4 Steps to Managing Distributed Augmented Team
In a staff augmentation model, internal and remote developers work on the same project and usually the same code base. When the model is applied correctly, efficient communication results in high productivity and a team dynamic. However, if the model is not effectively implemented, there may be significant communication overhead, resulting in productivity loss. Long meetings, frustrating code reviews, merge, or even worse, when the project manager or a stakeholder refuses to mark the feature as “complete.” This is a professional reality that can present some interesting managerial challenges. Executives must learn how to successfully interact and collaborate with remote teams to capitalize on the tremendous creative and engineering skills that a distributed augmented team can give to any firm.
According to a recent survey by Buffer, a social media management software company, “90% of remote workers want to work remotely for the remainder of their careers.” 94% of respondents indicated they actively urge others to work remotely. These figures demonstrate that decentralized, remote development teams are increasing.
Here are four critical stages to successfully recruiting augmented employees, developing remote teams, and managing those teams over time:
1. Collaborate with a staffing firm to create a distributed augmented team
Creating and then managing a distributed augmented team can appear to be a challenging endeavor. Working with an experienced staff augmentation vendor is one of the most effective methods to overcome the problems of sourcing, interviewing, and onboarding remote workers from the start. Staffing companies can manage the complete staffing process on an ongoing basis. A company that merely puts an ad for remote engineers on a job site like LinkedIn or Upwork and then hires and cobbles together a remote staff on its own is more likely to run into personnel challenges later.
Staff augmentation firms may assist enterprises in building and managing remote teams at every stage of the hiring and onboarding process by handling a variety of key tasks such as:
- Staff Augmentation agencies will recruit and vet remote candidates that match a development team’s staffing requirements based on a needs assessment that prioritizes the skills and educational background a client is searching for in a candidate.
- Staffing firms can provide skills tests to job candidates and thoroughly evaluate references and work history.
- IT staff augmentation providers can access a vast pool of previously validated technical or creative expertise. This pool of experienced candidates assists clients in quickly assembling professional distributed teams.
- Experienced staff augmentation providers can continuously evaluate supplemental workers while modifying a remote team’s working hours (depending on time zone differences) to match a client’s chosen operational hours.
- Staff Augmentation Provider such as Bestarion will train remote workers on a client’s management style, internal communication procedures, corporate culture, and overall remote staff expectations. This training enables remote teams to work more seamlessly with full-time employees, project leaders, and managers.
- A staffing vendor can set up remote communication solutions to handle daily/weekly work assignments and monitor or address any questions (from project managers or remote personnel) that may emerge during a project’s life cycle.
- As specified by the client, technical staffing services can manage various aspects of the onboarding process, such as additional staff training, providing technical equipment, setting up remote workstations, 24-hour IT support, handling contracts and payroll administration, or dealing with any other contractual HR issues that may arise.
2. Establish Reliable Communication Systems and Protocols
According to the Harvard Business Review, “Remote communication can distort the normal pace of our conversations.” Virtual distance, which is a distant feeling people have from one another when physically separated, frequently arises when working with distributed teams. The greater the virtual distance between a remote development team and a client, the more likely communication challenges may arise. Setting up well-defined communication methods and protocols is the best way to overcome the challenges generated by virtual distance.
Bestarion believes that well-defined communication protocols aid in the reduction of malfunctions in intra-team interactions caused by geographical and virtual distances. Following the implementation of a client’s preferred cloud or SaaS-based communication systems, such as real-time video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meet, UberConference, Skype, etc.), real-time chat (Slack, Facebook Workplace, Skype, etc.), and information radiator visual displays that track and update project progress, communication protocols must be quickly established.
Regularly planned video conference sessions, for example, can encourage true “face” time with remote team members, fostering intra-team empathy that stems from the capacity to see human gestures and facial emotions and hear someone’s tone of voice. These “human” kinds of communication (which are not readily apparent in text messages) can help to develop a stronger foundation of trust through more personal modes of communication.
Clear guidelines for remote team members contacting project managers or scrum masters through a chat tool can also help develop greater communication, making everyone happier and more productive. Remote and in-house employees will recognize when they may discuss project duties or creative challenges with one another without being woken up in the middle of the night, which can lead to misunderstandings and grumpy employees (remote or in the office) the following day.
Businesses working with remote teams can decrease the separation that often comes with virtual distance by utilizing user-friendly communication platforms and establishing guidelines around how those services are used. These communication standards, in turn, will increase intra-team empathy and morale, which can bridge communication gaps across cultural divisions, ensuring that no team member feels left out of the development loop or is lagging.
3. Create a Collaborative Team Culture
Businesses that foster a collaborative team culture that strives to include every team member, regardless of geographical location or cultural differences, in the company’s overall ethos will get the most out of their remote teams by establishing a foundation of trust between local and remote workers. This trusted relationship helps to strengthen the team culture required to generate excellent products and services. Implementing an inclusive managerial strategy might help to reinforce a feeling of shared culture. Here are a few pointers to help engineering and human resources leaders create cooperative team environments:
Embrace Ceremonies and Rituals: Companies working on creative, engineering, or agile development projects – or any other sort – frequently establish internal ceremonies and rituals over time to commemorate the completion of certain phases or celebrate a programming challenge that is solved. This could mean that lunch is provided or brought in for the day, everyone gets together and sings a goofy song or everyone has a drink and something sweet. Distributed augmented team members will be further integrated into the company culture and made to feel a part of the greater whole by including remote workers in these rituals and adjusting slightly for time zone or cultural differences (for example, singing on Zoom or taking dietary restrictions for offshore staff).
Set Up “Open” Communication Channels: As previously stated, good communication systems and protocols are essential when working with distant teams. However, once those technologies and protocols are in place, internal communication channels must stay open and unfettered. When concerns or issues emerge, remote employees should feel secure enough to discuss them politely with project management. Great communication technologies are useless if the company culture discourages genuine communication or distant workers are too reluctant to utilize them.
Instill Company Values Through Training and Team Building Events: Even if a company cannot afford to bring together all of its employees for a single team building event, locally-coordinated events can do a lot to educate and motivate employees. Adventure-based team-building activities such as zip line courses or escape rooms can help remote employees develop team spirit. Another strategy to embed company values in remote teams while ensuring everyone is functioning under the same professional standards is to offer periodic training using internal communication channels that include local and remote personnel.
4. Establish a Trusting Work Environment that Encourages Responsibility
After hiring and establishing project managers, remote personnel, suitable communication methods, and inclusive culture for offshore and nearshore development teams, it’s time to delegate some responsibility to remote teams. While it is critical to monitor output quality, it is equally critical to allow remote workers to operate as independently as feasible – assuming the project development criteria have been explicitly set.
According to Gallup, trust and belonging are critical aspects in managing remote employees: “When employees don’t trust organizational leadership, their chances of being engaged are one in 12.” However, if that trust is formed, the chances of engagement increase to more than one in two.” Businesses that foster a sense of trust and community through remote teams and augmented employees are likely to realize significant efficiency and job performance improvements.
By engaging a competent staffing vendor, hiring the right team members and project managers, ensuring accessible communication among employees, and nurturing cooperation and shared values between full-time and remote staff, companies can build effective distributed augmented teams that work together to help them achieve their business or product development goals.