Learning how to manage developers through challenging projects by providing them with career development opportunities and support is key to better performance, engagement, and efficiency.
A Gallup survey revealed that highly engaged developer teams are 21% more productive than teams with low engagement levels. But how to increase engagement? How to understand your tech team’s needs better? What strategies are useful when managing remote dev teams?
During this article, we will explore the best tactics to manage offshore developers, proven from our experience being a fully remote team and helping companies scale and manage their IT teams successfully.
13 Practical Tips to Manage Developers Who Work Remotely
1. Hire Developers You Trust
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.
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.
Some soft skills to seek in remote developers are:
- Good communicators: Evaluate how they express themselves, how they write, and how eloquent they are.
- Autonomous: A remote developer needs to have self-motivation and determination to fulfill their tasks without someone constantly reminding them.
- Team players: Focus on hiring developers who like to work in teams and know how to interact respectfully with one another.
2. It All Starts With a Good Onboarding
Did you know that onboarding is fundamental for employee retention? Research by Glassdoor reveals that great employee onboarding improves 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.
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. It is important to show them around the virtual office and explain your vision and mission.
Make sure your onboarding plan includes the following:
- Going through the work agreements to make sure everything is in order
- Clearing out what are the expectations for the role
- Guiding them through the vision and mission of the company
- Helping developers get started with their first project
- Making time for socializing with other team members
3. Establish an Efficient Workflow with Clear Goals and Expectations
The easiest way to enable remote developers to work cohesively, meet project goals and deliver high-quality results is through an efficient workflow where each team member is transparent regarding their role, expectations and the goals they’re after.
Here’s a breakdown of 5 simple practices to kickstart your dev team:
- Break Down Tasks and Milestones: Divide the project into smaller tasks and set achievable milestones. Breaking down the work into manageable chunks enables better tracking of progress and allows developers to focus on specific deliverables.
- Task Assignment and Ownership: Assign tasks to specific developers based on their expertise and strengths. Clearly communicate each team member’s responsibilities and ownership of their respective tasks. This promotes accountability and ensures everyone knows what is expected of them.
- Regular Check-ins and Stand-up Meetings: Schedule regular check-ins and stand-up meetings to discuss progress, roadblocks, and upcoming tasks. These meetings provide an opportunity for developers to share updates, seek help if needed, and maintain a sense of connection with the team.
- Document Processes and Guidelines: Document the team’s processes, coding guidelines, and best practices. This documentation serves as a reference for developers and helps maintain consistency across the project.
- Be Mindful of Time Zones: Respect the different time zones of your remote developers and plan meetings and deadlines accordingly. If possible, try to find overlapping hours for real-time collaboration.
4. Consider Using an Agile Approach
One of the most effective management approaches for IT teams is the Agile Methodology. When you manage remote devs, being Agile will help you improve how you communicate, work together as a team, and deliver projects based on market feedback.
A VersionOne survey revealed that 95% of organizations practicing Agile development reported improved productivity.
So, what techniques does 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.
5. Improve The Way You Communicate with Tools
Never assume, always ask, and in case of doubt: talk. Keep this as a golden rule, and you will never have communication problems in your team.
Misunderstandings are quite common, especially on remote teams, so it’s better to tackle them from the start with the right tools and policies.
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 are shared via Google Drive & Coda, etc. Many cool tools will help you get set up and reduce troubles with communication.
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, 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.
Also, over-communication is not exaggerating and asking your developers how the project is going 24/7 (this is lowkey micromanagement).
Over-communicating in remote teams is being as clear as possible and double-checking if everything is understood instead of getting into endless meetings or emails during the workdays. Development teams 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. Encourage Work-Life Balance by Establishing Boundaries
Knowing how to manage software developers is also about taking care of their mental health. One of the major problems, particularly in IT, is burnout. When developers have tight deadlines and endless work shifts, they are more prone to burnout.
A study by Dev.to found that over 60% of developer experience burnout. The best way to reduce this percentage and avoid it at all costs in your team is by implementing boundaries.
Set fixed work schedules (let them choose theirs) and be clear that when they are off work, no one has to ping them unless it is a “Life or death” matter. Boundaries will help them understand the importance of them nurturing their life outside work.
7. Conduct Regular Performance Reviews
Make time for periodic performance reviews that will be useful to assess both individual and team performance, providing constructing feedback and identifying areas of improvement.
For this, I recommend you to set a regular cadence, whether it’s bi-weekly or monthly; consistency is what allows developers to anticipate feedback and actively work on improving their performance. Also, it’s a good space to highlight their good work and give a positive overview of something they did in particular.
Another recommendation is to encourage making 360-degree feedback. It shouldn’t be only you providing input on a developer’s performance but also peers and stakeholders so you can take a more holistic view of their strengths and areas to improve.
A fundamental aspect of performance reviews is action plans, the “what happens after”. Collaborate with each developer to create individual development plans based on feedback, outlining specific goals and actional steps.
