How to Keep Virtual Employees Motivated and Happy

By Matt Keener, President of Keener Marketing Solutions, LLC and Author of the upcoming book Executive in Sweatpants.

Your business goals are obvious….to you.  If asked about your short-term and long-term priorities, you could probably speak for hours.  Profitability is a necessity; however, a higher calling is what really drives you.  This need for self-actualization is an underlying motivator for many entrepreneurs and business professionals.

As business owners know, this level of passion can be difficult to ignite among your team members.  The reality is that some employees and contractors are simply interested in collecting a steady paycheck from you.  Furthermore, with an increasing number of businesses tapping into the virtual workforce, management issues can become even more complex without an effective game plan.  Let’s take a look at a few ways you can translate your vision into a happy and productive virtual workforce. virtual workforce motivating employees mobile work

Start (and End) with Your Vision

What is your organization’s true purpose in the world?  Are you simply in the business of developing software for hospitals, or are you actually in the business of helping hospitals save more lives and reduce the cost of healthcare (through the use of your software)?  It’s much easier to build rapport with prospective team members when your vision is clearly defined and serves a greater purpose.  It is important to communicate your vision during the interview process.  Try to identify contractors who share your vision and express an interest in bringing it to fruition.

Virtual workers, like traditional employees, want to feel they are being helpful.  Many workers are motivated by regular positive reinforcement and encouragement.  Once you’ve built your team, it is important to hold regular progress meetings.  During these meetings, you should start with the “big picture” and provide your perception of how things are progressing.  This type of meeting is especially valuable in a virtual work environment, as there are fewer opportunities for interpersonal communication.  Don’t just assume that your team knows what you’re thinking.

Build Trust Through Automation

When your team is spread throughout the world, it’s easy to lose track of simple administrative tasks such as payroll.  Forgetting to pay your team members can quickly damage the trust you’ve built with them.  Luckily, there are tools that can help you automate this process.  For example, oDesk’s Time Tracker automatically tracks your team’s hours and pays them for the exact amount of time they bill.  No invoices, no payroll hiccups, no oversights… just happy team members.

As an added perk, such automation tools are also in alignment with the business owner’s goals.  Streamlining the payroll process saves the entrepreneur time, frustration, and reduces the probability of operational disturbances.  As any business owner will tell you, staying out of the weeds will help you stay focused on the bigger picture (i.e. realizing the corporate vision).

Set Clear Deadlines but Don’t Micro-Manage

As discussed in the book, “The One Minute Manager”, managing a team doesn’t need to be a daily headache (even in a virtual setting).  In fact, by leveraging technology, the one-minute delegation is actually more feasible than ever.  Set clear expectations, check progress against those goals, and provide honest feedback.  It’s OK to be firm with your team members.  If he or she is not performing to your expectations, express your concerns and provide constructive criticism.  Other than that, stay out of the way and let your team use its creativity to accomplish its goals.

Today’s the Day – Get Motivating!

Your team is looking to you for leadership.  Whether you’re leading a small team of onsite employees or hundreds of online workers, the need for leadership remains constant.  Will you lead by communicating your vision, building trust through automation, and setting clear goals?  By focusing on these three key areas, you will be well on your way to success.  There has never been a better day to get started than today.


The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox.  Matt Keener is President of Keener Marketing Solutions, LLC and is also the author of the upcoming book Executive in Sweatpants.  Visit his blog for helpful tips and tools for launching and growing a successful virtual consulting business.

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