Remote hiring is the cool kid on the block. After all, you get to take your company (or startup) global. It also creates a diverse team culture you can’t find anywhere else. But wait – hiring remote tech teams is one thing. How do you even begin to manage remote tech teams, especially if you’re scattered across different time zones? Isn’t this every manager’s worst nightmare?
We spoke to Buffer’s Technical Product Manager, Tom Redman, and CodeControl’s founder, Marc Clemens, to find out their go-to strategies when handling their vast remote tech teams. Check out what they had to say down below!
Tom Redman, Technical Product Manager, Buffer
With presence in six whole continents, 60 cities, and 11 time zones, Buffer is a massive remote company. Buffer was founded in 2010. It’s a social media management platform for businesses to drive their social media presence through automation. Check out Tom’s advice and insights on managing remote tech teams here!
1. Communication is key
The team at Buffer communicates internally a whole lot! A video meeting with the whole team occurs at least once a week. That allows remote employees and team members to keep in touch and keep up with one another frequently. Tom also holds mini-retros (retrospective meetings) every two weeks and a full retro after every 6-week work cycle.
For those unfamiliar with the term, retrospective meetings are essentially “lessons learned” sessions. Tech teams are able to reflect on what went well and wrong, and what the next action plan should be to better improve the work process.
Buffer’s engineering team also meets once per day just to see each other, say hello, and talk about what they’re working on.
2. Include your team in the decision-making process
Despite being a leader and team manager, it’s not always your burden alone to make big decisions for the future of your startup or company. All employees will appreciate being a part of your company’s growth, even going beyond their individual roles and tasks for the week!
It’s not always about work, work, work. Read all about how Buffer’s retreat planning team included the entire company in the decision-making process. They eventually took the whole company to Singapore for their 9th retreat! Awesome stuff.
“Seek explicit input before making a decision so that even if the decision is not what somebody wanted, [the team] trusts that they were heard.” – Tom Redman
Tom constantly keeps this at the forefront of his mind: to actively include his team in the decision-making process. “Seek explicit input before making a decision,” Tom said. “Even if the decision is not what somebody wanted, [the team] trusts that they were heard.”
3. Delegating work without giving surprises
Work delegation, for Tom, happens organically – and with as much synergy as possible. For better productivity and getting things done, it’s probably for the best that no one on your team is caught off-guard by a certain task or something that’s expected of them. (This is where Kanban boards come in handy, BTW) For Tom, it’s important that his team is fully caught up throughout work cycles. These work cycles are longer than regular project sprints, but still short enough to encourage creativity.
“I try to remove surprises to the engineering team around upcoming weeks or months,” Tom said. “I don’t hand out tasks to the engineering team; we arrive at them together.”
4. Hear everyone out – and create a safe space
In a remote setting, it’s important that your entire remote tech team feels comfortable enough to share its thoughts openly. At Buffer, this is one of Tom’s priorities. “We make sure to create an environment of trust, positivity, and clarity,” he said. “With these ingredients, you can encourage more voices, more creativity, and the safest environment within which people can collaborate openly and fully.”
How Buffer creates a safe environment
Did you know that Buffer’s All Hands meeting includes a Q&A session at the end of every video call? Employee questions can be safely and quickly addressed in front of the whole company.
Buffer also preserves an inclusive environment for LGBT+ folk. Employee Dave Chapman has expressed relief and gratitude at being able to freely be himself while hanging out on the Slack channel with the rest of the team. With such a safe space, it’s no wonder Buffer flourishes as a hugely remote company.
Where does it all start? From the manager (that’s you), of course. Tom notes that such a feat can be difficult, especially in an environment with low trust levels or unclear communication. Creating a safe space for your remote tech team to flourish is a crucial step towards productivity and successful collaboration.
Marc Clemens, Founder, CodeControl
CodeControl, founded by Marc, is all about project-based management. The company sources the best developers, designers, and project managers in Europe for the startup scene. Founded by Marc in 2014, CodeControl boasts a community of over 200 developers and an average of 10.2 years’ experience in programming. Check out Marc’s awesome insights on what it takes to manage remote tech teams!
1. Going beyond work to create an awesome culture
CodeControl, despite being a remote company, frequently flies their people into the headquarters. Whether it’s for company events or casual meetups, Marc makes it possible for his remote employees to meet face-to-face with each other. That eliminates one downside of having a remote company: isolation and the loss of team bonding.
Ready to put together your own remote tech team? Click here to work with Glints and win the war on talent.
2. Open communication, always
CodeControl’s virtual office is situated on a massive Slack channel, just like many other tech companies. Marc notes that more frequent, open communication is needed when it comes to project-based management. It’s something that first-timers to remote hiring may not be used to. Marc also makes it a point to be easy with his use of Skype, so people are able to get in touch with him quickly.
Feedback sessions, reviews, and one-on-ones are held regularly. That’s in addition to the occasional casual catch-up, like “Hey, how’re you doing? How’s your dog?”
To remain productive, Marc and his team religiously use Slack’s SnippetsBot. It collates weekly achievements, goals, and obstacles to be shared with the rest of the channel at the start of each week. This weekly standup structure covers things done the week before, and goals for the coming week. That way, everyone knows what everyone’s doing without having to pester each other.
3. Dominate with documentation
Marc is a great proponent of documentation. He stresses that it’s important for project-based remote work. Are you a maturing startup or a sizeable company? Implementing documentation is key to ensuring your work processes and structures are accessible for your remote tech teams.
Write down the standards put into place, document different roles and how people carry out their work. This will make onboarding new employees a much smoother experience. Employees who forget something can simply look it up without a sweat.
4. Minding the remote company structure
“If you work with a team that’s mainly onsite, it gives you a chance to work in unstructured ways,” Marc pointed out. Conversely, hiring remote tech teams allows a company to increase their output. The work structure in remote companies means everyone know what everyone’s doing and where they can get in touch with someone. That’s a win for efficiency.
CodeControl has a pretty tight work structure. Marc attributes this to the frequent, open communication over Slack, as mentioned above. In a remote setting, your employees are already scattered in different cities and countries! Consciously staying in touch and holding regular standups are key to keeping it all together.