The growing need for software developers paired with the increase of remote work due to the pandemic has made businesses hire and manage remote developers The benefits of working with remote developers are clear; however, managing them is a challenge for most companies, especially when working with a hybrid workplace structure.
Through years of experience guiding companies to hire, onboard and manage tech professionals, we’ve learned the keys on how to manage remote developer teams. Although it all starts in the hiring process, other aspects such as onboarding and the remote workplace culture can greatly impact your development team’s performance.
Seven Strategies to Manage Your Remote Dev Team Successfully
1. The Importance of Hiring Remote Developers That You Trust
Finding software developers is “easy.’’ After all, there are 26.9 million of them in the world. The challenge is not finding one, but it’s finding the right one. The right developer does not need to be a perfect one, but the one that fits the current needs of the required position.
If you want to learn how to manage a developer team successfully, my first and most important advice is to hire someone you trust. While remote work can increase productivity, reduce stress levels, and even help your company save money, it can also become a nightmare in disguise when you hire candidates you don’t feel have the right skill set and abilities.
Remember that you’ll not be in an office overseeing what your team is doing or inquiring about a project. You’ll have to believe and trust they are working and that they will give the results they promise. And if you hire someone you don’t think has what it takes, you’ll feel the need to constantly bug them over Slack, Zoom, or whatever tool you use, making them feel even more pressured or in the worst case pushed over the edge.
All this impacts the performance of a team. Make sure to build an effective hiring process that will help you identify which skills a candidate needs to have for you to go forward with them.
Besides the technical skills, abilities, and knowledge, always evaluate their personality and how they interact with other team members. Don’t know where to start? Check our guide here on how to hire a remote developer or simply leave it to us.
Some skills to seek in remote developers are:
- Good communicators: Communication is the soul of remote teams (we’ll get back to this point later). Evaluate how they express, how they write, and how eloquent they are. Remember that they will become part of your development team, which means they need to know how to explain processes and in some cases, explain it to clients and other interested parties.
- Autonomous: A remote developer can’t be constantly supervised by a manager. They are not in the same physical space, and sometimes they work in different schedules because of time zones. They need to have self-motivation and determination to fulfill their tasks without someone constantly reminding them.
- Team players: You could have the most talented programmer in the world, but if they can’t work in a team and can’t let others do their job properly, give them time to adjust and evolve or just don’t hire them. Instead of bringing solutions, they’ll focus on problems, which eventually will cost you and your team energy and motivation. Focus on hiring developers who like to work in teams and know how to interact respectfully with one another.
2. Properly Onboard Remote Developers
If you want to have an engaged remote developer team, onboarding is one of the first steps you need to consider. Research by Glassdoor reveals that great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%. A different study conducted by Digitate discovered that a negative onboarding experience results in new hires being 2 times more likely to look for a different opportunity.
Imagine hiring a talented developer that decides to quickly look for something else because they can’t engage with your company?
At DistantJob, and having more than 10 years of experience managing remote teams, we’ve learned that onboardings should take at least a minimum of 7 days. During these days, besides focusing on paperwork and documentation, your objective should be to show the new hire how your company works. Not necessarily in terms of processes and workflows (although this is important) but also regarding your beliefs, the culture, and the remote environment.
Onboarding your new remote developers gives you the perfect opportunity for them to know your expectations and goals and for you to know what they are expecting from your company.
Besides the usual aspects of onboarding, you, as a remote manager, need to think outside the box and go beyond the usual onboarding procedures. Yes, showing around the virtual office and reading to them your vision and mission is important. But, you can do more things to make them feel welcomed. Here are some tips that will help you get your new remote developers engaged:
3. Ways to Boost Your Remote Developers Productivity
Studies and surveys have already proved the fact that remote employees are more productive than on-site employees. Yet, this doesn’t mean that ALL remote employees are productive. This is why the hiring process is so important; you grasp the soft skills they might have. Still, when you hire the right people and have your team set up, one of the main goals is to keep improving and boosting everyone’s productivity.
If you have no experience managing software engineers remotely, one of our main recommendations is to set up a project management tool. For example, tools like Asana, can give you space to manage all the tasks, due dates, and documents for the developers to have. Here you will be able to get a sense of how they are working and managing time.
Also, you need to keep in mind time zones if your developer team is distributed all over the world. You can always message and email them, but when you don’t get to see each other physically, video calls are the best way to connect with one another. Tools like worldtimebuddy help calculate all teams’ different time zones to schedule regular meetings at a specific hour.
