, before you leave for the day, all you need to do is assign the task you want to be finished overnight and you will find it done when you return to work the next morning. Simply means your office was still working while you were not there.
8. Keep Overlap in Office Hours
No matter where your remote staff works from, there can always be some overlap in your working hours. You can make the best use of this time for direct communications that helps clarify the issues, answer queries and resolve roadblocks in real time.
7. Clarify the Expectations
Things always become easier when clarity is provided about what needs to be done. Clarifying what you want may also sometimes include the process of providing full information (or at least the source from where it can be accessed) and the end results. This way you are sure about the fact that you and your staff are on the same page about the task at hand.
6. Communicate in Real Time to Resolve Problems
Online chat/text messages are a seamless way of communication and resolve queries in real time. You also get immediate feedback on the subject as well. Chat keeps everything on the record and also hints at what is important.
5. Hold Regular Meetings
The meetings will, of course, be online, but that must be included in your regular schedule. It will help you review the assignments and determine whether the work has proceeded in the right direction. You can provide your tips for taking things forward in an optimized way and get the maximum efficiency from your staff.
4. Use Cloud-based Productivity and Project Management Tools
These programs are excellent tools for you to manage your firm as they provide all kind of information useful for your practice. You can keep track of ongoing, finished and upcoming tasks, what’s completed or if something needs immediate attention. Such tools also provide you with information about your staff’s productivity, be it remote or local.
3. Don’t think of it as a Short Term Solution
That really doesn’t work as well as one might think? Remote staffing as a long-term solution really addresses the problems that most CPA firms have today which is finding good and consistent staff. Having someone work with you over a longer period helps them grow, develop skills, take responsibilities and become more productive in self and firm's interest.
2. Don’t consider the Remote Staff as Easily Replaceable
As soon as an employee leaves, the process of finding a replacement in the form of job postings, resume screening and interviewing has to start all over again. Then again just finding a new person is not enough, he needs to be given sufficient training related to the firm’s practice. Still, there is a risk whether the new person will turn up to the expectations or not. Attempts to replace remote staff too involves a similar process. So if you already have a staff who is working well for you, it’s better to retain him instead of finding a replacement.
1. Treat Them Just The Way You Would Treat Your Local Staff
Just like any other staff, the remote staff is a part of your firm as well. So expecting from him that they will start working like a charm right from the word go is actually asking for too much. He will need the usual time to settle with the work environment, processes and protocols of the firm. Motivational treatment will always be helpful, so will such communication that makes them feel they are part of a team they want.
If your staff knows exactly what is expected from them, they will definitely give their best shot at the task, provided there are few initial steps from you as an employer. In the end, it is all about a remote staff working for you the way you would want him to. Therefore, the practices I have suggested here are definite solutions to almost all the major issues that you would face while working with remote staff.
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Mike is a Vice President at Entigrity Remote Staffing. He is a CPA and has 30+ years of experience working as a financial auditor, chief executive, as well as a faculty member in educational institutions. He has advised 500+ accounting firms in implementing remote staffing. His experience and expertise in the accounting industry, as well as his...