Managing a Distributed Workforce

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderLast month I wrote that many TAS owners use a management style called “management by walking around.” The default method of many entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is a simple yet effective way to oversee a single-location business, provided the owner is on-site.

However, if the manager isn’t present, the business can quickly degrade. For that reason, absentee owners and telephone answering services with multiple locations or work-at-home agents need to use another form of management.

Management by Objective: Once a popular management method, the basic premise is simple: set objectives, and evaluate staff based on meeting those objectives. This works best for higher-level employees. For agents, the objective could be to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction, but this veers into the next option.

Management by Numbers: Set numeric goals for employees; reward them for meeting those goals. Of course, only work that can be measured will be done.

Management by Manual: Larger businesses develop policy-and-procedure manuals, which grow increasingly heftier as the enterprise expands. These documents specify everything imaginable, from where to hang your coat to what to do during a disaster. This requires employees to study, internalize, and adhere to the manual. If a situation falls outside the manual, it’s often ignored.

Management by Monitoring: At the most basic level, this is why we have shift supervisors. This method can also entail remote observation of employees. Monitoring is labor intensive; in extreme cases companies end up with people monitoring the monitors. While some of this can be automated, the human element cannot be removed completely.

All of the Above: In most cases, business owners combine elements of all these management methods to effectively oversee staff working in multiple locations. Much of it hinges on the business goals and personal preferences of the owners. They’ll likely mix in a bit of management by walking around as well.

Peter L DeHaan is publisher of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Read other articles by Peter L DeHaan or receive his newsletter about writing.

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About Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly. Peter DeHaan’s personal website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages.