Kyanon Digital Blog

@kyanon.digital

What we learned from the most performing remote tech teams

Hiring great people is difficult, but hiring great team to work remotely from your company is a real challenge.

Photo by Saksham Gangwar on Unsplash

Startups have the most bustling workdays, and they are also more likely to make changes, which leads to regular changes in scopes of work and requirements for their products. This poses more challenges for geographically distributed tech teams to keep up with the pace of their companies.

This requires you as decision-makers to know what to look for and what determine if they are the right people to handle your products. We have some examples from our top performing teams that you might want to note down for your next recruitment:

1st, look at the team culture:

Working as a team can only work if the members understand each other well enough and know how to synchronize the works together. By understanding each other’s way of working and perspectives, team members can have more seamless collaborations and supports, and reduce miscommunication.

It can be more challenging to big teams as there are more efforts required to get to know everyone whereas in small teams, the routes of communication are more centralized which enables everyone to communicate and understand others more. Regardless of the sizes, it will work as long as there is a communication scheme in the team, for instance in Scrum, there are daily Scrums where the team gather together every day, and retrospectives where a team have a sharing session about the last working iteration and make action plan to improve themselves in the next iteration.

Having a close-knit team working away from your location will reduce you much less stress from holding the team together.

Photo by Margarida CSilva on Unsplash

The teams have “Team Norms” they swear by:

Once the “Team Norms” are respected by the teams, you can know what to expect from the distributed team and trust that they are organizing from their ends:

Team Norms can have several facets:

Communication: the team needs to constantly communicating, with each other and with you. And there needs to be a guideline for communication too. For example,

  • Chat tools: Workplace Chat, Slack or Skype: for everyday, quick and real-time discussion. Response time should always be 5–15 minutes to avoid making clients wait in the middle of a conversation.
  • Video Conference: Zoom, Skype: as we are working with humans, there should be time for face-to-face conversations, even if it’s through a screen, to get a real sense of each other’s presence and build more connection as we express our emotions.
  • Email: for important announcements or critical issues which involve many people, especially when management boards are involved. Email should be replied and resolved within the day.

Etc.

  • To avoid some members to feel excluded and to insure no one misses out important messages, they should be announced where everyone can receive the messages and feel they are part of the team and understand the importance of such messages.
Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

Healthy Habits: Performing teams have a set of habits which they live by, so that everyone is working seamlessly. Such habits can be;

  • Meeting routine: They have meetings set each day, each week or every month and every member tries their best to attend these meetings.
  • Status update: they are communicable and proactive in terms of updating work status and issues, and they are used to updating everything into their project management tools before going home.

And the most important habit, according to a PM of our most performing team, working with H3 Zoom AI, is to ask!

  • Ask to clarify the goal of each working sprint, so that the team knows what do they need to deliver and what they will achieve at the end of that sprint.
  • Also, ask about requirements and expectations beforehand, then set Definition of Done/Acceptance Criteria. This step will allow the team to break down tasks and motivate the team to work toward the goals.

By following the Team Norms, a team build a culture for themselves, a culture that enable them to work together effectively and delivery results.

You identify with the Project Manager:

The project manager might be your go-to guy in the distributed team. This guy can have different names, i.e Scrum Master in a Scrum-based project or hold different position in the team (a QC can also be a PM).

Regardless of what other role might be, if project managers can coordinate their projects seamlessly in the teams, they will release a lot of pressure off your shoulder.

They are mostly responsible for communicating on behalf of their teams to stakeholders, back and forth, and so they are the connectors the two banks of a river and ensure the teams are progressing in the right direction. They also protect their team from factors that slow down their team performance, and promote factors that push the team forward.

So having a trustworthy and communicable project manager is one of the most critical factors in a promising team.

They are self-starters

Diana Goodwin — CEO of AquaMobile, shared that the most important trait she was looking for when hiring remote staff was their self-starter quality. When a team is working at a different geographic location than their hiring company, there are no factors such as frequent supervision, physical supports or motivations to keep their spirits up for their jobs. The challenge is for remote teams to find meanings and motivations in their works, innovate for the business advantage, and push themselves for most of the time.

They are result-driven.

Results and KPIs are the only way you can evaluate whether the team performance is satisfying and up to your expectations. The team, thus, needs to value results and track their KPIs. This trait starts with having a detailed plan (in Scrum, we call it Backlogs) of what to do everyday, what goals they are working on and commit to their goals. Result-oriented team should also be able to show their results and progress, moving closer to the goals.

Hiring teams (any employee generally) that do not prioritize results not only means that the company will have a hard time assessing their team, but also that the teams are not motivated by the end goals, inhibiting their chances to grow and succeed.

Now you have gone through a list of what to look for in your remote IT team. But the question remains: how can we tell whether the team has those attributes?

This is also a challenge for most recruiters out there.

We once found ourselves in the same struggle. What we have learned over the years of finding and acquiring human assets to the company can be summarized into two tips below:

Tip 1: Opt for a test to for skill assessment.

Common practice is that companies interview members of their potential hire. However, interviewing can be intimidating sometimes, hindering members from fully and accurately expressing their competencies. Plus, how the team working together and deliver results cannot be fully assessed based on just answering questions, which more often that not, hold little regard to contexts.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

As one of the good attributes of remote should be result-oriented, testing gives you instant and realistic tool to verify the quality of their end results.

Tip 2: Have a open talk, not “interview” to have a glimpse of the candidates’ personalities:

While interviews with too formal questions can be intimidating to the interviewees, casual talks are much more effective as they allow the interviewees feel less stressed to prove themselves and start sharing more openly. Take the chance to truly listen to their stories, as they will paint the candidates’ natural characters.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Talking and sharing is the best way to know a person and establish trust if done right. It will help you understand every member of the team better, and know what to expect and how to work with each of them once you begin the project from another place on earth.

Bottom Line:

Working with a geographically distributed team requires solid efforts. Although technology has enabled us to have more convenient and effective tools to support teams, but most of the time the problems come from people ourselves. Some people are born to thrive in remote team, some are just not cut out for this.

That is why you need a strategy to select the right team to work with, as you are placing your business goals into their hands. On the same note, they are also placing their career goals on your company. Let’s make it a win-win.

Topics of interest

More Related Stories