Since the beginning of 2020, when news of the coronavirus started hitting the headlines, the world has been transformed in ways that would have been hard to predict just months before. Now, countries are rolling out vaccines in desperate efforts to bring to an end the suffering from the pandemic.
In the last year, businesses have had to figure out how to keep their employees working amidst lockdowns, curfews, and strict limits to gatherings of all kinds. All of a sudden, companies that had been hell-bent on rejecting any push for remote working found themselves having no choice but to embrace it and find creative ways to stay productive. Some organizations have sought a relatively new work model in these unprecedented times: leveraging remote extended teams.
For companies that were not remote-first institutions before the coronavirus pandemic, being thrust into that space was intimidating. Yet, the lessons they’re learning will be central to their future success, likely to be remote-work-centered.
What Is the Extended Team Model?
The extended team model (ETM) is a relatively new approach to hiring at the workplace. The basic idea behind extended teams is to add people to your teams whose expertise you can’t find or afford locally. You can think of the extended team model as an improvement of the outsourcing approaches that have been in use over the years.
The traditional outsourcing approach treats offshore teams as periphery outfits only called upon to do the extra tasks that the local team cannot complete. The extended team model takes a very different approach. ETM incorporates offshore employees as an integral part of the local team and remote extensions of the home office.
Also, unlike the traditional outsourcing that limits communication to an as-needed basis, ETM ensures that foreign teams are part of the conversation throughout, continually engaging in direct contact with their colleagues at the local level. ETM tackles contractorship as an outsourcing principle, turning remote teams into full-blown branches of the local enterprise.
By leveraging ETM, companies can enjoy the typical logistical and financial benefits of remote development outsourcing as well as tackle some challenges associated with traditional outsourcing. Top among these challenges is the seamless integration of remote teams into the home office workflow.
In the ETM approach, remote extended teams work on one particular project with one goal — timely delivery of a robust product. Unlike the typical outsourcing setup, ETM projects are not terminated after the successful launch of a product. Instead, they are refocused to move to the next project.
So, how can you leverage remote extended teams to record better outputs for your enterprise?
The following are five ways you could improve your chances of business success with your remote extended team:
Come up with a list of skills your remote extended team members should possess
Before you embark on finding experts to fill out your remote extended team, you must review the tasks that the ETM team will be doing and develop a list of skillsets you’ll need the team members to possess. Armed with this information, you can start looking for the best candidates, knowing that your search doesn’t have to be limited to your locality, country, or continent. Your list of skillsets should include details about the experience and values that the team should have.
Make deliberate efforts to incorporate the extended team into the local workflow
Once you have the remote team in place, it still falls on you to ensure that the team feels like part of the home office team, that they don’t feel left out. Resist the temptation of delegating secondary tasks to your remote extended team because doing so could lead to an unending cycle of challenges in communication, substandard outputs, and complications to the overall management of the team, both local and extended.
Set up and update expectations for all members of the team, both local and extended
Managers ought to review and update every team member’s duties and responsibilities to clarify objectives and roles. Push your team members to take up personal responsibility for making sure there’s open, transparent, and consistent communication.
Take time to discuss with your team conflict resolution processes and expectations from each member regarding their dependability, responsiveness, and availability. Such a forum would allow the company to describe what “urgent” should look like and how to best reach out to each other when those moments come.
Encourage team members to make the most of available virtual collaboration platforms
Whenever there’s an available collaboration platform your members can use to streamline the workflow, they should use it. From virtual meeting apps to check-in software and virtual whiteboards and screen-sharing, leveraging collaboration technologies will improve your extended team’s productivity. Don’t shy away from video conferencing because it will reinforce the idea that everyone in the company is part of the team. Microsoft Teams and other virtual workspaces can help you create that sense of belonging for everyone in your team.
Show empathy, focusing on improving outcomes rather than clocking hours
Remote working is still a new phenomenon for many employees. Showing that you understand the magnitude of the global pandemic and how much it has altered people’s lives will help your employees adjust to their lives working remotely in extended teams.
Given that the members of your remote teams will be in different environments facing different challenges, it would be helpful to be patient and understanding. Whatever you do, be respectful, watch your tone (even in emails), and trust your team. Instead of an obsession with employees clocking time, focus on improving outcomes.
When dealing with every member of your extended team, assume positive intent. Before concluding something, take time to talk to the person involved to understand better how they’re fulfilling their obligations. Ambiguity is unavoidable in remote extended teams and requires all parties not to make assumptions about the other team members’ commitment to work. The only way to guarantee success in remote extended teams is by establishing relationships of trust, open communication, respect, and plainly laid-out expectations.