Developing Relationships with Distant Employees is Key to Success

January 15, 2009 ( - As employers become more flexible and business operations increasingly go global, managers find that maintaining dispersed employees and identifying ways to optimize their work is more and more a part of business.

A report released by The Conference Board found five practices that are common among effective distance teams: in-person meetings; clear agreements on accessibility; good use of group software; adequate company support; and clearly defined roles for members. According to a press release, while more than 60% of respondents to a Conference Board survey agreed that managing same-site employees is easier than managing distance employees, nearly 80% said the extra costs of enabling employees to work at a distance do pay off.

Although managers and employees disagree about how much time is spent developing relationships, they both agree that it is vital, the press release said. Of managers and employees surveyed, about 90% said “the phone” and 70% said “in person” were the two most effective communication tools for building distance relationships. More than 53% of managers surveyed reported spending more than an hour a week developing working relationships with distance employees; however, only 18% of employees indicated their managers spent that much time with them.

The key skills identified in the report for managers and employees which maximize productivity and lead to effective manager-employee teams are proper communication and employee engagement from management in order to create a productive work environment, and distance employees who know how to execute, use technology, and collaborate.

For more information, visit and see The Conference Board 2008 CEO Challenge: Top 10 Challenges, November 2008.