Expert Tips on How to Effectively Manage Your Remote Development Team

Remember when remote work was considered a fringe concept, only the eccentric ones talked about seriously? Some envied the idea; others scoffed at it.

But then, “thanks” to COVID-19, it became a global phenomenon overnight. Suddenly, everyone was embracing remote work during the lockdowns. It became a new normal. But turned out that most companies never really bought into the idea but were simply forced to adjust temporarily. Now that the dust has settled, executives are scratching their heads, wondering about the best way forward.

The hybrid model, which blends remote and on-site work, seems appealing to most at the moment. However, let’s be real here—even mandating a single day on-site shuts the door on international recruiting and a world of opportunities that come with offshore or nearshore staff augmentation.

While we will talk about that—and many other things—the essential questions remain, especially for those who are working with remote software development teams: How do you effectively build and manage your remote development team?

That’s our topic of discussion for today. But before everything, here are a few words on the state of remote work.

The State of Remote Work—Present and Future

COVID-19 changed our attitude to work. Earlier, a very tiny percentage, around 2.3% of teams, worked remotely against 20% of teams today. And this is growing—we predict that 20-30% of our clients will opt to go fully remote in the long run, embracing the benefits of a bigger and richer talent pool and breaking free from local constraints.

And why not? The flexibility of remote work allows employees to be more productive. Per GenHQ, of those who worked remotely, 62% reported being more productive than working on-site. Secondly, by being open to remote work, companies can access a wider pool of talent, as many workers considering a job change are interested in fully remote or hybrid roles.

Remote work statistics

And let’s not forget cost savings. As per research, employers can save $11,000 per employee per year when switching to remote work. Workers, on the other hand, can save up to $8k per year while working remotely. It’s a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

Companies can take these savings to the next level by considering hiring from nearshore, such as countries in Latin America, as opposed to building an onshore remote team. That would mean an additional 30% savings! Beyond savings, we believe that a fully remote setup offers the most significant benefits, especially when augmenting with talent from Latin America (LATAM) in the same time zone.

And hey, if you already have a local team in Boston, Toronto, or Seattle that operates in a hybrid model—this can serve as your “cultural anchor,” making team augmentation in South America even smoother.  

But how do I actually find and onboard good engineers in Latin America?

It’s not easy. Otherwise, everybody would be doing it. It takes about 12 months of consistent effort to build any sort of serious expertise and network in South America. You can always get lucky and find the right person quickly, but it’s a shaky strategy if you are hiring more than 1-2 people for your team. If you are to succeed, you will have to either consistently invest the time, effort, and money to build up your internal recruitment or HR team’s LATAM hiring capabilities or build a relationship with a staffing partner.

Finding somebody with the right technical skills is half the challenge; you will need to figure out how to screen for communication skills, do criminal record checks in each individual country you hire in (rules are different everywhere), how to transfer money or comply with local laws (there are platforms for that), and what to do if things go sideways (which they sometimes do).

Remember, LinkedIn messages don’t quite cut it—be prepared to work hard or partner up with a trustworthy agency. Speaking of agencies specializing in LATAM talent, meet us—we are DevEngine. We handle the whole process of hiring from LATAM, A to Z. Thanks to our presence both in Latin and North America, we stand at the vantage point of the LATAM talent landscape. Our senior engineers test all new candidates before you even see the candidate profile.

And just so you know, our pricing is upfront and transparent—if you have to calculate your expenses, you will get the exact figures on day one. See more of how we do it at DevEngine.

Already have the remote arrangement in place? Perfect! So, how do you—or should you—effectively manage a remote development team or any other team for that matter?

Here are some workable tips to manage your remote development team—all coming from the desk of experts!

How to Manage a Remote Development Team?

Managing a remote team effectively requires a shift in mindset from tracking hours to focusing on output and results. Software and monitoring tools are meant to help your engineers stay productive and are not for snooping. If you type into Google “best employee monitoring tools,” you’ll be blown away by the options—I recommend using none of them.

By building trust and setting clear expectations from the outset, you can create an environment where your team thrives and delivers high-quality work, even without being monitored.

Here are some key strategies for managing your remote development team, building trust, and increasing your remote development team’s productivity.

