Working with remote development teams has long become a standard amongst startups and well established tech giants.
Different reasons play a part of companies embracing the outsource model, which are mostly related to supply, quality and price. In our recent article we went on a journey and discovered why Ukraine has become such a reliable and utilised IT destination.
Today we’re being practical: Once I’ve hired my first remote employee or team, how the heck do I manage them?
Time zone? Language? Culture? Yes, they are all real challenges when working with a remote team. From our experience however, working in Ukraine has become a beautiful, unfolding task between developer and client. Take a look!
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” James Humes
Successful communication requires two key ingredients. Technology and time, measured in frequency and quality. While one can be ‘bought’ the other requires leadership as James Humes says above.
Experts suggest two main tools:
- Communication apps designed specifically for IT teams, such as Slack and Jira, to make communication quick, effective, fun and trackable. Cloud-based solutions are a must when working across different locations.
- Interactions with each individual team member one-on-one once every couple of days. That level of individual approach helps developers feel heard, their concerns recognised and their contribution to the project appreciated. This ensures that culture is developed and team members are highly productive. Working with a partner like Houston can help this when working in a time-poor role in a different timezone ➡️ Houston provides HR professionals on the ground with the team, who will invest heavily in employee happiness, do a check in with each individual daily and communicate any concerns with you early.
Other communication tips are:
- Hold a daily standup at the same time, on the same channel (e.g. google hangouts) to bring routine into your working relationship. It will build trust over time.
- Simplify the message: Don’t use 30 words, if you can use 10.
- Ask team members to repeat tasks back to you after you’ve explained them to identify misunderstanding early.
- At the beginning of onboarding a remote team, stay away from culture related metaphors, idioms, even jokes to avoid un-intended misunderstandings. Trust us, the fun will come naturally over time. Ukrainians are refreshingly direct and have a good sense of humor.
- Use Skype, Zoom, Stackify, Google Hangouts to embrace the power of video and screen sharing. As often as possible, have the video turned on on both sides to read body language.
“I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised.” – Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
Even though your remote team is in a different location, do not neglect to recognise their work and their person often. If you give your offshore employees the feeling of importance – genuinely -, you have won their loyalty.
An absolute team booster is a meeting in person between client and developer. We are very lucky at Houston to have clients, that visit their team in Kharkiv every ~3 months and these teams usually stand out to be the strongest and most loyal teams.
“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people and they tell us what to do.” Steve Jobs
One great opportunity that comes with managing remote teams, is learning how to strike the perfect balance between enforcing your standards of work ethic and avoiding micromanagement. A recent study done at the Academy of Management in Vancouver suggests that jobs involving a more than average level of high controls (read micromanagement) are associated with a 15% percent chance of negative psychological outcomes.
How do you know you have gone too far in micromanagement?
- Every major and minor decision depends on you. If every single MP data software launching depends on your approval, you might be a bottleneck of your teams’ work and coupled with time zones, this may result in serious development delays over time.
We suggest that instead of controlling each and every task, give clear direction on the tasks using tools like Jira to make it trackable. Draw up mockups that reflect your vision clearly or alternatively invite the team to help in that process (if appropriate). The more your team knows what is expected and the less that is stored in your head, the more successful the outcomes will be.
Further, we highly recommend hiring a dedicated team leader or project manager once your team grows above 4 people. It is much more efficient for you to have one point of contact rather than 5 or more.
4. The little details
“There is no magic in magic, it’s all in the details.” Walt Disney
- Time zone difference. One simple advice is to overlap the schedules between your teams in different time zones. Say, if your management team is in London and your developer team is in Kharkiv, Ukraine, you might want to start your work earlier in the day and let your Kharkiv team start later. Also, do not forget that there are some pros to working across time zones, such as that there will always be someone “on” to support the product and work gets done as you sleep – not bad!
- National holidays. Make sure the work schedule you create takes into account the local national holidays. Thanks to a dedicated client account manager which you’d enjoy with a partner like Houston, you will be reminded of any upcoming holidays way in advance.
- Fun. Find ways to have fun. Learn a couple of phrases in your foreign team members or ask them something about their life. “What is a national dish in your country?” “What comics did you grow up with?” “Where did you learn to code?”
5. The summary
In summary then the keys to a successful outsourcing experience in Ukraine has a lot to do with, you guessed it, you!
Investing in and understanding a few simple dynamics will transform your organisations output and the sense of culture and fun within your team.
Communication via good tools, ensuring your team realise how important they are, management that drives personal accountability and remembering the little details that help the whole thing flow. Now get ready for a productive, fun and successful outcome.
Want to chat more about the mystery of remote teams? We can’t wait to talk more.