Computers, the internet, and mobile telephones have vastly impacted managing all kinds of work forces, from sales organizations which have long been remote to more traditional office-based workers who can now work remotely as well. While in some cases, such as sales management, managers’ tasks have been simplified by this new technology, in others, such as traditional office-based workers who are now working from home or remote offices, the job of managers has been greatly complicated. Overall, however, managing multinational organizations and widely disparate locations has been simplified by technology. Mobile phones, email, chat, instant messaging (IM), and online collaboration have made the management of a remote sales force or other work force both more efficient and more effective.
Changing Role of Remote Management
Addressing the issue of remote management, Mewton (2005) suggests that old-line management philosophies of top-down decision making, centralized operations, and the controlled flow of information does not work in today’s diversified workplace. Frontline workers need and have access to much more information than even their managers had in the past. For managers the task becomes one of relating to their staff since they infrequently interact face-to-face. Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee (2002) stress that the availability of remote communication tools—mobile phones, email, instant messaging—creates only the “opportunity to connect” (p. 2), it takes effort to lead through these tools, and leaders need to be aware of and use their own competencies of self-awareness, active listening, compassion, empathy, and integrity to motivate remote workers (Mewton, 2005).
Remote Sales Force Management
Sales forces have long been remote, so managing them has always been a difficult task, a task somewhat simplified by today’s communications technologies while at the same time complicating the management task at the same time. In the last decade, the number of remote workers has grown ten times to approximately 11.1 million, driven largely by companies’ realization that customer relationships are much more efficient and effective with their sales contacts closer to customers and suppliers (Challagalla, Shervani, & Huber, 2000). Challagalla et el. (2000) studied the impact of sales management styles on effectiveness with remote sales people versus co-located sales forces. They found that end-results oriented sales managers were not impacted by location of the sales force, because tracking a sales person’s performance can be accomplished with no interaction. Activity oriented sales managers, who micro-manage daily activity, however, are severely impacted by location, because it is much more difficult to oversee remote workers’ daily activities. Managers that focus on capability orientation, providing frequent performance feedback, were found to be most impacted by remote location management, because of the difficulty of providing spontaneous...