4. Get Rid of Your Inner Micromanager
If you want to be an effective remote leader, don’t be a micromanager. Usually, in the first days, you want to make sure everyone understands the tools, the working procedures, and the basic guidelines.
What’s not normal is over-monitoring your devs work and trying to make them do things your way. Keep in mind that:
- YOU hired them (trust your decisions that they will do a great job)
- They cannot work if someone is constantly monitoring them
- Your team will feel undervalued and stressed
- Everybody is productive in a different way (some are night owls, others are early birds)
- Micromanaging will eventually lead to employees quitting their jobs
Trust is the master key for successful team management. And how to start trusting your employees? By letting them handle projects and responsibilities.
All employees love being recognized and feeling they have done an excellent job. But as a manager going beyond simple praise is what matters—making your team understand that it’s never about the projects only. It’s about achieving a bigger goal that is only possible if everyone contributes and works as a team.
5. Learn How to Communicate in a Remote EnvironmentOver Communicate
Never assume, always ask, and in case of doubt talk.
Keep this as a golden rule, and you probably will never have communication problems in your team.
Misunderstandings are quite common, especially on remote teams. And in the worst cases, they might lead to incomplete projects and a waste of money. That is why it is important to start giving clear guidelines regarding communication.
For example, at DistantJob, we are all aware that meetings or special events (like birthdays) are attended on Zoom, quick reminders or general announcements are made on Slack, documents shared via Google Drive & Coda, etc. Many cool tools will help you get set up and do not have any trouble with communication.
Also, keep in mind that regular video conferences are the best way to connect with your team members and foster teamwork. Discuss how projects are going, the weak points to improve, if someone needs help with specific tasks, or to catch up on personal matters. These are things that help to build not only trust but transparency in communication.
But something to highlight here is that over-communication is not exaggerating and asking your developers how the project is going 24/7. Over communicating in remote teams translates into being as clear as possible and double-checking if everything is understood. But it doesn’t mean to get into endless meetings or emails during all the workdays. Development teams, in particular, need special focus hours to get work done. So instead of doing random work meetings, build a process. For example, set specific days and hours to have a meeting; that way, everyone can organize their time better.
6. Build an Agile Team
If you’re wondering how to manage programmers we have the right answer for you: Agile.
One of the most effective management approaches for IT teams is, without a doubt, the Agile Methodology. It’s not even just about how to do projects; it’s also why you do them. When you manage remote devs, being Agile will not only help you improve the way you communicate but also how you work together as a team and how you deliver projects based on market feedback.
What techniques do Agile use that makes it so effective?
- Agile works in a horizontal team dynamic (removes hierarchy).
- Define viable features of the software you want to build (based on use-case scenarios).
- Organize short daily meetings, called stand-ups, where everyone on the team has a voice.
- Make a team review of every update on the project and decide what to improve, add, or remove.
- Planning and developing happen side-by-side to launch the Minimal Viable Product as early as possible
Want to learn more about how to build an Agile remote team? Download our free ebook
7. Focus on Building Team Spirit
Defining a company culture in a remote environment is challenging. Mainly because we all have this idealization of coworkers singing happy birthday with a cake in the office. Or of colleagues drinking beers on Fridays after work. But what all these onsite workplace activities have in common is that culture is built not in the activities themselves but in what these activities bring upon a team: connection.
Managing software developers remotely is not only about having a dream team of talented developers who knows what they’re doing. One thing is to focus on the professional aspect of getting work done and achieving results, but another thing is to encourage building strong relationships in the team. Build a team spirit that boosts everyone’s morale. And how can you do this while working remotely? By being more conscious about it. When you realize that you need to start working on your culture, you’re halfway there.
Now, all you need to do is work on strategies to strengthen your remote company’s culture.
Here are some ideas:
- Always encourage face-to-face interactions, or in other words, cameras on.
- Have feedback meetings in which you can learn more about how employees are feeling individually in the company and areas that you can improve as well.
- Create your own version of happy hours or birthday celebrations virtually. Or in other words, get inspired with different virtual water cooler ideas for your dev team.
- Make your team feel appreciated and cared for. By asking them, ‘’how are you doing’’ it’s a start.
- Recognize your employee’s hard work.
- Sometimes all you need to do is just listen
How to Make Your Remote Dev Team and Office Team Work Together?
With the pandemic, the workplace structure has dramatically changed. Many companies are scaling their teams by hiring remote employees, even when they have onsite teams.
A survey conducted by Omnipresent shared that 78% of leaders will be hiring a remote workforce in 2021. In many cases, they will continue having a hybrid model but with remote employees, making management a bit more challenging.
If you have a remote development team (or plan to have it) while continuing working under an onsite structure, here are 5 tips that will help you increase collaboration between teams:
Have Transparent Processes
When managing developers both onsite and remote simultaneously, you need to implement processes that will help you encourage transparency in the team. It often happens that remote developers feel left out or not part of the conversation when you are discussing things with the onsite team they have no idea about in meetings. Therefore, make sure that every decision or relevant conversation is discussed as a team.
Make everyone in the team, both onsite and remote, do their daily check-ins on the platforms you use. This way, everyone will know what’s going on and what everyone is up to. Additionally, make sure to check-in, especially with your remote dev team, regularly. With onsite teams, this is easier because you see them all the time. With remote teams, you need to be more intentional.
Encourage Constant Communication
Interpersonal communication is massively important for keeping remote developers integrated with your local team. Almost every tip for engaging these employees is either directly or indirectly related to effective communication.
Let’s start with the most obvious: you need a good way to communicate. Yes, there’s email, but if you’re trying to fully integrate a remote employee, you should look at some other options such as Slack, and of course, Zoom, Skype, or Google Teams, that will allow your remote team to feel more connected.
Sometimes, it’s possible to forget to inform your remote developers about small updates relevant to them–out of sight, out of mind. Instead, if they have already joined your company’s messaging application or business communication solutions, they’ll be updated at the same time as the other employees.
Make sure you have a good business communication tool that keeps your remote and local employees on the same page about work tasks while still allowing them to communicate more casually to form better relationships.
Set Ground Rules Among Both Teams
Establish the default timezone you’ll be using. If you have multiple remote employees worldwide, keeping track of everyone’s different times can be very difficult. Instead, establish that you’ll be using the local time of the main office (e.g., Pacific Standard Time).
This will help mitigate any potential problems with deadlines, meetings, or acceptable message times. On that note, discuss when it is acceptable to message or email other employees and when it is required to reply.
If you don’t care when your remote workers actually work (as long as they meet the deadline), but you need them to be available to their team members in case anyone has questions between, for example, 1 pm-3 pm, Monday through Friday, make this clear.
If, instead, a quick response isn’t important the majority of the time, but you need them to be available 9 am-5 pm the week before you push out an application, tell them this at the beginning. If these times aren’t possible because of incredibly diverse time zones, work this out from the start.
Essentially, you just have to be clear with exactly what you need from your remote employees. If this is discussed initially, you’ll avoid any potential arguments or negative feelings between workers.
Make Your Remote Dev Team Part of Any Celebration
Do you have any traditions in your office, such as bringing in a cake for each birthday or celebrating certain work anniversaries? Or are some people in your company fanatics of any movie or celebration in particular? Don’t leave your remote workers out of this!
While, of course, it is much more simple to bring a cake into your office than order and ship one in a different state or country, other options will help your telecommuting workers feel like part of the team.
For example, you can get the office to sign a birthday card and send it to the remote employee. While this isn’t quite as delicious as a cake, it will make that distant worker feel a sense of camaraderie with their fellow employees. Or even send them a cake, why not? Or something they particularly enjoy.
They will certainly appreciate the gesture, feel like they’re more integrated with your team, and know that they aren’t left out of office traditions even if they’re remote.
While managing remote workers has great benefits, and most employees want, sometimes the teams’ spirits need to be lifted and strengthened. And what about a better way to get the gang together than with company meetups?
Company meetups can be oriented into work activities or fun and adventurous activities to get to know the team. This depends on your needs. But one thing is for sure when remote employees meet amongst each other, productivity and engagement levels increase.
We’ve all seen the stats about how remote workers are more productive, happier, less stressed, etc., but the dark side of working remotely is that it can be isolating, and employees can get burned out. Especially when working with both types of teams, onsite and fully remote, there’s a gap that is more challenging to fill virtually.
By doing company meetups, the team can get to know each other personally and have a stronger interaction with all the people they regularly talked to via a webcam.
Start Building Your Remote Dev Team Today
If you still haven’t find the talented developer you are looking for, take a minute to answer these questions:
- Are you searching for local talent instead of remote talent?
- Are you tired of dealing with freelancing websites?
- None of the candidates you get are a good cultural fit for your company?
- The candidates that might have a good shot at fulfilling your technical requirements can’t speak English?
If most of the answers were yes, you need to change your recruiting approach.
At DistantJob, we’re expert and headhunting talented technical professionals. We are aware most of the best developers are busy working for companies, so we make them better offers they can resist – such as working from home.
We can help you to hire a talent that will not only exceed professional expectations but also will make a perfect fit for your company’s culture. Oh, and by the way, we do all of these in just two weeks.