We wrote this remote dev team checklist because there are a lot of factors to consider when transitioning to a remote team strategy. As I write this blog thousands of companies are being forced to transition their teams to remote where possible. Since this is an emergency transition there will likely be many team members that end up back in the office. But there will also be team members who have grown to love their new work from home routine. There are aspects of remote work that you need to plan for both the short and long term. Taking a long term approach to remote teamwork will save you a lot of headaches as well as develop an infrastructure and processes that will continue to benefit those employees that continue to work remotely as well as future remote team members. Here are some key things to consider when building your remote development team:
1. Hiring For Your Remote Dev Team Checklist
There are people that thrive in a remote work environment and those that fail in a remote work environment. An individual’s ability to be successful working from home has to do with both your ability to support them and their personality/work habits. Here are some things to look for in your remote dev team checklist:
- Fits in your company culture: No matter who that individual is, do not forget that they need to fit into your company culture first. If they do not have the same values and goals as their team members then no amount of training is going to help them succeed.
- Self-Motivated: Being able to work independently with little oversight is clearly a must. There is very little supervision, so someone who can regularly meet defined goals on their own will be successful.
- Disciplined: Even though there are technically more work hours in a day without the commute, there are also a million distractions at home. It takes practice staying away from the refrigerator or completing a task without dealing with something at home.
- Strong Communication Process: Notice that I did not say good communication skills. A good developer is not often an amazing communicator. They can be great at remote work because they keep their head down and do their work. In order to be successful remotely, you need a strong communication process. How often will you respond to your team in a day or set meetings or ask for help? What tools will you use to get the support that you need? Knowing how you will communicate based on the situation is key.
- Highly Responsive: Responsiveness can be built into the communication process but is more around availability. Are they going to be available during the right times? If they work on another time zone or continent, will they be able to respond to your team’s needs?
- Tech-Savvy: Remote developers will likely need to solve some of their own problems when it comes to connectivity and access to the necessary tools. Having someone that can solve their own day to day problems will eliminate a lot of stress.
- Open To Feedback: Having tough conversations is more difficult for everyone involved when there is no in-person relationship. The developer that you hire needs to be open to feedback and show a clear interest in personal and professional growth.
- Passionate: Managing a developer that is excited about what they do every day makes your job much easier. A passionate team member will automatically check a lot of the boxes around communication, discipline, and feedback.
- Experienced In Remote Work: It helps if your new team member knows what they are getting themselves into. Individuals who have never worked remotely are going to be exposed to entirely new challenges that are often unforeseen. Having someone with that experience is going to be an indicator of success. If they have done it and still like it, then it is a start.
2. Compensation For Your Remote Dev Team Checklist
When you build a remote team you are no longer confined to one city, state, country, or even continent! Every market has a different standard for compensation. If you operate in a major US city then you will likely see cost savings for experienced developers in other parts of the US or other countries in the world. Here is a remote dev team checklist for compensating your developers:
- Think About Value Versus Cost Savings: Now that you can hire anybody anywhere you can find the cheapest person in the world with the most relevant skills, right? Not really, because different locations present new problems around culture, language, time zones, infrastructure, regulations, taxes, and benefits. You should hire remote developers based on how well you are able to manage them in their location. Even having a 3 hour time difference within the US could present challenges around meeting times.
- Find A Balance Between Markets: In order to determine how much you are willing to pay you might want to think about what the skill set is worth in your location and how much it is worth in a lower-cost location, even if it is within your own country. Finding some middle ground can save you some money while ensuring that the position still attracts the best people from lower-cost locations.
- Take Market Conditions Into Consideration: If there is a global economic crisis, like the one that we are in right now, then it is likely that many people have been laid off with the skills that you need and hiring has frozen across many organizations. This means you will have a higher number of qualified people that you can choose from. Some markets might be suffering more than others, you might want to take that into consideration.
- Regulation & Logistics Of Payroll: Paying someone in another country is usually a little harder than you would expect. Of course, you first need to think about the actual payment system, but then you also have to consider any additional regulations and taxes. Many emerging countries have caught on to the fact that international corporations are just hiring a bunch of consultants in their country and not paying all of the taxes that come with having a local office. They have created hiring regulations in order to curb these types of behaviors. Even state by state there are different requirements for contractors and employees. Be in the know and work with someone who can help guide you.
- Provide Generous Benefits: Team members that work from home are not getting some of those sweet office perks like free pizza, unlimited coffee, or a beer fridge. Working from home comes with its own perks, but you still need to differentiate to compete for the best talent. This means offering them things that are relevant to them like health insurance, activity budgets, beer delivery, or coffee gift cards. Whatever it is, consider what your values are and reinforce them with the right perks.
- Incentivize Them: A competitive salary is always important, but many top performers want to see that they are benefiting from the hard work that they are putting in. As mentioned before passion is a key driver of performance, so help them get more passionate with incentives like performance bonuses, team bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, etc.
3. Management Considerations For Your Remote Dev Team Checklist
Managing remote development teams requires a different type of management and oversight. You are going to want to do more than simply monitor your project management tool and you can no longer pop by a team member’s desk to see what kind of progress they have made that day. In order to properly manage remote dev teams, there needs to be a software infrastructure that gives the team members what they need digitally while giving them the space to do their job. If you try and micro-manage a remote team all you will do is provide a case study on how to demotivate team members and lower productivity. Put your systems and processes in place, then let them work for you while you provide your team with the support that they need to do their job. You want to make sure that you cover all of the activities below with the right tools. Some of them overlap, so you will need to plan out how your team will have easy access to everything they need for the remote dev team checklist.
