We’ve been moving more into hiring IT and finance professionals recently and from our traditional base of lab or factory based workers we noticed the change in skills required. Particularly in the world of IT contractors, remote working is huge. Companies, especially large multinationals realise they can hire a top professional anywhere without the cost and hassle of putting together relocation packages. What we’ve noticed, however, is that communication skills are getting sidelined by both hirer and candidate which ultimately results in a bad experience all round. This, therefore, is our short guide to improving communication skills for remote workers and remote hirers!
Clear and consistent communication skills
If you are hiring a remote worker you need to establish early on the sort of communication levels you are expecting from your worker. This is entirely dependant on the type of project and the type of job being done. Frustration starts to occur when you either, are receiving updates every ten minutes, or you have radio silence. Get it clear at the beginning and also make some commitments yourself. If you have to answer questions in order to keep the project on schedule you need to give people an idea of when to expect replies. If you are asking for daily updates and the contractor is not always providing them, you need to establish that it’s not optional. You may relax into a more informal communication system but to begin with make sure everyone knows their responsibilities.
Overcoming cultural and language barriers
English (or any other language!) may be your lingua franca but don’t let colloquial, or just confusing, language create misunderstanding. A Brits, we are known for posing a direct order as a question or a suggestion. “Do you think you could possibly….” “Would you mind changing the….” . In face to face conversation it’s normally quite clear when this is about delivering instructions rather than asking an opinion. It doesn’t mean you need to drop niceties but don’t be surprised if instructions are ignored if presented in an over-polite manner. On the other hand don’t be offended by the direct orders of your boss. In an office environment these issues are usually easy to overcome with the benefit of body language but when working remotely it can feel a little isolating. Try to get used to the style others are using to communicate and try to adapt the language you use to minimise miscommunication.
Learning how to use the tech
Not another video conferencing system! When you’re doing back to back contract jobs and each company appears to have a different bit of software to organise their team management, conferencing, messaging….. it can get pretty wearing. For companies, decisions should be made with contractors in mind. Please don’t reinvent the wheel if there’s a standard system that most people use. For contractors though you should budget for the amount of time it will take you to get your head around a system. Don’t tackle new conferencing software a minute before answering a call. Be aware of a messaging groups or in house forums. Employees can become very reliant on a particular system and if you’re not in the loop you may be missing vital information. Slack channels or WhatsApp groups can act rather like afterwork drinks – they may not seem vital but that’s where key decisions get made. It doesn’t matter how good your communication skills are, if you’re not in the conversation you’re not being heard.
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