You already turned to outsourcing? That’s great! Businesses of all sizes can save on budget and gain on efficiency when they outsource properly. Outsourcing is great because it gives you access to highly-skilled professionals in marketing, IT, project management, accounting, and all other professions that are crucial for the development of your projects.
The problem is: how do you keep your remote employees motivated? You give them deadlines, and the working hours are on them. A remote worker has the flexibility to plan the schedule in accordance with their daily routine. They can work during weekends and sleep through Mondays; they can work in the middle of the night, or they can stick to the 9-to-5 schedule if that works for them. As long as they meet the deadlines, things will work out perfectly.
Throughout my experience, I found that managing remote workers was more complicated than it seemed in theory. There are few problems with outsourcing:
- Lack of connection. A remote worker doesn’t feel the company’s culture as well as an office worker.
- Procrastination. It’s the devil! Someone says they are going to complete the work as soon as possible, but something always prevents them from sticking to the plan. Then, they end up rushing to accomplish the goal right before the deadline.
- Lack of control. You can monitor the results, but you cannot monitor the way they work. Maybe you’re looking at a blog post that Copyscape didn’t recognize as plagiarism. It seems original and fun, but maybe the author just spinned an online source that the audience knows too well.
- Lack of motivation. This is the biggest trouble of all. When a remote worker stays at home all day, working on the tasks you delegated, sooner or later they start thinking: “What the hell am I doing? I’m spending my entire days on this couch, in front of this computer. Is this what life is?”
If you solve the lack of motivation problem, the other three issues will go away, too. It’s time to learn how to do that: make your outsource workers more motivated to do what you need them to do.
5 ways of motivating an outsource team
Highlight long-term collaboration opportunities
Let’s say you’re hiring a team of freelance writers to work on a blog linked to anti-aging, so you can sell more beauty products. You pick writers who have experience with beauty topics. You negotiate the price, and everything seems perfect. You assign ten articles to each of them, and you notice that the first posts are brilliant. Over time, you see that the quality level drops in the work of most of writers.
I’ve seen that happen too many times before. When the project is coming to an end, people are just trying to get it done. They started enthusiastically, and they used their best ideas at the beginning. Now that they know I liked their work, they try less to impress you.
It took me a while to figure out the solution: highlighting long-term opportunities. What will they get if they work for you and do a great job? There are few ways for you to keep them going:
- Emphasize the importance of this project. How will it help the target audience on the long run? Let’s stick to the anti-aging example: these writers are helping many women to find the products they are looking for and solve the skincare problems they have. You should encourage them to communicate with this audience in the comments, and they will see themselves doing that after the project is over.
- When you hire these workers, tell them that if they do a good job, they will get an opportunity to become long-term collaborators.
- This one is really effective: increase their pay as they make progress. When I hire new writers in the team, I start paying them $20 per hour. If I see them contributing with great content, I raise the hourly rate to $23 after 3 months of collaboration. Then, I continue increasing the pay to keep them motivated. Trust me: that costs less than decreased quality.
When people see an opportunity to make more money in future, of course they will be more motivated to work more. But, make sure to remind them that quality is a requirement for higher fees and bonuses.
You don’t like a remote worker’s achievements? You don’t think it’s bad, but you think they could do better? You don’t think they understood your instructions that well? Well, tell them! You need to have a feedback structure, which will make them feel appreciated when they do a good job, and will remind them they could do some things a tad better.
I once worked as a team leader for a project manager who never gave feedback. I kept sending the projects, and I kept getting the transactions. But, I didn’t get anything else. I didn’t know how the client liked my work. You must be curious: how did that end? Well, I didn’t get my contract renewed because, guess what: the guy didn’t think the work was perfect.
- Don’t make them assume that no news is good news. You should always stay connected with your employers and give them your opinions. The communication itself will motivate them, since they will feel appreciated.
- You don’t have to write daily email messages, you know. Trello is a great app that helps you assign tasks to specific members, monitor the progress on the project, and give them feedback along the way. Since I started using it, Trello gave more structure to all my projects, and it helped me keep the teams committed to the goals.
Be aware of their need for flexibility
No matter how hard you try to keep your remote workers engaged in the work, you have to keep in mind that they value their flexibility. That’s why they chose to be freelancers instead of in-office workers. If you control them too much and expect them to works during strict working hours, you’ll lose them.
- Outsourced workers are usually paid hourly, so they don’t take many free days if they need the money. Since they are not getting paid for the free days, it would be unfair for you to prevent them.
If someone asks for a free day on Orthodox Christmas or Chinese New Year, I allow them the “luxury” to celebrate it. I write personalized emails to wish them a great holiday. If someone decides to have a vacation, I wish them a good time. But, I always let my workers know that I need them to inform me about their holidays and vacations at least one week ahead.
When an outsourced employee does a great job, I want to keep the good work going. If, for example, I’m paying $10 per slide of a presentation and someone delivers awesome work, I increase the final pay for $30. That’s a small bonus payment for me as a manager, but the employee values it greatly.
- You can give random bonuses when you’re happy with someone’s work, but be careful: all members of the team should get equal treatment. If someone gets a bonus, they will all try harder. If you notice progress in the work of other members of the team, you should give them the same bonus.
Communicate. All the time!
When you have a good remote team and you keep getting satisfactory results from them, you’ll probably want to assign a team leader, who will serve as the intermediary between you and the team.
That was a bad idea when I first put it to action, since I didn’t carry it out properly. I thought the team leader was supposed to be in charge with the entire project. I made the same mistake as the boss who didn’t give feedback to my work as a team leader: I assigned general guidelines and delegated the details to the team leader. At the end, I got press releases and articles that missed the point. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to recognize my own part in the failure.
- It’s important to learn something about each member of the team. Talk to them about their goals, as well as about the challenges they face. What would make them happier to do the job? You may assume they want a bonus, but maybe all they need are clearer instructions and more feedback from your side.
- Effective communication can easily make a remote worker feel as part of the organization’s culture. That’s why you need to send them frequent messages. Use Trello and other tools to monitor their work and assign new tasks, and organize Skype conferences.
- Treat them like human beings. If someone asked for a day off because they weren’t feeling well, send a message asking how they are doing. If someone just got back from vacation, ask them how it went.
- Can you afford a team building event? If yes, then go for it! If your workers come from different countries, you can think of online activities that would build the team spirit. Games and contests will help them form a bond, and they will communicate between each other much more easily after that.
An outsource team can do a brilliant job, as long as you motivate the workers enough. Hopefully, you found the tips you needed above. Now, all you need to do is follow them. Try different motivational techniques and see what works. Then, share your experience with us!
About the Author:
Mary Kleim is a digital specialist and creative writer. She has her own team of freelancers, who are working on assignment help service Assignment Masters.