Handling an employee is an art that calls for tact, patience and just the right amount of authority. It is definitely a test of the employer's managerial skills and how successful they are in tapping the potential of their employees.
But what if this employee is not your regular, locally hired worker but someone whom you have probably never met, interacted mostly over telephone or from across a screen and who works from a remote outsourcing company halfway across the globe? The challenge remains the same with certain additional aspects that naturally have to be taken into consideration.
Let's say your virtual or remote employee is a software developer who is working on developing some intricate web application for you. He is highly qualified, skilled in his field (and your) of expertise and pretty much seems tailor-made to execute your project.
Here are some tips that can help you steer clear of landmines when handling your virtual employee.
- Respect the cultural differences. It is likely that you have hired your virtual employee software developer from one of the Third World countries like India or the Philippines. These countries have traditions and customs that are vastly removed from what you are accustomed to. Be prepared to show due respect to your virtual employee's religious beliefs by being open to giving leaves and offs on their religious holidays. Let religion not come in the way of a smooth working relationship.
- Software development requires more advanced tools in terms of hardware and software and technology. It is not fair on your part to expect your software developer working remotely to do miracles with limited resources. Since the vendor's HR managers are just a phone call or an email away, apprise them of your virtual employee's requirements and make sure that the necessary tools are provided to them. This is critical if you wish to extract maximum potential from your remote employee.
- Don't go heavy on the 'employer' bit. Consider this to be a partnership that is benefiting your employee as much as it is benefiting you. The software developer you have hired may have some ideas of their own on how a certain task needs to be done. Be open to listen to their ideas too. You may just strike lucky!
- Be flexible and don't sweat the small things. Focus on the big picture. If the software developer has shown consistent good performance and displays an occasional lapse, then don't press the panic button and request for a replacement. Try and understand what went wrong and whether the error was genuine or sheer carelessness. Take a call on that based on your own assessment of your remote employee so far and learn to let go. Establishing a comfort level is very important as it will encourage the remote employee to work more freely and creatively.
- Be clear in your communication. Remember, certain colloquial terms that are 'everyday' to you may sound completely foreign to your virtual employee. Although English is fluently spoken and understood by Indian professionals, each country has a jargon specific to its culture. It is safest not to assume anything but repeat yourself to make sure your instructions have been understood.
If you have a satisfied virtual employee software developer working for you, give yourself a pat on the back for handling this delicate relationship wisely!