Hi, my name is Thea Perez and I’m the founder and creative director of Polychrome, an online marketplace for original print, pattern, artwork, and trend information servicing the fashion industry.

Share Your Company’s Branding Identity with Employees

How would you try to engender an atmosphere of community and mentorship with your team while they’re working remotely? Keeping your team’s goals aligned with your ideals is very important. Make sure your whole team team is clear about where you’re headed. I give everyone access to a copy cut from a shared folder on Dropbox and refer to it when it seems people are getting off track. Keep everyone on the same page by using key phrases from your ideals and your mission in your everyday dialogue with your team.

Related: Jeffrey Hayzlett: Branding Isn’t Just for Cattle

Make It Easy for Employees to Be Heard

Make sure it’s easy for everyone to be heard and to contribute new ideas. Keep the culture of your business conducive to encouraging new ideas and invite questions and feedback. Don’t be afraid to give and receive tough criticism, as long as it’s kept professional and not made personal. All criticism should come from a company growth perspective and to the individuals on your team.

Hire the Best

Make sure you hire the best people you can. You don’t want to be the smartest or most talented or skilled person in the room. Be transparent about where the company stands as a new venture and make sure everyone understands we’re all on board to work hard and achieve goals together.

Related: Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Hire

Use a Private Facebook Group

I use this to share information, announcements, and links to the entire team. I use it to celebrate and promote our work and to showcase the achievements of group members inside and outside the organization. Use this to share helpful tips and updates about your work, including techniques or videos. Encourage members to introduce themselves to the group here and share something about themselves and their work. All of my designers write a post that link to their online portfolios. Encourage the rest of the team to communicate with each other here as well and build a sense of community amongst them.

Cultivate an Atmosphere of Learning

If possible, schedule webinars and online workshops with a group to acquire new skills together to encourage brainstorming. Make sure you share new techniques you’ve learned, and encourage others to do the same. It’s easy to do on a Facebook group: you can share podcasts, other blogs, books, cultural events, etc. that would be interesting and inspiring for your group.

Related: The 3 Ways to Motivate Today’s Workers

If someone makes a mistake, make sure you call their attention to it, give them what they need to make it right, and then leave and trust them to fix it. Examine if this is a learning opportunity for the group or if it calls for a change in policy or procedure for your company. So in short, make sure the company’s goals, ideals, and mission are clear to all and everyone is on board to follow through with them.

Fear of being wrong can really kill creativity, so encourage open lines of communication throughout the team on various platforms so members of the group feel like they have peer support. Create an atmosphere where people feel free to share ideas and experiences that might not seem directly related to work or the product or service you’re selling.

Software to Share Data and Manage Workflow

Some good ways to do this are through Google Docs. Use this to keep running to-do lists for team members, to keep spreadsheets of data to share, and to keep track of protocols for new hires or clients. I use it as a checklist to make sure I’ve given all new hires all the necessary documents and information they need to start working with us and to share comparison charts, such as prototype information, tracking information and workflow.

You can utilize services such as Dropbox, Hightail, and Pinterest and other kinds of cloud-based services. These will allow you to easily share files and you can choose who can see them, who can edit them, and who can download them. They are very good ways to share a folder of commonly needed template files or company policy documents like that branding file I keep talking about. It’s for anything that you want all members to have access to the same information, and you can always keep it updated. These platforms allow for commenting and in some cases even marking up the documents. It makes revising and making notations on specific areas very easy and clear. Pinterest also allows for secret boards to be shared with those you give permission to. They’re not visible to anyone else on Pinterest or on your profile. It also saves the link back to the original web page, which is really useful in doing research.

Related: Is Your Lack of Cutting-Edge Business Tools Holding Your Business Back?

Online Tools for Team Management

Managing your team can be tricky. Use time tracking and project management software to help. There are several online resources for timesheets and tracking that tie into accounting and invoicing. Many of these tools will allow more than one user to import hours, keep track of projects, and even submit expenses. There are several online resources, such as Soho, which offer basic packages or trial periods that are free with restrictions on how many invoices you can send or customer employee profiles you can implement before you need to opt in for the paid plan, but at least it’s a good start.

Google Docs calendars and task lists can help team members stay on task, set meetings, and respond to invites. I often use the Facebook group to ask people to step up to work on open projects, and then everyone can see who’s claimed them. Some things to keep in mind are that there are plenty of free online tools to assist in your project management. Cloud services are a good place for you to share and comment on images, documents, and other work. These tools allow you to keep running smoothly and also keep your team on task.

Related: 7 Key Benefits Cloud-Based ERP Systems Bring to Online Businesses