8. 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.
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.
You should build a team spirit that boosts everyone’s morale. And how can you do this while working remotely? By being more conscious about it.
Here are some ideas:
- When having meetings, encourage face-to-face interactions, or in other words, turn cameras on.
- 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. Asking them, ‘’how are you doing’’ it’s a start.
- Recognize your developer’s hard work by congratulating them on the company’s general channel, via email or by sending them a gift card of something they like.
9. Allow Them to Do Their Jobs
As simple as that. One of the most common concerns I hear from clients is in terms of how to track developers’ work closely because otherwise, they are not sure if there are actually any. For me, the answer is simple; don’t. Results speak louder than words.
Of course, you need to review metrics (on this point later), but one of the main mistakes that lead to talented developers quitting is trying to micromanage and control them rather than letting them do their jobs.
Developers are not coding 8 hours a day; sometimes, they need time to think of solutions, develop innovative ways to solve problems, etc. The best way to evaluate their performance is by the outcomes they produce.
10. Provide Them with Growth Opportunities
The Developer Survey by JetBrains highlighted that professional growth opportunities for developers were the most critical factors in considering job satisfaction and retention.
Salary and other perks are important and serve as bait to keep developers engaged, but as soon as they start feeling their job is a one-way street, they will look for other opportunities. And if they are skilled enough, in a matter of weeks, they’ll be able to get a better job.
So, avoid losing your best talent by ensuring they can project in the future with your company.
Here are some ideas:
- Training and Workshops: Organize regular training sessions and workshops to enhance technical skills and knowledge. These can cover the latest programming languages, development tools, and industry best practices.
- Mentorship Programs: Establish mentorship programs where experienced developers can guide and support junior team members. Mentorship fosters skill development, career guidance, and a sense of camaraderie within the team.
- Encourage Learning and Certifications: Support developers in pursuing relevant certifications and online courses to expand their expertise. Offering financial incentives or study leave for certifications can be motivating.
- Internal Mobility: Promote internal mobility, allowing developers to explore different roles and projects within the company. This provides exposure to diverse challenges and encourages continuous learning.
- Career Path Planning: Work with developers to create individualized career path plans that outline their short-term and long-term goals. Regularly review and update these plans as they progress in their careers.
- Performance-based Promotions: Implement performance-based promotions to reward developers who consistently excel in their roles and contribute significantly to the company’s success.
- Support for Personal Projects: Encourage developers to work on personal coding projects that align with the company’s interests. Offer support and resources to turn these projects into valuable contributions.
11. Ask Questions and Understand Their Needs
Not every developer wants the same things, and for many, speaking out is challenging and might feel uncomfortable.
So prioritize open communication by creating an environment where developers feel comfortable asking questions and seeking guidance. With individual meetings, you get to know each developer better and understand their goals, aspirations, and expectations.
Also, having meetings with the team is key for providing the necessary resources and tools to enable developers to excel in their roles. From training to high-quality development tools, when developers feel supported and heard, productivity increases, but also their perception of the company becomes more positive.
12. Understand Your Team’s Dynamics
Some teams require daily meetings to understand what each member is up to, especially if they are working on projects that need a lot of back and forth. But others thrive better by having occasional meetings.
To manage your team of developers efficiently, it’s key to understand how they work best. Understanding your team’s pace, what tools work better for what, and the number of meetings required will save you and them from burnout and unnecessary stress.
Acknowledging and respecting their individual work preferences can foster a productive and harmonious work environment supporting the team’s success.
13. Review the Right Metrics
Start defining relevant metrics that align with the goals of your projects and the overall business objectives. Choose key performance indicators (KPIs) that truly impact the team’s performance, such as code quality, project completion rate, customer satisfaction, and bug resolution time. It’s important to avoid vanity metrics and focus on meaningful data that provides actionable insights for decision-making.
Additionally, regularly monitor and analyze the selected metrics to gain valuable insights and identify areas for improvement. Use the data to make data-driven decisions, spot trends, and address potential bottlenecks proactively.
Sharing the metrics with the development team creates a feedback loop that fosters collaboration, ownership and a culture of continuous improvement.
Managing Hybrid Dev Teams? Here’s Some Advice
If you have a remote development team (or plan to have it) while continuing to work 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 remotely 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 they 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.
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 development team 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.
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? Don’t leave your remote workers out of this!
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 remote work is something 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 with 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 talk to via a webcam.
Start Building Your Remote Dev Team Today
Managing remote developers can be challenging, but with these strategies, you’re set for success. At the end of the day, it all boils down to having a reliable hiring process that enables you to find and hire the right fit.
If you’re still struggling to find talented developers for your team, partner with us. At DistantJob, we focus on scaling dev teams from all company sizes with the best tech experts. You’ll not only hire developers who have the skill set you need but who also adapt to your company.
Want to know more about our process? Book a call today!