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These 3 Tips can Double the Productivity of your Web Based Workforce
We truly live in an era of incredible connectivity. A startup in one corner of the globe can now operate entirely over the internet – using a combination of collaborative suites, conferencing options, and software programs to coordinate employees and contractors from anywhere in the world. Being able to utilize a remote workforce is extremely useful for a company that wants to expand faster than the local job market allows, or that wants to internationalize its workforce, but it also comes with challenges. How do you ensure that your tele-commuting workforce remains on task, and that you actually receive the work that you are paying for? These three tips will help enhance your distributed project management – taking your outsourced workforce to the next level of productivity.
When most people think about “tracking” in the abstract, they think of Big Brother and the negative surveillance connotation, however businesses have always used various electronic tracking methods to ensure that their employees are performing adequately. When you hire a contractor, especially when you are paying them hourly for specific work, you have a right to know that they are remaining on task throughout each one of their billable hours. One way to provide yourself with peace of mind (and keep your contractor focused on work during their billable time) is to use some form of tracking system. There are many different applications that all purport to track freelancers and contractors – and most use some form of activity tracker that logs browser and application windows on a computer, keyboard activity, and occasionally webcam photos or desktop screenshots to demonstrate that the contractor is present.
Make sure you include information about your tracking systems and expectations in your employee handbook, and don’t step over the line into unauthorized tracking. Whatever application you choose should be easily disabled or paused by the user – allowing them to shift into “unbilled” time if they need to check their personal email or leave the computer. Also, avoid the trap of being too vigilant with your tracking requirements – you are trying to get a general idea of the productivity of a contractor, not time their activities to the minute – since this can be counterproductive to contractor productivity and morale.
The much-maligned meeting has become a staple of the corporate world, and perhaps it is true that people are depending too much on traditional meetings as a way of assessing project status. Even so, meetings are still a useful tool at bringing an entire project team online – and your contractors should be expected to attend occasional meetings to make them feel like they are part of a broader company team and to allow them to provide their input for decisions that might influence their projects. It is easy to conduct a meeting entirely over the web, or as some hybrid of in-person and over the web, with software like Citrix GoToMeeting or any of its competitors. Make sure you are compensating your contractors for time that they spend in meetings – since any mandatory requirements that you issue to your independent contractors should be priced into the value of their contract or separately compensated with hourly pay.
Finally, when you have a distributed workforce, you need a way to bring everyone together so they can see each other’s contributions to a project and you can manage their input in a productive manner. While it would be theoretically possible to manage a project solely on your own local system – manually putting in each team member’s contribution independently – it is far more feasible to manage a project with a collaborative program like Basecamp or Trello. Almost all collaborative programs give team members the ability to upload their contributions, accept assignments and due dates, and converse with other team members in written threads. Most programs give you, the administrator, some level of additional control over security and permissions so you can ensure that contractors only have access to the parts of a project that they need to see, and don’t have access to sensitive information that you might only want to share with full time employees. Both Basecamp and Trello are highly sophisticated systems – and made even more useful with collaborative office suites and calendar systems like Office 365 and Google Apps for Business.