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Advice on Promoting Remote Employees – Conversation with David Grainger

 

A promotion is a sign of the 3 critical S’s: sincerity, sacrifice, and success. It is one of the necessary ingredients for company success. A study by Project Topics emphasised that promotion is a must-do in the company as a form of employee recognition. Not only it increases healthy competition among team members, but promotion is also viewed as desirable value by potential hires. It can attract more talented candidates because promotion offers an attractive salary, authority, responsibility, and ability to influence broader organisational decision making.

See also: 2 Best Ways to Hire Remote Employee – and Keep Them Engaged with Work

However, promotion cannot be given randomly to any employees, especially if you manage a team that works remotely. Therefore, before deciding your next candidate, let us listen to what David Grainger, general manager of Spoka, said regarding employment promotion on remote teams. This interview is commissioned by Talentvis team with the help of COCO PR Agency.

How long have you been working as a manager? And how does the long tenure help you as a leader?

David: Over fifteen years but I only got what it was to be an effective manager in the last two years. I received various promotions and an increase in management responsibility during that time.

I got thrust into a sales leadership role at 27 years old with no real coaching and slowly realised that many traits that had gotten me to this point were actually ineffective and, potentially, damaging as a leader. Being a good leader means you shouldn’t neglect the key thing that your employees need from you - your team and the coaching they need.

Please share your experiences regarding employee promotion briefly, especially promotion for remote workers

David: I have always done quite well at promoting from the team and for those promoted to thrive in their new roles. However, I have not always been so successful with external recruits. I used to think external candidates would be an agent for change by bringing something new to the organisation. This downplayed my gut feel which, ultimately – when human relationships are concerned, is a prized possession that should be listened to.

However, I am very lucky as my manager is very global in his approach and we always use video meetings to ensure we know each other well. We also do extra non-real-time communication which helps bookend our contrasting days and maintain a good level of communication. Moreover, I am an extroverted person which means “being in regular communication” comes naturally to me. But for those who are more introverted, I can see how they really need to force themselves to communicate to build relationships, which is needed to gain promotions.

What is your opinion about promoting remote workers?

David: They need to be good remote workers, a very comfortable user of video, and ensure they work harder than those in office. The toughest in coaching comes when a remote employee is being promoted to a manager of a remote team. My team in Asia are thinly spread over five countries and you really need to work on communication, or you end up with very demotivated teams and staff that leave. With the right coaching, there is no reason why a disparate team cannot be as effective as one in the same office.

What are suitable criteria for employees, especially remote employees, who want to get promoted?

David: For me, the criteria are the same as promoting employees in the same location, but with a massive injection of extra communication. I notice in Asia, people are much less likely to turn on their video compared to colleagues from the US and, the fact is outgoing extroverts have more advantage here.

From a manager’s point-of-view, there is not much difference in promoting workers located in your office versus remotely. However, having good personal relationships stemmed from communication is absolutely key when it comes to gaining promotion. Thus, showing your authentic self and building such a relationship is important and it will not happen from just having meetings alone. For example, I am based in Singapore but my manager is based in Chicago with a 13-hour time gap between us. It means I should go above and beyond my normal office hours or I would, literally, never talk to him. Compare that to my colleagues who also sit in Chicago and “chew the fat” with him all day, every day.

So, what is your advice for employees who want to get promoted?

David: Tell your manager and ask them clearly about the gaps in between and what needs to be done to be promoted. When they answer, clarify and request powerfully that they coach you on these exact things. If the manager, as all good managers should, prioritises coaching staffs, they will welcome this. If they aren’t in a position to coach you (because of lack of experience or skill), they should find someone or a resource who can.

Regarding remote employees, what are your bits of advice for a manager who wants to promote their employees?

David: Daily coaching should always be a priority. For remote workers, a special effort to coach, check, and support are needed. Other seemingly logical things that are all too often missing are:

  • Weekly/bi-weekly one-to-ones that focus on coaching. This session should be followed religiously and should never be moved or cancelled. Show your expertise as a manager that you are here to help your employee’s success.
  • Coach one person every day before noon: I got this from a book that impacted me greatly: “The Sales Managers Guide to Greatness” by Kevin Davis. For me, it applies to all managers and not just sales managers and really helps to emphasise that coaching your staff, particularly remote workers, should be your top priority and is the single best way to drive loyalty and effectiveness.
  • Ask “what else?” repeatedly: Remote employees are more closed and protective, so having an open and non-judgmental conversation about employee performance, feelings, and effectiveness is a must. Then, when they have answered the initial question asking, “what else?” (repeat this a few times), you will discover the real thought and needs of your employees.

What could be the major difficulties employees and manager face before, during, or after the promotion process?

David: The biggest challenge for both parties is not talking about it! A rare and brave employee might state what they want, expect, and get feedback. But for me, it is the role of manager to have this conversation. Once the manager discovers what employee wants in the next 1, 2, or 5 years, they should use the “what else?” question. Then, the manager will find themselves in one of a few places:

  • The employee does not seek promotion, so coaching should be put in place to help them become more effective in their current role.
  • The employee seeks a promotion that is realistic, even at a stretch, so the manager should give a coaching program to help them reach where they want to be.
  • The employee seeks promotion that is not realistic as it can be too far from their capabilities, so the manager should be very straight with them on what’s more realistic and check in with them regularly afterwards. If an employee is committed to the promotion, the manager should provide guidance and time, while the employee must continue to deliver their work in a satisfactory manner.

During or soon after promotion: the manager needs to spend time with the newly promoted employee, I would say short but regular sessions of about 15 minutes a day for a start. Ken Blanchard’s “One Minute Manager” is a very useful read at this point as it helps understand what kind of management and coaching your newly promoted employee needs for each different task with a hands-on approach. They may nail the new reporting requirements of the position straight away so a hands-off approach can be taken but be stern, initially, at running team meetings in which case a much more directive, the hands-on approach would be needed. All of this is exasperated when the newly promoted employee is remote and forgotten compared to those visible to the manager.

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