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Remote Employees – 3 Things for Public Managers to Consider

Public leaders need to rethink labor strategies to meet the needs of an evolving workforce. In times of economic boom, the public sector has an even more difficult time hiring talented employees. This has proven especially challenging in local governments losing experienced workers to retirement. First of all, local governments typically do not pay as well as private enterprises. While public employees trade lower hourly rates for better benefits and job security, this is often a hard sell for the younger generations that are merely concerned for the next paycheck.

As agencies adopt more technologies to improve operations, new skill sets are needed. Fortunately, telecommuting has made these skills more accessible to rural areas. Below are three things public leaders should consider when looking to leverage remote talent.

1) You will have resistance at all levels.

Politicians like to keep the jobs local, but competition with the private sector will most likely put your organization at a disadvantage. Also, public leaders needing to leverage information technology and other advanced skills, may not be able to find talent in local constituencies. Bringing in talent outside of your geographic area can bring new insights and ideas to your organization. Your current employees will need time to adjust to working with a new team member, especially if they have never been part of team with remote members.

2) Managing remote employees is different.

One of the biggest challenges in managing remote employees is the psychological distance remote employees feel that can impact collaboration. Enhancing communication will reduce that psychological distance. Email, while it’s often the most used form of communication within remote teams, is actually the most limited form of communication and it presents the greatest risk of message misinterpretation. The best managers make remote interaction more like face-to-face by picking up the phone or using video conferencing. They also encourage frequent, two-way dialogue that invites employees to offer input, insights and opinions. Interactions should be scheduled often and deadlines need to be communicated effectively.

3) Remote workers will impact your team dynamics.

Building rapport and trust with employees is critical for all managers. Bringing in a remote team member will disrupt your existing team. Unlike physical office spaces, where it’s easier to have a “water cooler chat”, remote employees don’t have the same opportunities to interact outside of the scope of work. Managers will need to approach team building differently. For example, it would be worthwhile to have your remote employee onsite one or two days every other month. Use this time for your remote employee to get to know other members of the team. Public managers will also need to have frequent one-on-one meetings with remote employees. This will make your remote team member feel valued and provide an opportunity to give feedback on work performance.

Charles Lewing is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. A Louisiana native, he graduated from McNeese State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance. He later earned his MBA in 2001. He relocated to Houston, Texas and worked in various finance and accounting roles for number of healthcare organizations. In 2016, he relocated to West Texas to pursue a career in public financial leadership. He currently serves as the Reeves County Auditor. Charles is very passionate about inclusive management, LEAN six sigma, and improving operational efficiency through leveraging technology. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time in the outdoors and reading spy novels. You can read his posts here.

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