- Training: Have the tools in place for team members to learn independently using a learning management system or central document/video repository.
- Project Management: You likely already have a project management tool. Make sure that it is easily accessible no matter where your team member is.
- Chat: Easy to use messenger for quick conversations.
- Coding: A way to create and store their code securely.
- Announcements: Email should do the job.
- Collaboration: Tools for collaboration, traditionally project management, but better tools are being created.
- Calls: An easy way for team members to have a voice conversation if they need a more in-depth discussion.
- Video Meetings: A way to have group discussions.
- Demos: A way to test or demonstrate the work that they are doing.
- Scrums: A way to give quick team updates on what they are doing daily.
- Socializing: A way to connect with team members on a personal level without the need to discuss work.
- Feedback: Know how your team members are feeling, how they can improve, and how you can improve as a manager.
- Support: A place where team members can get answers to their internal questions.
- Strategy: A place where you store the bigger picture strategy of the team.
- Shared Storage: A place where team members can easily search and access shared documents.
4. Cultural Considerations For Your Remote Dev Team Checklist
The leadership team should already have a set of values and goals in place that guide what kinds of behaviors and norms they want their organization to have. Even with an airtight culture written on every wall of the organization, the most important thing that you need in order to build a strong culture is to demonstrate the values and behaviors that you want from your team. If hard work, teamwork, and communication are the values that you want your remote organization to have then demonstrate them yourself in everything that you are doing. For remote teams, it is even more important to over-communicate and over exemplify the type of behaviors that you are looking for. No tool will independently build your remote team culture, that is up to you, but you can provide systems and processes that will reinforce your organizational values and goals at both a day to day and strategic level. Of the many challenges that your remote team will face team member isolation may be the most destructive to team member engagement, productivity, and communication. Here are some key things to consider for your culture in your remote dev team checklist:
- Relationship Building: The first step towards being able to build a remote team culture is having a strong enough relationship where your employees feel comfortable enough to speak up. If your team members are too scared to say something then it is likely that you will never know what is, or is not, on their mind. Unlike an office environment, you do not see what your team members are up to during the day, you need to depend on your tools and trust to get the information you need from your team members. Developers are not known for their ability to over-communicate, so anything that you can do to encourage them to communicate is valuable.
- Isolation: Remote team isolation occurs when your team members feel disconnected from the team. This might include loneliness but is far worse than that. Team members feel isolated when they do not see where they stand in the future of the organization. They need to know how they are contributing to the success of the organization and what that means for their trajectory within the organization. If there is no clear path in the future then they will lose motivation, lower productivity, and slip into deeper and deeper isolation.
- Communication: By improving relationships with your team members as well as across your team and eliminating isolation you have already stabilized any team culture issues. Providing easy ways for your team to communicate about things other than work will begin to build strong bonds and synergies among team members.
- Feedback: Of course part of giving feedback is having a person who is able and willing to receive feedback. Over communicating when informing your team members of their contributions as well as failures will help your team members know how they have impacted the organization and how to continue improving.
- Engagement: Finding ways outside of your day to day work tasks and responsibilities will continue to reinforce the team dynamic. This, in turn, will help team members work more closely together.
- Happiness: Team members that are passionate about their work, are valued within their organization, have all of the support they need to succeed, mesh with their team members, and have a clear idea of how they contribute to the team’s success may actually be happy in their job! Don’t take for granted how hard it is to create a genuinely happy team member.
5. How To Run Useful Meetings
You might think that you need to have more and more meetings to build a remote team, this is not the case. You will hopefully have the tools and processes in place that you need for your team to be successful. Adding a bunch of meetings is unlikely to do anything other than suck the productivity out of your team. Team meetings can be a problem for in-office teams as well. Here are some ideas on how to make sure that you have the right meeting strategy for your remote dev team checklist:
- More Engagement Means Better Meetings: The more comfortable and engaged your team members are with each other before the meeting, the more productive the meeting will be. More people will contribute, which means more ideas will be put on the table.
- Use Other Tools First: You are likely able to reduce the time and length of meetings by sharing critical information via a project management tool, email, or messenger instead.
- Use Meeting For Discussions: There are many great ways to make announcements using email or recorded videos. Engagement with an announcement is unlikely to increase just because you say it during a virtual meeting. Trying to have an interactive discussion using a format other than a meeting is challenging, so you do still need meetings. This is the best use of a video meeting tool.
- Use Impromptu Calls: If you need to have a call about something then do it. Check if your colleague has 5 minutes first. If not then set a meeting.
- Have An Agenda: Know what you will be discussing so that team members do not spend time asking unnecessary questions. If everyone is prepared for the meeting then it will go much more smoothly and not waste everyone’s important time.
Building a remote team presents an enormous number of new challenges outlined in this remote dev team checklist around hiring, compensation, culture, management, and distractions. The efficiencies created by having team members ditch their commute or work from their ideal location can quickly be lost if you are not able to build the culture, infrastructure, and processes needed to support a remote team. Although many remote teams have similar challenges remote development teams present uniques challenges in their communication processes and culture that other teams in your organization may not experience.
ChatFox is a Slack chatbot that builds remote team culture. Remote teams that only engage through projects, tasks, and deadlines do not foster a culture around shared values and goals. Build a strong remote team culture, improve remote team productivity, and eliminate team member isolation. Use ChatFox Icebreakers to build rapport with team members, use ChatFox Coffee Chats to have meaningful conversations with people across your organization, or use ChatFox Shout Outs to recommend a colleague and endorse their skills. Unlike other remote team solutions, ChatFox looks at remote team culture from a strategic perspective and has created engaging chats for your team that provide management with insights into remote team engagement, skills, contributions, and mobility.