Being a manager today involves constant work on improving your skills and evolving. The workplace environment is changing rapidly. More and more companies are relying on freelancers to accomplish an array of key tasks.
According to the Future Workforce Report by Upwork, 63 percent of companies have a partially remote workforce today, but a majority of them lack remote work policies. This is a problem. The managers are trying to follow trends without adjusting the workplace policies first.
A similar 2017 report shows that 55 percent of companies intend to increase their use of freelancers throughout 2017 and 2018. In 2016, one third of companies questioned did hire freelancers for certain tasks. According to 71 percent of the managers questioned, hiring freelancers allowed for more work to be done. But policies must be adjusted to fit the freelance economy.
In order to gain the full benefits of hiring remote freelancers, managers should know how to interact with freelance professionals and keep track of execution for the best possible outcome.
And that’s only the beginning.
In the constantly evolving workplace, young and ambitious managers have to focus on specific skills. At this moment, these are the most important ones to pay attention to:
Remote Freelancer Management Capabilities
That same report from Upwork showed that 55% of hiring managers agreed that remote work has become more common when compared to three years ago. The predictions on the freelance economy are optimistic: hiring managers believe that 38% of their workforce will be remote in the future.
This is a huge trend that’s setting the new standards in the hiring process.
Maybe you already know how to handle employees, but dealing with remote freelancers is not the same as supervising and mentoring people who are in the office with you every single day.
Managing the work of freelancers is going to be a complex process. It will involve consistent check-ins (sometimes on a daily basis), better than ever communication skills, explicit expectations and prioritization.
Remote leaders usually find it more difficult to build connections and get the professional partnerships to evolve. Technology and indirect communication will often be involved. This is why the terms and conditions of the partnership have to be established in advance. Having everybody on the same page and checking in on a regular basis can both contribute to stability and productiveness.
Here are few tips to help with that:
Use video as much as possible!
Remote freelancers need to feel like part of a community, just as in-office employees do. There’s no other way for them to “feel the vibe” of the company’s culture but through video chats.
Be flexible with working times!
Do you know why people like working remotely? – Because they can plan their own time. They like being able to work when they feel most productive. They will still meet deadlines, but their working times will differ from the usual 9-5 office hours. You have to understand that! When you send messages, don’t expect these people to answer immediately. Keep in mind that some of them are in different time zones, too.
Technology Management Skills
Surveys show technology use is one of the most important skills for young and ambitious managers. Successful leaders use multiple types of software and apps to collaborate with freelancers. In the Bain Management Tools & Trends survey from 2017, 66% of managers agreed that digital disruptions and software solutions were rapidly changing the rules of competition. The better you use technology, the more competitive the business becomes. 50% of the managers said they relied on world-class advanced analytics, but 56% said they talked about digital strategies without implementing them quickly enough.
When you’re thinking about the type of technology you should use, start with communication tools. Phone and email provide good opportunities but they’re just the starting point. Adobe Connect, Slack, and even Facebook Messenger are viable alternatives that should be harnessed to their fullest potential.
Contemporary offices involve work with freelancers, telecommuters and even remote business partners. Good knowledge and understanding of technology will be imperative for managers who want to stay on top of all processes.
These are only few of the resources you’ll have to learn how to use:
- Live streaming technology
- Productivity and project management tools
- Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions
- Time tracking software
If you don’t know what to do with such tools, chances are that you’re not supervising execution particularly well.
Technology, particularly cloud-based solutions, will start playing an even bigger role in the managerial process in the future.
Face-to-face interactions in the corporate world are becoming less common. Remote connectivity is providing new opportunities.
Communication is the greatest challenge of the modern workplace. The problem is that it’s indirect, so the company is not transparent enough towards freelancers. That can lead to issues with trust and credibility.
Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2018 Report proved that fact. Collaborating, communicating and loneliness were the biggest struggles that remote freelancers identified. 21% of the surveyed freelancers said they had those problems, which lead to other issues, such as lack of motivation.
When interactions aren’t occurring face-to-face, people miss on many of the cues that provide hints on top of the verbal communication. They can’t see your smile, so they may misinterpret your attempt to be funny. They can’t see that you’re unwell, so they think you’re unenthusiastic about the work or you yourself. Body language, tone, voice and even the place where a meeting is taking place can reveal a lot, and you’re missing out on those factors when relying on digital tools to communicate with freelancers.
Work with freelancers will involve a lot of indirect communication. So you have to learn how to use it well.
Explain your expectations right from the start and provide feedback to remote freelancers on a regular basis. If expectations aren’t being met, this information will have to be communicated. The same applies to praise or eventual changes in the parameter of the project. If transparency isn’t a part of the relationship, both the productivity and the output will suffer.
Make daily check-ins on Skype!
Inform freelance hires about the progress of the project and talk about the next steps you’ll be taking.
Send email summaries on a regular basis!
It would be great if you could do this daily, but weekly summary emails are the least you could do. You’ll send them notifications about the work that everybody has accomplished, and you’ll ask for detailed reports on the part of every freelancer who works for you.
One-on-one meetings are still important. If you cannot get freelancers to your office, you can have a one-on-one meeting on Skype. This popular conferencing tool eliminates the problems of indirect communication, since freelancers will get hints of body language and facial cues.
Emotional intelligence has always been a key leadership skill and its importance will not diminish as a needed skill for ambitious managers. You mustn’t underestimate this factor, since EI is the strongest predictor of performance, accounting for 58% of the success in all types of work.
The term emotional intelligence refers to the capacity to understand and manage the needs and the emotions of others. Needless to say, distance makes it very difficult to understand how freelancers feel or how they’re approaching a certain task. A manager who doesn’t have a high level of emotional intelligence could potentially miss the cues.
Emotional intelligence in the workplace of the future will translate into better understanding of current needs, more effective conflict resolution and the selection of the right professionals for the completion of a specific task.
Some believe that emotional intelligence is a given and it can’t be developed. This isn’t necessarily the case.
Emotional intelligence can be increased in a few specific ways.
For a start, you need to become more aware of your own emotions and reactions. If you can’t deal with your own stress or anger, chances are that your professional relationships will be affected.
Focus on developing empathy! Focus on the needs of others, asking the right questions to extract essential information and learning how to listen actively.
Take an emotional intelligence test. Even if you don’t believe in such tests, the one provided by Psychology Today is a good one. It helps you assess your current level of emotional intelligence, so you can focus on improving your weaknesses.
Read books on emotional intelligence. Here are few suggestions:
The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow by Bruna Martinuzzi and Michael A. Freeman
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Emotionally Intelligent Manager: How to Develop and Use the Four Key Emotional Skills of Leadership by David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey
Develop Each Skill for Ambitious Managers
Being a manager today is really exciting! You can access an array of wonderful opportunities previous generations weren’t able to. At the same time, however, you should know how to adapt to various situations. Work with freelancers provides opportunities but it also sprouts new challenges. To tackle those, you will have to enhance each skill for ambitious managers and adopt the approaches that will deliver the best results as far as remote interactions are concerned.
Laura Buckler is a professional writer at Essays.ScholarAdvisor. Her main areas of interest are digital marketing, social media marketing and content writing on the back of her previous career as a social media marketer. Follow Laura on Twitter.