The conventional routine of employees commuting to a location to work under manager supervision is eroding thanks to a massive trend towards remote work, and this trend is likely to continue. In this new paradigm, managers cannot personally observe their employees, track consistency, or evaluate progress. Instead, they face a new challenge: how to maintain employee accountability without physical proximity to the team.
In that same vein, peer recognition is much harder to accomplish when team members work remotely. The desire to be recognized by one’s peers has a powerful influence on individual motivation. Just ask Maslow (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). In the office environment, employees can be praised, recognized, and rewarded in front of their colleagues. Most individuals thrive in environments that openly validate their accomplishments and acknowledge their successes. Unfortunately, this social accountability element is often lost when working with remote teams. As a result, managers and employees can become frustrated and unmotivated. Managers struggle to find ways to keep their teams on track without a constant barrage of time-consuming emails, texts, and calls. Meanwhile, employees don’t feel like they have a clear picture of individual objectives, experience difficulty staying connected to their own responsibilities, and often find themselves feeling complacent and unenthusiastic.
The physical office has been replaced by a myriad of communication technologies and project management tools: SMS, Slack, Trello, video conferencing tools, and countless others. In this new ecosystem, managers need an entirely new approach to maintain connection and engagement. Innovative tools must be built to help remote teams operate effectively and efficiently - tools that create consistency through intelligent habitual communication and positive feedback loops between employees and managers. These technologies must specialize in routine-building and include deep integrations with all systems currently used by the modern workforce. These tools work to eliminate inconsistent communication and provide the manager peace of mind by facilitating straightforward, habitual objective outlines and providing feedback through frequent affirmative responses from team members. Employees are already accustomed to timesheets, memos, and standing meetings - the modern company will leverage new technologies to accomplish the same things more efficiently, with less intrusion to an employee’s day and less time spent on bureaucratic processes.
The second component to improving accountability is creating new ways to socially recognize and reward employees who are consistent, which can ultimately help to inspire an entire team. To keep employees motivated, these technologies utilize gamification (aka points systems) that can be tailored to fit the needs of individual teams. Modern companies will leverage the data produced by their management tools to design accurate points systems, giving integrity and relevance to a rewards program. They will also use this data to visually and publicly recognize top performers. This is gamification at its finest, and it works. (The power of gamification to engage people).
In the era of remote workers, we need novel technologies that bridge the communication gap, automate routine check-ins, integrate with a myriad of systems, and create platforms for recognition. These new tools have the power to produce more efficient teams with higher accountability than has ever been seen in the physical office.