  • Hire the right people: It starts at the beginning. Focus on finding talented individuals who are self-motivated, independent, and possess strong communication skills.
  • Select the right tools: Equipping your team with robust technological tools and software licenses is essential for their success. Invest in communication platforms, project management tools, and collaboration software that facilitate smooth workflow and efficient communication.
  • Define core working hours: Establish specific core hours when everyone is expected to be available and responsive. It could be a couple of hours or a major portion of the shift. At the same time, establish reasonable expectations for response times on messages and emails.

If there are meetings, determine which ones are absolutely essential and stick to the schedule.

  • Open communication: Encourage open and transparent communication through regular team meetings, individual check-ins, and readily available channels. Clearly define preferred communication channels for different scenarios (e.g., Slack for quick updates, email for longer discussions, Zoom for meetings, etc.).
  • Empowerment and autonomy: Give your team the freedom and autonomy to manage their work and solve problems independently. This demonstrates trust and fosters ownership. That said, if there are project deadlines and milestones, communicate those clearly, including individual responsibilities and expectations.
  • Address time off and vacations: Discuss expected vacation lengths at the beginning and provide flexibility, considering local holidays and customs.
  • Focus on results: Measure success by output and completed tasks, not by the number of hours spent working. Recognize and celebrate individual and team accomplishments to build a positive and motivating environment.
  • Outline professional development opportunities: Discuss opportunities for continuous learning and obtaining new certifications, and clarify who will cover the cost.

Remember: Building trust and setting clear expectations are two sides of the same coin. Trust your team and keep an eye on the output – that’s all that matters. After all, if you were only interested in seeing bums in seats from 9 to 5, you would not be building a distributed team in South America or reading this blog.

How do I retain my best engineers now that they are doing a great job for me?

If you are chasing global talent, be an open-minded manager. It pays off to understand what drives people on your team, no matter where they are located. Assuming you picked your staffing partner wisely or your in-house recruiters know their stuff, you will have nobody on your team motivated purely by money. So what makes people stay?

Here are some of the other things that are likely to be important to engineers and correlate directly with how long they will stay on your team:

1. Pay in US Dollars

Local currencies in LATAM might be unstable and lose value due to high inflation. Offering compensation in US dollars provides a sense of security and protects against inflation. Similarly, make payments promptly and on time–it demonstrates respect and value for your employees’ time and contributions.

2. Respect Cultural Values and Traditions

Family, friends, and traditions are likely to be cherished by your LATAM team members. Recognizing and respecting their local holidays goes a long way. Surprisingly, it’s very often overlooked, but if you consider it, it just shows understanding and appreciation for your team members’ cultural heritage.

3. Provide Flexible Working Hours

Provide some reasonable flexibility within working core hours. While time zones across Latin America line up conveniently to EST and PST, offering a bit of empowers your team members to manage personal errands, appointments, and emergencies.

4. Involve Your Team in Decision-Making

Encourage your software development team members to contribute ideas and participate in decision-making processes. It’s good for your project—it builds trust and ownership and provides a sense of investment in the company’s success.

The best value comes from hiring senior engineers and IT professionals who want to contribute ideas at least once in a while and not just fix bugs in your old code non-stop.

5. Be Generous with Vacations

The standard two weeks off per year is a good starting point, but it might not align nicely with most LATAM-based engineers’ ideas of fun and rest. How about going the extra mile here? Allowing for ample time off allows your team members to connect with family and friends, explore their region, and recharge, leading to increased engagement and reduced burnout.

6. Arrange Virtual Team-Building Events and Social Gatherings

One of the problems with remote work is the lack of socialization among team members. But there is a solution—organizing virtual events and social gatherings. It would help build relationships, create camaraderie, and foster a sense of belonging among your remote development team.

7. Set Clear Career Paths

Employees should know where they will be next year or in the next five years. That is why it is important to establish clear career paths within your company. It provides your team members a roadmap for advancement, giving them something to strive for and increasing their commitment to your organization.

8. Employee Engagement Surveys and Retention Programs

Lastly, do arrange engagement surveys and retention programs. Actively seeking feedback through surveys and implementing retention programs would help identify areas for improvement and proactively address concerns before they arise.

These are some of the things you can consider for retaining your employees. And if building and working on distributed teams is your thing, we are super happy to recommend Matt Mullenweg’s podcast called “Distributed.”

Hope you enjoyed reading this piece. If you are in search of some top-notch LATAM tech talent, hit us up. We will make sure to give you the team that’s essential for your growth.

Also, you can read our next article, where we talk about what services you can expect from DevEngine while building and managing your distributed software engineering team in South America.

Happy building your team! 🙂