Do you know how to communicate effectively with your remote employees?
In our today’s workforce, countless employees have shifted to working remotely, at least part time, including accountants. The jump in the number of remote employees has created challenges for businesses, especially when it comes to communication.
Fortunately, Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, delivered a great webinar all about managing and communicating with remote employees titled “The Top 5 Critical Things to Manage a Remote and Global Workforce.” The webinar featured the remote managing expertise of Nicholas Sinclair, the founder of The Outsourced Accountant (TOA) Global, which employs over a thousand remote staff members.
In this article, you’re going to learn all about how hiring remote employees will expand your firm, the importance of checking in with your team daily, and why you should communicate positively and consistently.
The importance of using remote staff
There are three critical elements to run a firm smoothly: technology, workflow and process, and great staff members. Nicholas observed that having great employees on your team is the most important part of your business:
“I believe … [that] the most important [thing for running a business] is our people. Without good people, we are not able to deliver the services that our clients deserve. We’re not able to scale and grow our businesses, and we’re not able to have time off from our businesses.”– Nicholas Sinclair
A crucial part of expanding your firm and finding quality employees is being open to hiring remotely. Nicholas has now fully embraced working with remote staff, but there was a time when he only hired locally. But limiting himself to local talent only stifled his company’s growth:
“We had 38 staff in Australia. … And we were busy, which was great in many ways, but in other ways, the business was not able to scale with its process and technology and human effort quick enough. … We were struggling with getting the right people to do the right work at the right cost. … We’d put up an ad for an accountant, and we might have five people apply for it, which is not a huge talent pool to be able to select and choose from.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Nicholas discovered the merits of working with remote staff while on a global leadership retreat in the Philippines. One of his professional acquaintances had a call center based out of Manila, Philippines, that generated leads for his Australian-based company. Nicholas’ peer could expand his company without overworking his local staff. Noticing their success, Nicholas began investing in opening remote offices to expand his business:
“Some seven years later, we’ve now got close to 1,600 staff. We’re doubling in size every year. We now serve accountants in Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., and the majority of our team [is] based out of the Philippines. This is something that I’ve been doing for well over ten years.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Nicholas was able to expand and diversify his accounting company by hiring remote staff. With the increased prevalence of remote work, many accounting firms have started to work with remote staff for the first time. Though it provides many benefits, working with remote staff can be challenging, and countless firms have struggled with transitioning their teams so they can successfully work from home:
“A lot of firms I’ve spoken to have… really struggled. And there [are] other firms where the owners or the partners or the managers think they’re doing well, but when you actually ask the team, they’re not. … There [are] some mixed results depending on who the team members are.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Working effectively with your remote team is crucial for the success of your firm, especially when working remotely. When you optimize your work with your remote team, you’ll better serve your clients’ needs and expand your firm as a result. Here are some tips to improve the efficiency of your remote workforce.
Check-in with your team daily
Communicating effectively with your remote team is crucial for their productivity, especially during challenging times. Nicholas recommended that companies have both daily team check-ins and one-on-one meetings:
“Ensure that you have a daily check-in with the team, both as a team … and as a one-on-one. And this is probably one of the most critical ones where businesses don’t get it right. Now, these don’t have to be long meetings. We do what is called a ‘daily huddle.’ It’s roughly 15 minutes.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Holding a daily team meeting through remote communication software like Zoom or GoToWebinar will help improve productivity and morale in your organization. You can check in with each employee by asking them three basic questions:
“What was [your] highlight and win for yesterday? What’s [your] focus for today? Where [are you] stuck with [your] work? … Those three questions can roughly take about a minute for each person.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Having each employee answer those three questions will help keep your team on track and on the same page about your business.
In addition to having team meetings, Nicholas stressed the importance of having one-on-one meetings with your team members. He came up with this idea when his Chief of People reached out to him regularly:
“It really hit me [as] a whole … [that] she genuinely cares. … And she continually checked in with me. … And then I took that away from myself and looked at how can we implement that for our own team?”– Nicholas Sinclair
If your company is large, you might not be able to check in with each person yourself, but you should have a system in place in which supervisors and managers can check in with each staff member. The personal lives of your team members directly impact their work performances:
“Most of people’s performance issues … [are] actually based around their personal challenges that they’re having. So that daily check-in, if you can understand what’s going on in their world, you can really help them to become more effective in their work environment.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Helping your staff get through their personal challenges will enable them to improve their work performances. Having team and one-on-one check-ins is crucial for both the well-being of your team members and your firm.
Communicate consistently and positively
In addition to communicating with your firm with team meetings and one-on-one conversations, it’s crucial to be open about your business to your team in a positive way:
“As a leader of a business, … [you need to] deliver the positivity of what is happening. … You don’t need to look too far to find negative press. So how can you portray a consistent message of positivity and what the future looks like for your business?”– Nicholas Sinclair
For example, if your business is growing during an otherwise difficult time, you can communicate that to your employees, which invokes a positive atmosphere in your work culture. Nicholas recommended that leaders also be realistic and open with their employees when their business is struggling:
“For those that have lost revenue, be honest and open with your team about where the business is at [and] where you see that the business is going in the future.”– Nicholas Sinclair
One helpful way that you can communicate with your team consistently is by creating weekly videos:
“I would also highly recommend that the leader of the business does a weekly video … to let everyone know the wins that have happened that week, what the future looks like for the business, [and] do that in a positive way. … [Whether] you’re a team of only two or three or four or five, or if you’re a team of 100s or 1,000s, the video has the effect that you’re connecting in a way that is giving them an update about the business.”– Nicholas Sinclair
Creating weekly update videos will help you connect with your employees, regardless of your firm’s size.
Another way you can regularly communicate with your team is through communication software applications like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Communicating through these platforms keeps everyone on your team updated about your business, and it can also save your company valuable time, reducing the need for your employees to send time-consuming, internal emails.
In addition, Nicholas stressed that you need to communicate as much as you can with both clients and employees:
“The more you can communicate, the better. You can never over-communicate with your clients and with your team.– Nicholas Sinclair
Bottom line: Consistent communication is the key to managing your remote staff and serving the needs of your clients. Since your team doesn’t work in person, it’s crucial that you create a positive, engaging work environment through helpful meetings, business updates, and communication software.
Learn more about communicating with your remote workforce
Hiring employees remotely can help you find the right people for your business so you can thrive and expand. Communicating with your remote hires through daily check-ins, one-on-one conversations, weekly videos, and communication software will improve your employees’ well-being and improve their work performances.
Make sure to check out Part Two and Three of this webinar article series to learn all about creating a remote team culture and hiring the best candidates for your remote team. You can also watch the full webinar here.
Consider signing up for Gusto’s partner program. With the partner program, your firm will be assigned a dedicated Gusto partner advisor that can help you prepare for business growth. You’ll also gain access to our partner directory, free Gusto payroll, and HR tools. If you want to learn more about the program and how it can help your business thrive, click here.