The importance of soft skills in the workplace cannot be overstated, and doubly so for remote work, when coordinating a team you may not know in person is the core of a successful project. But how to apply those skills?
It’s no secret that managing an effective team requires a special kind of talent, one able to bring the best of every individual in the team, while also keeping everyone on the same page, looking at the same goals. In the old days, you could achieve it by having close proximity with your collaborators, keeping an eye on their needs and difficulties, and doing your best to lessen them to create an effective working environment.
But yeah, that was when the office environment was a given, and managing was a face-to-face affair. However, in the New Normal, where remote work is becoming commonplace, probably with coworkers living in entirely different continents, the skill set necessary to complete a well-done project is changing.
How do you communicate an effective company culture remotely? What do you need to manage talent through a screen? Here at Scio, where working remotely has been the norm since the very beginning (both with clients and collaborators), we know how important these skills are, and how they will become more sought after as this organization model becomes more commonplace.
1. Communicating through a Zoom call: More difficult than you think!
Hey, raise your hand if this situation is a tiny bit familiar to you:
Yeah. As we all know very well, conducting a videoconference is tough, as reading your coworker’s body language, emotions and predispositions are nearly impossible at a distance. Humans are social creatures, designed to pick up on gestures and the tiniest social cues while talking, and doing so through the barrier of a Zoom call is an important skill to attain.
That’s why implementing clear communication rules, and enforcing them effectively is so important. Simple etiquette rules (like turning the mic off when not speaking, giving space to questions and answers, or RVSP any invitation), assigning a person the specific task of conducting the call, as well as being clear if the call is more formal (i.e. presentations with clients) or informal (like a brainstorming session) can make a world of difference in the way a team functions.
Once your collaborators internalize these rules, further strategies will be easier to implement, and you will avoid awkward scenarios like that one.
2. The importance of choosing the right tools
“An artisan is as good as his tools”, the shared wisdom says. And that’s true whether you are talking about making a vase or developing a software app; selecting your tools well is just as important as the technical knowledge applied behind.
Zoom is a good example of the pros and cons of these tools. There are plenty of reasons why Zoom became the choice to work remotely during the pandemic (it’s friendly to use and offers a good range of basic options), but that doesn’t mean this software lacks drawbacks (like its lax security) you need to take into account.
The same is true for any tool you have at your disposal to manage teams and projects, and learning to choose and use them effectively is a valuable ability in any remote team. There are plenty of options to try and decide, but also don’t be afraid to discard anything that is not helping the team to reach their objectives.
Here at Scio, for example, beyond the usual suspects (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Trello, etc.) we developed some internal tools, like an internal guide with the names and positions of everyone in the company, or a proprietary clocking-in page, that we continually improve and tailor to fill the needs of our clients and developers, making sure all of our developers and collaborators have any piece of information they might need.
3. Remote company culture is possible
As we mentioned, certain skills are needed to do remote work well, and these will grow in importance as more projects realize the potential of Nearshore development. The importance of soft skills has grown in recent times, as being able to communicate with your team is just as important as the technical talent you have behind. So what do you need?
- Have clear expectations: For anyone joining an organization remotely, knowing exactly what’s required of them helps build boundaries and focus efforts on things that matter. Lay them out at the beginning, and should have no problems making everyone work towards the same goal.
- Create working structures: For remote teams, lack of structure on a given day can be an obstacle to productivity. That’s why good team leaders establish a clear schedule of deadlines and meetings and explain in certain terms where a particular collaborator fits into the workflow.
- Determine delivery: In a traditional office, the time in front of the computer seemed to be just as important as the work being delivered, which of course is unsustainable in a remote environment. This is why an effective manager keeps track of the actual output every review (let’s say, once a week), to determine the effectiveness of the collaborator, who can set their rhythm with flexibility. As long as the project delivers by the agreed deadline, everything else becomes unnecessary.
- Encourage social interactions: The best teams have chemistry and rapport behind their collaboration, and managing that remotely is truly a challenge. That’s why social interactions are important; celebrating important holidays, giving them channels to communicate freely, and organizing activities for fun help a lot and creates familiarity between co-workers that otherwise will never happen.
- Give ongoing feedback: Good feedback is the lifeblood of any team, and for remote teams, doubly so. Being gentle with it, but also effective and certain, is an important skill for everyone on a team (not only leaders), and learning how to give and receive feedback is critical to delivering better and better projects.
4. The Key Takeaways
So, what does this all mean? That the best remote teams are those with strong structural support behind that lets their talent be used to its maximum potential. So we can have these few takeaways of the soft skills behind an effective remote working environment
- Pure technical knowledge can only get you so far. Managing with a wide range of skills helps everyone feel part of a team in order to achieve objectives.
- Remote working needs certain flexibility to function, but firm boundaries keep the team focused and productive, from a simple call to delivering a whole project.
- A good company culture needs to be clear and well communicated, and implementing it effectively means the difference between a good team and a so-so one.
This is clear for us in Scio, as our Nearshore model is designed to use these methods to their fullest, and guarantee that any project you have in mind has the right team for you.