As it becomes apparent that more jobs than was previously thought could be done remotely, the fight for top talent is getting fiercer. More organizations are adopting flex-work or remote work formats, making it more challenging to identify talented people with the right technical skills.

However, hard technical skills only sometimes make the best employees. The key to success lies in understanding the human abilities that remote workers need for engagement and accountability with coworkers, partners, suppliers, and customers. This article explores what soft skills, personality, competencies, and discursive diversity remote teams must adapt, no matter how much technology changes.

Importance of Human Skills for Remote Teams

There are numerous benefits of having distributed teams. For employers, it translates to having access to a global workforce using minimal resources while employees enjoy greater flexibility, autonomy, lower costs, less stress, and less commuting time. While it’s a win-win option, knowing the essential soft skills to look for is a delicate balancing act. While they often play second fiddle to the technical skills directly related to jobs, soft skills or human skills are a fundamental part of remote teams. That’s because the remote environment dilutes verbal, cultural, and social cues resulting from in-person interactions.

While hard skills have their place in the remote work environment, building a remote team thrives on intangible factors like compassion, self-awareness, and curiosity about a person and others which can be hard to discern. When it comes to actual practice, you cannot wish away human skills, which may appear malleable in the team environment. They translate to team members assuming personal responsibility for their time, due diligence, and interpersonal interactions.    

Strategies for Building Strong Remote Teams

While identifying the soft skills you need to build a robust distributed team is the beginning, having an effective strategy to discover them will push your organization to the top. At the same time, failing to identify important soft skills could easily cause your teams to crumble or fall short of expectations. Creating programs and opportunities to engage members of your remote team will keep them invested in their specific roles. Some requisite soft skills you need to achieve the best remote teams include the following:  

Communication and Collaboration

The nature of remote work that can traverse across different locations and time zones demands the ability of team members to collaborate and communicate effectively within the virtual space. While remote workers use various channels like telephone, email, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, or Google for instant messaging or video calls, members must be able to go beyond simply being able to use the technology to keep team members informed.

Remote workers must exercise sound judgment when choosing what communication channel works best in every situation and promotes effective communication. The best team members are those schooled in the art of speaking and active listening, twin values that foster the two most excellent interpersonal skills: empathy and understanding.

‍Cultural Literacy

Remote employees work almost across diverse geographical locations and time zones and will always find themselves working with colleagues across cultures, generations, and languages. Workplaces within such various settings demand companies to create policies that facilitate inclusion.

However, managers and team members must have learned how to interact with diverse sets of coworkers effectively and how to react to the nuances, triggers, and struggles of the different groups. Managers must know, encourage and promote cross-cultural literacy to enable team members to find common ground with colleagues and appreciate diverse viewpoints without making assumptions about other cultures and peoples.       

Adaptability and Flexibility

Remote workers face challenges and unanticipated situations regularly. Whether it’s a modified work setup or changing locations, working on new projects, or familiarizing with new software that just landed on their desk, the ability to grasp stuff quickly and find a creative solution is paramount. Adaptability and flexibility are two essential marks of a dependable remote worker, as they’re open to changing priorities that often come unannounced. In today’s changing paradigm, the ability to adapt as conditions fluctuate is skill workers must hone if they will move with the ebb and flow of the fluid nature of distributed teams.

Initiative

One of the most significant challenges of remote work is the knowledge that it’s impossible to walk across the hall and consult with a coworker. There’s the ever-present need to take matters into your own hands and make decisions when you’re not sure your message will be replied to on time. A self-starter who won’t be afraid to take the initiative, take a course of action, and be ready to take responsibility for the outcome is a good candidate for a remote position.

If remote work involves working from home, you want someone who will ignore their dog begging to be taken for a walk or the pull to watch TV or other distractions at critical moments. The ability to create and respect personal boundaries, deadlines, and a workspace free from competing interruptions is a plus.

Emotional Intelligence

Historically, societal values like compassion and vulnerability were considered undesirable in the workplace. However, the changing office landscape greatly values empathy and understanding, which are signs of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness and the ability to read self and others have never been more valuable. These values enable remote workers to know under what conditions they or coworkers perform best and self-regulate from distractions that may pull them away from work. Emotional intelligence is paramount in remote work since non-verbal cues and in-person interactions are absent. 

Time Management

Among the benefits of working remotely is the privilege of self-regulating and delivering results on schedule. This means getting a person who is autonomous, organized, and self-motivated. Great remote workers are specifically “managers of one” who not only thrive on autonomy but those who enjoy the freedom to meet targets on their terms and can know when it’s time to recharge.

Successful remote workers will have the skills to balance their chores and project deadlines, meaning they must have learned to prioritize the most important tasks before moving to the smaller ones. Managers must learn how to recognize tell-tale signs of procrastinators and whether they can adapt to an entirely new way of interacting with peers and clients. 

Managing Remote Teams

As more organizations begin outsourcing talents and take advantage of the digital revolution, remote working could soon become the rule rather than the exception. Managers must learn the secrets of building effective remote teams besides testing their processes to identify what roles can be accomplished by distributed teams.

Since the fundamental aspects of working relationships will get affected when you entrust work to long-distance parties, managers must rethink hiring and onboarding strategies. Consider working with Gigster’s fully-managed remote teams for your development projects.

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