S2 EP 05: Transitioning to a Distributed Team

What Does it Look Like (and Feel Like) to Transition to a Distributed Team

Impulse Creative hasn't always been a partially remote team. Before adding distributed team members, we were a completely in-house team totally headquartered and housed in Fort Myers, Florida. 

A few years ago, Impulse Creative faced a challenge. 70% of the team left the company all at once during what Remington called "a poaching by another agency." In that moment, Impulse needed to hire new talent and quickly. Co-founders Remington and Rachel considered remote workers to fill that need of "getting a butt in the seat, fast."

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Being able to have an employee, no matter where they are in the country, pivot to your business quickly, can make the difference between two weeks and four weeks (or longer) for a new team member. Sometimes a need drives change that benefits your business in the long run.

Forget location. Focus on talent. Stay agile.

Remington and Dan dive deep into what it "feels like" for an owner/founder to realize that the traditional "if your business is healthy, you're increasing office space and building a team you can see" is changing. You may not be able to point to your team in person, but you can include worldwide talent as part of your team instead.

It's also a common concern that with remote workers, collaboration may go away. You have to combat that with technology, culture, and a focused effort.

Technology has made it so your business can grow beyond local talent. You no longer have to move someone (and potentially their family) if you hire someone from across the country. That may feel uncomfortable for some business owners or leaders, but it's something Remington says is freeing as well. 

Hiring That First Remote Employee

It's not an easy thing to make the transition and hire that first remote employee. For Impulse Creative, that person was Danielle. She's still with the company. But it wasn't a simple road for either side. 

Remington honestly lays out the early conversations, where he told Danielle that this was a new direction for the company, that it won't be easy, but if both sides are willing to learn, it could be exciting. He says open dialogue and candor are critical to the success of this transition.

In-House Team Benefits

Over the course of the conversation, Remington talks about benefits to having a team in-house. This may mean you'll want to have a mix of in-house and remote, or it may mean that you'll need to consider how to encourage some of this for your distributed team. Or you might end up finding a new way to encourage these benefits.

Passive Communication

When your team is all together, they get a feel for their coworkers and what's going on with them. Maybe one person hears two others talking about an issue they're trying to fix. That third person overhears it, and drops in to offer a quick thought that solves it. That passive communication doesn't naturally happen when miles separate the team.

This also means that when your team isn't in the same room, things like recognizing mood or making personal connections may not happen as easily. When people are together every day, they get to know each other through interpersonal, non-verbal communication. A distributed team has to find a different way of coming together.

Empathy and Awareness

"It's harder to identify when someone is struggling, when they're not right there," Remington says. As a leader, manager, or business owner, you're probably in tune with your team. You can tell when they're struggling with a task or a project. You may even be able to tell when they're having a bad day.

"You can hear their sighs. With the in-house team, when someone makes a sigh in a certain way, I know they need help even if they don't ask for it."

When you're with them in-person, empathy and awareness are more natural and easy. 

Distributed Team Benefits

With a distributed team, comes specific benefits. Here are a couple the guys cover in the conversation. 

Talent Pool

Relocation happens when you find talent outside of your geographical area. But that can add expense, it can increase risk for both the company and the employee, and it takes time. Remote workers can be up and running faster, they get to stay where there home already is, and you don't need to pay for relocation. With a distributed team, your talent pool expands.

Flexibility

When you have team members who can work from anywhere, they can work... from anywhere! At the time of this recording, our graphic designer Jeffrey (lives/works in northern Florida) was working while traveling. He was in southern California, where he's from, on a personal trip. He was able to take some time off during the trip, but also work to save some of the time off. 

If your team member has to travel but can still work, they're able to have more flexibility for themselves and your business. 

Some Tools to Help Your Distributed Team

From software to hardware to cultural focuses, the tools you put into play for your distributed team are critical. Here are a few we cover.

15Five

This helps with performance and engagement of employees by continuously asking questions and starting the right conversations.

Video First Culture

Video helps connect us. Instead of standard phones, we go right to video. It helps with non-verbal communication and face-to-face connection.

Slack

Instant communication. Also, random conversations. We have channels like #random, #gifgab, #music and others. 

Asana

Having a productivity tool is key to any team. It's even more critical for a remote team. It helps with communication, accountability, and more. 

Tettra

Documentation is key. Where can employees go to find past learnings, processes and more? We use Tettra. A ton.

Purposeful In-Person Gatherings

Whether it's an annual event or monthly visits from different team members, it's critical to include your distributed team in events at headquarters. 

Work from Home Test

Build empathy and test the system. Impulse Creative put a test in place for the in-house team - a work from home week. Hear about that experience at 20:30 into the conversation. Remington learned a lot about himself in this one...

"Donuts"

In-house employees have the opportunity to have coffee talk, water cooler conversations, snacks together... what about a distributed team? We put a practice into play where we randomly pair employees together for a casual conversation. It helps to connect and build relationships. (Go back to the video culture point!)

Helpful Links 

Zenpilot Podcast Episode (hear a deeper dive into Impulse Creative's growth story)

 

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Team photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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