Are remote employees as effective?

Tony Hughes

Are remote employees as effective

Only time will tell... or can effective hiring practices trump the inherent risks of a lack of supervision?

If you are proficient in hiring competent, trustworthy employees they will be so wherever they log-in from. There is a fallacy of an ineffective remote employee and a myth that increased collaboration automagically occurs when all workers are bundled together in an open office space. As august management consultant Ichak Adizes states, "MT & R" is the great secret to creating thriving organizations. This is a culture of Mutual Trust and Respect. This culture can be built in an office or in the cloud, across oceans or purely virtually.

There are countless tools to foster collaboration but nothing that will inspire a lone wolf to find synergy with peers. Jealous and manipulative people smile outwardly while creating toxicity in the ecosystem of companies of any size.

I believe we are asking the wrong question. What are the criteria that you can effectively use to bring the right talent into your organization so that it will thrive? Period. Anywhere, in any composition.

I believe the behavior and values of leader is the culture so you don't have to look too far from the corner office, to understand what you're getting into when joining the ranks of the up and coming hot tech start-up or legacy stalwart.Flexible hours are supportive of equality and meritocracy, and fly in the face of top-grading / stack ranking and various other Draconian systems that require issuing demerits on a quota system to even your A players to appease the 'maximization of shareholder value', ego or just plain unwillingness to confront a downsizing masked as 'rightsizing'.

Ask yourself: Is the company you're creating a dictatorship, benevolent republic or democratic and open in nature? Really... ask yourself as a leader? Shouldn't leadership and power be a reverse pyramid where the employees come first, your customers and their experience forming the bedrock on which all else stands? The beauty of fundamental truths like these is that they tend to set us free.

E-learning, teleconferencing, collaboration and real-time communication have progressed so thoroughly that a vast amount of traditional person-to-person required roles can now be achieved remotely.

That's not to say there aren't exceptions across various vertical industries. It's unlikely you'll remotely build a battleship (or Collins Class submarine for those in Australia) but some parts can be assembled in various locations, granted.

There is a camp that rallies for coaching weakness out of people and a camp that rallies for playing to your team members' inherent strengths. A gifted introvert may be comfortable in a less social selling as an extrovert may seek camaraderie.

In sales, I'd prefer to see the time with customers prioritized and optimized. Regulating productivity is very difficult either way, unless you can build out an honor system and regular coaching so that the KPIs that you are measuring allow for various learning styles and paths of execution to achieve them.

Preceding revenue, there are various ways to gauge the progress of and contribution of personnel, sub-goals and sub-deliverables that can be celebrated and managed. "What gets measured gets managed" professed the late great Peter F. Drucker but we must manage the right things. There are not many human conceived systems where that doesn't hold-up in business and in life.In some cases, remote employees may be even more effective. Proactive managers who are out in the field executing, may find it refreshing to get up and walk around in Jobsian stroll meetings or be with their families.

They may even decide to put in extra effort or be more efficient with their time. The top sales people you hire will ideally maximize face time in front of dream clients especially in a B2B complex selling world.

Inside Sales can even be revolutionized by localizing territories with remote reps dialing in from those regions. You can build a virtual calling team that spans the globe and can be responsive and time-zone aware.

These ideas are obviously not set in stone and there are iterations galore. There are unlimited edge cases like working on the next secret quantum computer, self driving car or aerospace marvel. It's 2015, wait, why are we still building cars? I thought they were supposed to fly? I'll save that diatribe for another post!

Humanity fears change. Maybe fear of remote working is just a sign of the times. Someday there may be interplanetary inside sales forces: GoToMeeting Astral Edition?

Now it's your turn: What is your opinion on this often controversial topic? How have you been effective managing people and teams remotely or being incentivized and motivated as you execute your job in the field? Are there gaps in training or communication? How would you improve this and which style of work do you honestly think is most effective overall?


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: Pic Basement


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