Managing a remote-first tech team: strategies we stand by
by JP Nacier, Movinx Chief Technology Officer
Managing a remote-first team is not impossible, it’s just different. Our CTO JP Nacier shares the strategies and techniques he finds essential to success.
Remote first: an intentional strategy
It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic revolutionized how we work. With no choice but to build out our work systems to adapt to remote working, we now live in a world where working remotely is desired for both employees and managers. When it came to recruiting Movinx’s team, we knew that a remote-first strategy would bring us valuable advantages. A wider choice of talent, increased efficiency and higher-quality outputs are what remote-first recruiting brings to the table. How?
Recruiting top talent is hard.
Harvard Business Review said it. Forbes said it. And we’re saying it too: it can be daunting to recruit a top tech team because the best talent is in high demand by companies in every industry. And the talent knows it. Companies that want to attract top tech talent today have to look beyond geographic location and be prepared to offer something more appealing than a ping pong table to get the interest of the best tech stars.
Remote-first and flexible work are among the most frequently cited needs for information workers today. In the same studies cited above, 40% of workers even report that they’d look for other work if they were forced to return to the office. A remote-first strategy is a blended strategy, allowing the team to work remotely, and together at the office, depending on team members’ and projects’ needs.
Managing and collaborating remotely
And once you’ve got the talent on your team, it’s important to keep them there. Turnover is a worry on the mind of managers across industries. Employees want schedule flexibility, better benefits, better compensation, social inclusion and more. To be quite honest, we agree with them! This is why we’ve structured our company around remote-first work, flexible work, and a management style that is above all human.
As a manager, I’ve had to adapt my managerial and team-building strategy to adapt to a remote-first world. Maybe the things I’ve learned will be useful to you.
Building an internal communication strategy is essential to managing remotely. Here are a few of the methods I use and encourage my team to use, plus some questions I ask myself:
- Take advantage of public chat channels where the cross chatter organically helps to keep people informed.
- Defining scenarios when different communication mediums are best used. Could this be an email? A chat message? Or should it be a call?
- Keeping calendars up to date to highlight availability.
- Setting expectations for response times.
- Reducing the formality of video calls. We’re all human: it’s OK if your kid or pet is on camera.
Keeping a finger on the pulse
Beyond daily work-focused communication, as a manager of a remote-first team, I also use a few other strategies to keep my finger on the pulse of my team’s needs. A few practices I use are:
- Scheduling regular one-on-ones with team members, weekly or bi-weekly to connect.
- Actively gauging stress levels through qualitative cues like backlog reduction rate, after-hours chatter on public channels, and mood shifts in one-on-ones.
- Scheduling in-person social gatherings when possible. These might be quarterly in-person cross-functional team workshops or social outings.
When 'different' means 'improvement
At the onset of the pandemic, critics cried that it would be difficult to create a positive company culture without team members coming into the office. Worries rippled through the corporate world that it would be an insurmountable task to manage teams this way. But I disagree: it is simply different from before. And at Movinx, we love different. It’s part of our ethos. We have to be different to improve the automotive insurance industry. We are different, and we are here to stay.