Virtual Teams and How To Manage Them
The Internet has opened the way for the rise of digital service providers and the need to have remote teams. There are plenty of skilled professionals online that you can hire and get onboard your virtual team. But managing a remote team is a different scenario. In fact, a regular global conference called Running Remote is dedicated to people who manage distributed teams.
In this article, we’ll focus more on how you can become effective in managing remote teams.
Working with Remote Teams: The Challenges
A virtual or remote team is a group of digital professionals coming from other countries and diverse cultures. These people do not work at the same geographic location where you are and will likely have different working hours or time zone. This organizational structure can only be made possible via the Internet and online collaboration tools.
Handling a virtual team can be challenging because people who work on multiple projects need to communicate and coordinate across time zones, distance, language barriers, and cultures.
As a start, the challenges include making sure that there is:
- General understanding, given language and cultural differences without physical interaction and cues
- Coordination so that everybody is where and when they need to be with the right information, tools, materials, and skills
- Acknowledging diversity while creating a common and acceptable team culture when working across company boundaries.
Managing Virtual Teams Effectively
Your team may not be in the same room, but it’s your job to make sure they’re still on the same page. How do we rise to the challenge? How can we motivate them to work better and be always engaged?
Here are the best practices that you can refer to and see which ones you can implement with your existing virtual teams.
Transparency and Culture
- Trust your team. Most companies do not embrace a virtual workforce as it is uncertain whether they get the same level of commitment and output as if they are within the physical office. This concern is logical and realistic. In other words, what you can do is set up clear virtual work guidelines and consequences. A good example would be to require that all emails be appropriately answered within 24 hours upon receipt.
- Create a strong team culture. Although your team hail from different cultures, it’s your job to establish a new culture to embrace all of them. With this, build a virtual workforce atmosphere of genuine connection and intention. After all, your remote workers are human beings needing real engagement.
- Allow flexible work hours up to a certain acceptable degree. The key word to that suggestion is “acceptable.”
- Meet your team in person. Once in a while, if possible, meet up with your team to inspire and let your team know they are working with real people. Do team bondings, or go off on outdoor activities with them to get to know who they are in real life.
- Share an inspiring video for your team. Remind the group why they are working for you and where you are leading them.
- Establish and nurture your virtual friendships. Use technology to establish a dedicated workspace for celebrating special days like birthdays, milestones, as well as organization recognition for your team.
- Organize your workforce. If you have a more prominent company, assign point persons to look into your remote teams. Moreover, oversee their periodic performance and monitor each output.
- Set expectations and targets clearly. Show examples of what and how you expect the tasks to be done. Additionally, ensure that you have clear expectations from your remote team. Besides, they can serve better when prepared and equipped.
- Use reliable tools to track attendance, hours worked, work output, and other measures of productivity for accountability. First, invest in online tools that work well to make collaboration possible and without fail. It’s difficult if your remote team is struggling to make an online call, download work files, or even receive tasks. Afterward, make sure to set clear procedures for the proper use of such tools.
- Conduct video-based coaching. Help your team achieve the goals that they’re targeting. Also, consider the areas of work where your people can improve and teach them how to excel. If you don’t, your virtual people will end up wondering how they are doing so far.
- Stay focused on goals. Focus on what needs to be accomplished. Are you meeting your goals at the right time? If not, the company needs to look into the situation further and address the issue appropriately. In other words, tracking must be a critical activity in every aspect of remote work.
- Engage regularly and consistently. Talk to your remote workers regularly using multiple channels of communication. As a result, this constant interaction and engagement will help the remote team feel part of the important aspect of the company.
- Consider communicating with time zone difference. Set up a strategy to effectively talk to your team that works way beyond your traditional working hours.
- Schedule a periodic performance review. Regular assessments are healthy for keeping everyone on pace with the targets.
- Keep a team chat group open. Be always open to quick reminders and concerns, especially when it comes to emergencies and urgent matters.
- Pick the appropriate communication media (email, chat, video chat, VoIP, screen sharing, or project management tools).
- Provide a two-way feedback system. Allow your virtual teams to share their experience working with your managers and what they think should also be done to improve the remote structure.
- Test skills and competency first before hiring. Do not just trust the résumé.
- Pay virtual teams well and on time. Beyond work, these people also have life goals and bills to settle.
- Choose new people who are fit to work with your existing team.
- Provide a long-term career path for your remote team.
- Build a standard and educational onboarding process for new hires.
Final thoughts: Treat them as local
In conclusion, virtual teams, especially outsourcing companies in the Philippines, are a challenge and a fantastic structure to handle. Employees cross cultures, time zones to communicate and work together over significant distances using digital technology. You may not necessarily be under the same roof, but they are still professionals and human beings.