As more companies go global, more people are also becoming part of the virtual workforce. Managing a virtual team has proven to be a cost-effective strategy as it allows companies to have access to the best talents without the geographical constraints. But having a virtual team also poses a few concerns for the virtual manager as virtual project management tend to be less formal and unstructured compared to the traditional option of expatriation.
To get the most out of your digital team, here are 10 tips on making virtual teams work towards success and effectiveness:
1. Choose the right communication style
Communication is the most crucial part of digital management as there are many communication tools out there to aid you in project collaboration. For quick interactions that need to be documented for reference, e-mail is the best option. Phone calls and video chat are for more pressing concerns and for when you need to see how the other person responds. Chat programs must also be utilized for instant messaging and quick coordination that help create the feeling of having a team.
2. Set up regular meetings virtually and face-to-face
Schedule meetings with each individual member and the entire team to set objectives and align expectations. Video-conferencing must be done regularly to establish relationships, inspire members and give them a sense company culture. Then strive to meet in person at least 4 times a year to reinforce the bond between members and develop real and lasting relationships.
3. Rotate meetings around time zones
With members located in different parts of the world, setting a meeting will be a challenge for you. Keep in mind the time differences and rotate every week so that the same person won’t always have to wake up very early or go home too late.
4. Encourage informal conversations
Virtual work can be isolating and this is why most virtual teams fail. As a virtual manager, you must create an environment where conversations are not limited to work and your team members feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings with each other. Albeit virtual, having a space for more personal interaction will make them feel more connected with each other which in turn help them work more harmoniously.
5. Get creative with bonding activities
Provide a different point of contact between you and your team by organizing fun activities. For example, you may send your members a small token for a job well done and schedule a virtual award ceremony. Also, make an effort in sending them meaningful gifts on their birthdays and special occasions.
6. Establish an effective project management system
You can’t rely on managing projects via e-mail alone. Use a project management system to organize documents, schedule tasks and track progress on projects to make documentation easier and faster. Files will eventually grow to an unmanageable number and a system will help you retrieve important information without having to go through e-mail threads that are both time-consuming and counterproductive.
7. Develop cultural sensitivity
Having a virtual team spread out across different countries also mean cultural differences. As the manager, you are responsible for creating awareness of these differences among your members and providing them with related training. Without it, misunderstandings will arise that will most definitely affect the team’s productivity.
8. Provide updates and give constant feedback
To motivate your members, make sure you inform them about how the company is doing and how they are contributing to its operations. This will give them a stronger sense of purpose. It will also help to involve them in company projects to make them feel that they are an integral part of the company’s growth.
9. Spot career similarities
When establishing a new team, look for people who have experience in working in an international setting or those who share previous work experiences, educational background or similar projects. Having some similar ground between members will help build trust and understanding, lessening the impact of cultural and other social barriers.
10. Set clear goals and manage expectations
As the manager, you need to set objectives, lead and collaborate with your team to achieve them. Results must also be communicated so that your team will know where they can adjust and improve on. Besides that, members must know how they can grow in their work beyond deadlines and daily tasks. What happens when productivity goals are met? Are there opportunities to move to headquarters? What other opportunities will members be able to take advantage of as they go along? These questions must be answered with the help of HR personnel so that you and your team are on the same page.
As within any company, building relationships with the people you work closely together and honing efficient project management skills is the key to success. Virtual management may have its challenges but it does have advantages that traditional office set-ups don’t have such as access to local knowledge and gaining more insight in terms of culture because of diversity. The important thing to remember is that people basically have the same needs regardless of where they are and having an open communication will go a long way.