The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you keep your best employees?” is by Peter Zaitsev, co-founder and CEO of Percona.
When 95% of your staff works remotely around the world, retaining talent is crucial. At Percona, our staff is spread across 29 countries and 19 U.S. states. Engaging and managing such a remote workforce can be challenging, but our goal has been to foster a collaborative environment and sense of teamwork that more than makes up for the absence of a break room. Here are the key strategies that have enabled Percona to retain top talent from around the world:
Start with the best
When you support a remote workforce, you can scour the entire world for top talent. You don’t have to worry about whether your headquarters location is appealing or candidates moving their families. Also, recognize that successful remote workers are by nature disciplined and responsible self-starters who are accustomed to working without supervision.
Give your staff the tools and guidance they need — including IT infrastructure, written expectations, HR guidelines, etc — to achieve their assigned goals. Recognize and reward milestone accomplishments, forgive small stumbles along the way, and coach individuals when they need support. Encourage your staff members to share bold ideas, and when they have good ones, give them the opportunity to lead or work on the project to make it come to life. Most important, let your staff members be themselves and give them the space to succeed.
Establish a work-life balance
To the extent possible, allow your staff members to manage their own time, including stepping away from their desks to run errands, visiting the doctor or vet, going for a run, etc. It should be understood that they will make up the time later in the day or week. This approach can be difficult for managers accustomed to seeing when their staff members come and go, but remember, these are your best people and they deserve respect and trust. Besides, most experienced remote workers are accustomed to managing their own time effectively.
It’s also important to encourage staff members to completely unplug at least once a year with a well-deserved vacation. Encourage them to leave their laptops at home and turn off their mobile phones. When it comes to work-life balance, it’s important to lead by example. Ask managers not to send late-night emails if the issue at hand can wait until the morning. Such emails often cause anxiety, especially among junior staff members who see such emails as an urgent call to action.
In the absence of regular face-to-face contact, regular internal communication is imperative for maintaining team spirit. Keep staff members updated on a weekly basis — even if it’s just a short email from the CEO highlighting customer wins, project milestones, or mentions in the press. It is equally important to recognize outstanding teams and individuals. Make each person feel as if he or she is an important member of a larger family and show an interest in each, perhaps mentioning one or two by name in each message.
As time and budget allow, schedule periodic remote worker visits to headquarters, and consider bringing all staff members together at least once a year. And remember, communication needs to go both ways. Listen carefully to your staff members and respond to their needs. The number of remote workers continues to rise, so understanding how to get them and keep them may be essential for your organization’s future success.