Managing a Virtual Workforce: Setting Social Goals Are the Key

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The virtual workplace is different.

The setting is different; cubicles don’t divide the virtual space. Neither do city lines, time zones, or continents, for that matter.

The employees are different; without that immediate group feel, employees have no other option than to be more independent and self-starting than their on-site counterparts.

And, above all else, management is different. When dealing with such an unconventional and independent staff, it becomes abundantly clear that “traditional” workplace motivation and efficiency strategies simply aren’t going to be effective.

Guidance through a computer screen

As we ease into 2012 and the pace of work is evolving, virtual employees are the first to struggle under the rigidity of outdated management practice.

Herein lies the problem: as a manager, how can you amp up and guide your staff through a computer screen?

The solution is a lot closer than you think. All signs point to social goals:

  • Use social goals to connect the workforce on what matters, keep everyone in sync.
  • Help workers self-manage.
  • Allow workers to keep up with the chaos of the modern workplace or place order to it.
  • Allow workers to get updates in real-time about the focus of your team or organization.

Social goals: an effective solution for the virtual workforce?

Social goals are a lightweight, nimble solution to an otherwise rigid workplace. As the pace of work changed, the chaos of work changed. We can’t all wait for next week’s meeting or the conference call. We need to make effective solutions now.

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When remote employees are as independent as they are, their objectives and priorities need to flex with them (whereas projects and tasks remain stagnant), so there is an increased need for management to become nimble as new focuses and priorities become important.

Ultimately, a social approach works because the information is spread to the worker from every employee they follow or the team as a whole. They are always in sync.

Social performance steers management away from rigid projects and enables employees to set goals that are lighter and move by priority buckets as well as longer term goals. In this vein, goals are employee-created, allowing your staff to align with the focus while you can focus on the bigger picture.

How can you manage a virtual workforce with social goals?

  • Make the shift. Find a platform that works for your company, like WorkSimple. You can connect, support, and accomplish more with familiar interface that serves as a visual way of setting your direction and focus.
  • Engage and empower. After engaging your employees on direction, get them to set some lightweight goals to start. Instead of telling them how to get from A to B, show then B and let them come up with new ways of supporting your objective. The key is to get your employees in on the action. Collaboration and informal feedback also ensures for a happier, more productive staff.
  • Seek happiness. Ultimately, it is your responsibility as a manager to make your employees happy. Fortunately the equation is simple — combining equal parts of enjoyment, meaning, and income is a sure-fire recipe for work happiness.
  • Maintain. Just like everything else in the world, a socially managed workplace needs to be maintained in order for it to run smoothly. As you practice social goals, it will become the “norm.”

What do you think? How do you think a virtual workforce can operate with social goals?

Morgan Norman is the Founder and CEO of Work Simple, putting an end to performance reviews by providing a better way for coworkers and teams to share goals, work together, get and give feedback, and make each other shine. Connect with him and WorkSimple on Twitter at Twitter.com/worksimple.

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1 Comment on “Managing a Virtual Workforce: Setting Social Goals Are the Key

  1. Hi Morgan,

    The most important thing while managing virtual workforce is to understand the culture you’re dealing with. For example, you should employ different strategies when working with a team from India versus working with a team from the Philippines.

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