Toward Better Management of Telecommuters: 9 Tips for Success

 Cloud Based Workers are Reinventing Your Job for You!

Ever since Melissa Mayer burst the telecommuting world’s dream bubble at Yahoo! just over a year ago, the issue of whether to telecommute – or not –  has remained something of a misnomer in the Human Resources industry. Telecommuting is definitely not the answer to everything. Then again, Mayer’s reining in of Yahoo! probably said more about Yahoo! than it did about the general nature of America’s workforce.

No Surprise: The Management of Telecommuters is as new as telecommuting itself.

It’s also an exciting and growing part of human resources. Internal and external people, in many industries, collaborate on all kinds of projects. Project-specific workers – with project-specific skills – often join up just for the length of a project. They add all kinds of value, expertise and know-how that might never be available from a full time employee.

Project-based workers are often some of the most in-demand, highly educated and highly skilled of any workers. Working with them can often require meeting lots of demands for flexibility, openness and innovative thinking. Working like an old-school factory is probably not going to keep many of them around.

Turning your best people into these kinds of demanding, highly educated and highly skilled workers is going to require the same thing.

We’ve mentioned before that telecommuting, like flex-time, will likely work best as a reward for your better employees. Employees who perform better and who pull their weight and who lead other employees or entire teams deserve more freedom. They also deserve the recognition that truly outstanding service can warrant.

Agility is everything.

1. Broker

Working toward making a your HR department or organization into a talent brokerage can not be overemphasized. That’s really what this article is about. Whether you’re working with a outsourcing agency, hiring freelancers or moving more and more of your people to the cloud, becoming the talent brokerage for your organization is what it’s all about.

2. Collect the right data.

NimbleSchedule can help in myriad ways but your new talent brokerage is going to be collecting and analyzing data on hours, productivity, and performance. You’ll be matching that with career aspirations, skill sets, performance histories and more. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s make sure you know what you’ve gotten yourself into.

3. Work Toward Transparency

That always comes up, doesn’t it? You’re going to need to be strategic about rewarding key players with telecommuting privileges. And rewarding others with freelancers and cloud based help. Make sure everyone can have a hand in understanding how these decisions are made and why. Where possible, you want to localize the decision making to the people who will benefit from your telecommuting teams and players.

4. Make your policy clear and public

If resentments and misunderstandings are going to hamper productivity (and they will) there’s almost no point in going ahead with a telecommuting option. Make clear what behaviors and productivity levels will be rewarded and who will benefit and why.

5. Understand the Cloud

Online contractor exchange sites can be a significant plus for even big, resource rich organizations. Learn how to use them. But remember, far away and truly talented freelancers will demand just as much respect, patience and care as in-house employees. The form of that “respect, patience and care” may be significantly different and the advantage to your company may not be strictly in the form of cost savings.

6. Integrate

Carrying on from #5 above, “understanding the cloud” may very well mean better integrating communications and technology – literally in the cloud – so that offsite players are always seeing and working with the same interface as people on-site. Your talent brokerage play a major role in streamlining, maintaining and facilitating that network.

7. Collaborate

HR is the key actor in integrating and developing the systems that cross all of the boundaries within the organization. That can be tough position. Collaborating, understanding and respecting the needs and the desires of all the people within those various boundaries can take some doing.

8. Manage Your Talent

This can sound like a nightmare, or a dream come true. Experienced freelance talent, as well as your old-hand telecommuting staff, need to come in sometimes. Purely social gatherings or meet-and-greets can work wonders, but so too can trainings, orientations and pure information exchanges. A workforce strategy that utilizes project-based workers can give companies access to highly skilled talent. Companies can be agile and responsive to changing marketplace needs—provided that they can effectively adapt their traditional talent management practices, sourcing strategies, knowledge-sharing tools and community-building activities.

9. Human is the first word in Human Resources.

It’s striking how many old-school “Fordist” human resources managers can’t handle that. They’re some of the worst at learning the management of telecommuters. The talent brokerage idea goes right over their heads. And as we’ve heard (herd?) before, a lot of this sounds a lot easier said than done – especially in bigger, nastier organizations with impacted management styles and flagging bottom lines.

An increasing number of Human Resources Generalists are working from the cloud. Contract one, learn how they’re doing what they’re doing and how they can help you to do more, too.

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Photo this page: Telecommuting di kafe © Creative Commons by Gilangreffi

Karin Jakovljevic

About the author

Karin Jakovljevic

Karin Jakovljevic is the head of marketing at Ximble, a powerful, cloud-based workforce management system, simplifying employee scheduling and time tracking for retailers, restaurants and small businesses.

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