Sweating the Small Stuff

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Sweating the Small Stuff

As hiring remote truss designers becomes increasingly common for the component manufacturing industry, ensuring those same designers don’t feel like they’re alone on an island (even if they actually are) needs to be an important factor in your plan. Finding strategies to help all of your employees feel valued and included isn’t a new concept, but shifting the approach for your remote team members can go a long way to establish a solid foundation in your design department.

Creating a cohesive truss design team when the designers aren’t all sitting in the same building requires a little extra effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard. There a lot of simple things you can do on a weekly or even daily basis to help your team get to know each other, feel connected as co-workers, and develop friendships.

“You really need to be in constant communication,” shares Casey Carey, vice president of manufacturing at Builders Warehouse Manufacturing in Aurora, Colorado. As a consequence, encouraging your designers to connect with each other and management on a regular basis is a critical first step in helping them. And, when your team can’t just walk down the hall to chat, it’s important to deploy good digital connection technology to make that communication easy. 

Dan Morris, truss design manager at Apex Technology in Jacksonville, Florida, uses typical technology like GoToMeetings and an integrated phone system to keep his folks in touch. They also use Microsoft Teams, a group messaging program similar to Skype for Business, as well as Slack for touching base, asking questions, and having a little fun. “We have a separate channel [in Teams] for non-work stuff,” Dan relates. “We use it mostly for jokes or funny memes, but someone posted a picture of their dog a few months ago and it prompted others to do the same, so that was fun.”

Builders Warehouse Manufacturing uses Google Hangouts for much of their remote team communication. They’ve found that the added video component helps build familiarity even when a call is simply to ask “do you need help?” In addition, Casey suggests following up every conversation with an email to document: “Save the Google Session and send the email; you need the documentation.”

Simply being “in the loop” can be a crucial piece of the puzzle. At California TrusFrame (CTF) in Perris, California, Jason Walsh, vice president of sales, makes sure that all of the pertinent company-wide communications include their remote employees. “Anytime there’s anything, they are always a part of the email,” he says, “even if it’s a simple recognition or announcement.” It also ensures there are no surprises down the road.

Fantasy Football leagues are another opportunity to provide excitement (and occasionally some good old-fashioned ribbing) among your local and remote designers. “We’ve been doing Fantasy Football for several years now,” Casey explains, “and it’s a lot of fun because there’s a lot of smack talk back and forth.”

CTF has also found that a little friendly competition can bring people together. “We do a weekly company football pick and it’s fun getting everyone involved,” Jason says. This additional communication between co-workers on social topics fosters better communication on professional topics.

These CMs agree that it takes time and care to make sure everyone feels included and connected to the rest of the team. They also agree that it’s as important to engage their teams socially as it is to engage them in work. “The big thing,” Dan concludes, “is you have to be intentional. It gets easier with practice, but no matter what you’re doing, you have to be intentionally doing it.” 

Daily and weekly habits for building a cohesive team with remote designers

Geographically restricting your search for qualified truss designers can limit your ability to find the most talented candidates. On the other hand, hiring remote designers brings with it concerns about productivity, scheduling, communication, technology, and lack of community. Through understanding other component manufacturers’ experiences, you can build your best team no matter where your truss designers sit.

About the Author: Molly Butz searches for the ways information technology shapes and fosters ingenuity in the component manufacturing industry.