High-tech management Featured

10:26am EDT March 28, 2003
Effective management of a virtual work force starts with the hiring process, but hiring productive remote workers can be difficult.

When beginning the process, keep in mind that you're not limited to local respondents. Potential employees can be located almost anywhere, as long as they have broadband Internet service.

It's best to hire candidates who have experience working from home, because they'll usually have the proper computer equipment and software. They should also have the knowledge to manage a virtual relationship.

Many candidates mistakenly have visions of working in their pajamas and eating bonbons all day. What they don't realize is working out of their home is hard work -- it takes a substantial amount of self-discipline and self-motivation to work in a remote environment.

If you find a candidate who has successfully worked from home for at least a year, scoop him or her up. But check references before hiring.

And don't be tempted to take the independent contractor route. It establishes a noncommittal relationship, and you'll rarely get the same loyalty and dedication you'll get from an employee.

The keys to a successful relationship with a remote worker are monitoring and communication. Put systems and procedures in place to monitor productivity, and establish a constant line of communication via voice, e-mail or online chat.

It's also important to keep remote workers involved in your company. It's easy for them to feel isolated, so convey your company's culture and core values through means such as a weekly newsletter.

Lastly, pay them well and compensate them for their accomplishments. If you follow these simple guidelines, you'll discover that remote workers can make a significant contribution to the success of your company, and will change the way you view virtual business. Jack Sands is president of Intrep, a virtual sales software firm. Reach him at (866) 747-1740 or www.intrep.com.