Running a business exclusively in a virtual location is an option our forefathers likely could never have imagined. Yet, here we are running as fast as we can into a digital age where brick-and-mortar will soon be the exception rather than the norm. Trust is an issue that often comes up in a virtual workplace, due to a number of different issues and limitations.
The fact is, if you don’t trust your team, they won’t trust you. And, they’ll have little reason to trust their coworkers (Ie., people YOU hired). Managing trust involves many of the same tactics you’d use in an offline workplace.
Trust starts with solid recruitment
It’s a fact that you won’t be able to sniff out all the stinkers during the hiring process. However, a lazy approach to hiring virtual staff will usually result in more bad hires than if you put an emphasis on proper recruitment. Have a firm interview and testing process in place to weed out potential bad hires. It’s really not that hard, and the information is readily available.
Just because you’re running a virtual business doesn’t mean you only do the bare minimum in checking their background. If trust is an issue with the type of business you run, and the type and scope of tasks you give virtual staff, a criminal background check and even a credit check are a great idea. Untrustworthy people aren’t likely to apply with such barriers to entry.
Empowerment fosters trust
It’s really tough making the shift from an in-your-face type of employer that needs to have their head in everything. Tough but not impossible, and if this sounds like you, it needs to be done — millennials and Gen Y just won’t stand for it. When it comes to running a virtual team, you have no choice. Foster more trust in your team by allowing them to share power and responsibility in the company, rather than having every task and procedure dictated verbatim to them.
A leader is someone who delegates responsibility, not one who micromanages every single detail. You still need to be there to delegate and dole out advice when needed. However, in order to be successful, you need to let your charges run their jobs — to find the best way to do their jobs, and help grow your company. When you offer trust, trust will be given in return — pure and simple.
Engagement reduces surprises
Empowering means letting go — a lot! It doesn’t mean you should lose touch with what’s going on. You need to engage constantly, or risk something going wrong that puts your trust in employees (and theirs in you) in jeopardy. A leader knows what’s going on within their team so sudden surprises don’t come up and trump essential trust in their team. When you know what your people are up to, you can interject when it becomes obvious they’re going down the wrong path.
In addition, when you know what individuals are doing, it makes it easier to spot those you really shouldn’t be placing your trust in. This is a delicate balancing act, and it takes a lot of observation and experience to master. However, you need to talk to your people — as an adviser and not a dictator — in order to put 100 percent trust in your team. They’ll also trust you more because they realise you’re approachable and desire to be fully involved.
A virtual watercooler is essential for remote teams
Apps like Trello, Slack, and GoToMeeting allow for easy collaboration. There are a ton of other tools that have built-in collaboration features such as Google Suite. The key is accessibility during the workday. Otherwise, team members feel isolated and you’ll feel separated from them. A place to hang out, have impromptu or daily meetings, and socialize throughout the day is essential.
Trust involves communication above all else. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking they can fire up a cloud-based business and keep in touch via email only. However, consider how often it takes more than a question or two in order for someone to understand a complicated concept, or needs help to figure out a complex issue. One of the great things about Google Hangouts is how it can connect anyone with an Internet or data connection to connect with people anywhere in the world using voice and video chat.
Assumptions get in the way of business all the time. Sometimes you assume you can trust someone when you really shouldn’t. Then, there’s assuming you can’t trust somebody when they’ve given you no reason to doubt them. When someone feels like people are assuming the worst of them, mutual trust disappears very quickly.
Assuming that you have a lazy employee sitting at their desk in pajamas they haven’t changed in the last two weeks is a bad way to view them. So is assuming they’re engrossed in Facebook or Twitter instead of working on your business. Paying for results rather than by the hour is always a great idea, if you can do it. Allowing virtual employees to structure how and when they get work done for you can often lead to better results.
However, if what an employee is doing with their time during work hours affects your bottom line, task and time tracking software like Asana or Capterra can track what employees are doing via screenshots and software usage. This way you’re always backing trust up with visual data.
It’s important for everyone in the business to trust each other. This is even more important in a virtual environment, where you may never actually sit across a table from your employees. Trust is a two-way street, but as the leader it’s your job to ensure their are processes and best practices in place to foster it.