The Nearshore Lowdown: How to Manage a Distributed Team
In the golden age of remote work, many team managers are now supervising workers all over the country, or even the world. When it comes to helping your remote or distributed team thrive, a couple key things will help you succeed. After all, having a well-functioning, efficient team doesn’t usually happen without dedicated effort from a team’s leaders. If you aren’t careful, you can lose out on the great benefits of having a remote or distributed team. Let’s help prepare you for success.
First, let’s cover some key definitions:
- Remote team—a team composed of staff who don’t work from a company’s main office, but instead work elsewhere (e.g. from home, in a different city, different country, etc.).
- Distributed team—a team composed of staff working from different locales, some from a main office or hub city, others from around the world.
No matter what type of team you have, you’ll be managing the workflow of remote staff. And in the case of a distributed team, where some staff work from the main company office, you’ll have to coordinate the workflow of remote staff with the workflow of office workers.
Leverage the global talent pool
Traditional, old-school hiring practices involve hiring a candidate based in your immediate geographic area (or who is willing to relocate). This limits your recruitment options and can close you off to someone who’s the exact right fit for your company‘s needs.
When you’re open to hiring remote candidates, this opens up your recruitment pool greatly. You have access to a lot of talent outside of your immediate location, which allows you to find “unicorn” candidates who are the perfect fit for your needs. And when you nearshore, you can work with a candidate who, while located in a different country, is still culturally aligned with your team.
Minimize time zone differences
In order for your distributed team to really thrive, there needs to be smooth communication and minimal delays. If you outsource work to team members located in a drastically different time zone, you can face big problems down the line. Such problems can include delays in fixing bugs, failing to ward off hackers in a timely manner, and providing a frustrating customer experience. Having staff with different working hours can also create a bottleneck in productivity, since some of your team will be asleep while others are working.
So it’s best to have a team where everyone is based out of the same time zone, or close to it (usually give or take three hours). This is often referred to as nearshoring, or nearshore staff augmentation.
Nearshore staff (like software developers) work in the same or similar time zones to your in-house team. This means it’s easier for all of your staff to coordinate on projects and accomplish things in a timely manner. You also want your team to collaborate fluidly and have a sense of camaraderie—things that are near-impossible with an offshore team.
Invest in your employees
Having a distributed team can involve outsourcing or contracting work. There are different models for modern outsourcing (we personally recommend nearshoring as a great option!), but they typically involve cost saving measures. When managing a distributed team, you’ll likely be saving money on salaries and overhead without skimping on essentials. After all, you won’t need to supply office space to staff who work from home.
However, there are other ways in which excellent managers can—and should—invest in their staff. It’s estimated that by 2025, 50% of all employees will need to reskill in their industry. In other works, half of the modern workforce will need to update their skillset, particularly hard skills. Consider using some of the money saved from overhead and salary expenses to invest in upskilling and team cohesion. This can look like continued education, trainings and workshops, moderated discussions, and more.
The benefits of upskilling and team trainings will be felt throughout your organization. Instead of atrophying, staff’s talents will be kept sharp. And rather than growing complacent and bored at work, staff will feel empowered to take on new challenges.
This has massive implications for retention, as well. 94% of employees are willing to stay at a company that invests in their career development. If your company is suffering from high turnover, consider how many opportunities you currently offer for upskilling and advancement. If you don’t have many resources to offer, reasses your team’s common pitfalls and needs. How can you empower your existing staff to improve?
Cultivate open communication
Lastly, open communication is vital to any team’s success, but this holds especially true for remote or distributed teams. A leader can’t properly assess their team’s growth edges and strengths without being in tune with their staff. Make open discussion time a priority. You’ll have a better sense of your team’s natural strengths and the areas that need more attention.
Workplace communication and feedback should go both ways. The modern workplace thrives when managers trust their staff to do good work. An authoritative management style breeds discontent and high turnover. Meanwhile, managers who trust and empower their staff create thriving workplaces. And this means that leaders should be open to feedback—and not just open, but set aside time to make it a priority.
How can communication become more frequent at your company? How can you better integrate it into the company culture, so that it occurs naturally?
Having a distributed team can be a great way to cultivate a team that’s well positioned to tackle your company’s challenges. But it doesn’t happen without dedicated support and purposeful direction. When managing a distributed or remote team, prioritize all staff working the same (or similar) hours, invest in upskilling regularly, and promote a culture of open communication and two-way feedback. This will increase staff agility, reduce turnover, and empower your staff to tackle challenges without breaking a sweat.
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