December 30, 2011
A virtual work environment is not an uncommon one, given today’s increasing we-are-a-global-village scenario. As employment spans geographical boundaries and employees working for a single organization could be doing so from anywhere in the world, the shifting nature of work does present its own set of challenges. One of them, and arguably the most pertinent of all, concerns the sticky issue of communication. A virtual work environment is another form of outsourcing and communication can be said to be the lifeline of any Outsourcing success.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter – lack of communication is unacceptable in a virtual employee environment. This refers to both parties involved – the outsourcing service provider as well as the virtual employee who is working for the client.
Lack of Communication from the Vendor
The choice of an outsourcing partner plays a crucial role in determining the success of any outsourced venture. Since both parties are sitting hundreds or thousands of miles away from each other, the only connecting bridge is that of communication. So, it is essential that the vendor has access to technology that ensures a smooth communication system, particularly if you have hired a remote employee from them to work for you.
Is it difficult or next to impossible to get your remote employee on the phone? Do the phone lines get disconnected every so often, even when you do manage to get your employee on the phone? Do Skype chats turn into duds due to fluctuating or constantly-interrupted Internet connectivity? If you find yourself hitting such constant roadblocks every time to communicate with your remote employee, due to the vendor’s crumbling Internet connection and other forms of technical problems, then maybe its time to review the possibility of finding another better-equipped vendor.
Lack of Communication from the Remote Employee
This is obviously the more worrisome possibility, and justifiably so. If your virtual employee working remotely thousands of miles away and in conflicting time zones, chooses to ‘go incommunicado’ so to speak, then these are the warning signals to look for:
1. Do your emails go unanswered?
2. Do your emails, asking for specific job details, work targets achieved and status of the project, elicit vague and ambiguous responses or no straight answers?
3. Is this employee unavailable on the phone even though the vendor has a sound telecommunication system in place?
4. When you do get your virtual employee on the phone, is the conversation less than illuminating? Are your direct questions answered with evasive or ambiguous responses?
Remedial Measures to Handle the Uncommunicative Remote Employee
1. To avoid communication breakdowns between you and your virtual employee, it is best to be clear in what you have outlined right at the beginning of your association. Be clear and consistent about what types of communications are best suited to your purpose; how often this communication is needed and other expectations.
2. When the remote employee does not meet the communication expectations, a review (either via phone or face-to-face through video conferencing) is essential to reinforce the expectations. However, if the employee continues be uncommunicative, then you need to involve the vendor’s management to intervene in the matter.
3. Try discussing the employee’s worrying conduct with the HR executives of the outsourcing service provider. Set a time limit by which the errant employee should be showing some signs of improvement.
4. Keep all the records of your efforts to establish communication with the virtual employee. These will serve as valuable proof should you ultimately do decide to stop working with such an employee.
5. Sacking such an employee outright may be tempting but try other tactics first and let termination of services be your last resort.
Communication is crucial to establish a smooth working association with any employee, but more so when the employee is a virtual one, working remotely some thousands of miles away. Keep these handy points in mind and pay heed to warning signs to nip the problem of non-communication in the bud.
Daya is an experienced former journalist who has written extensively for the UK gift industry till recently. Now, she brings her considerable creative writing experience to the exciting world of Outsourcing, offshoring and in particular, PHP Outsourcing.