Back To CourseBuilding a Virtual Team
3 chapters | 18 lessons
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Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.
It's time for Joe to hire more employees for his online startup. Since he has a very small physical space for an office, it only makes sense for him to consider growing his organization through a virtual team, which are employees of an organization who work together, but remotely, from outside a traditional office location.
Many years ago, virtual teams were basically unheard of, with workers trudging off to the office for their 9-to-5 jobs and no concept of broadband internet making things like virtual teams possible. Today, employees of the same company may be in different cities, time zones, or even countries. Virtual workers, sometimes called remote workers or telecommuters, have grown in popularity by 115% in the past 10 years. Today, nearly four million U.S. workers utilize a home office for at least half of their working hours.
As Joe knows, the idea of working inside of a virtual team is appealing because it saves money in the form of reduced overhead and opens the door for the most skilled applicants from any corner of the world. Now that Joe is ready to grow his workforce, there are certain things he needs to consider in continuing to build a successful virtual team.
Since building the best virtual team can be tricky, let's look at some areas Joe needs to give special attention to.
1. Proper staffing: Not every business or every potential employee will be the right fit for a virtual role. A manufacturing facility, for example, needs on-site workers. A recent college graduate may need more supervision and direction than they will receive as a remote worker. Consider your business needs and the background of potential workers when making virtual hires.
2. Clarity: Whether it's clear direction on a specific project or defining the roles and responsibilities of each employee, clarity when building virtual teams is important. These workers don't have the advantage of face-to-face meetings or stopping in a co-worker's office, so setting clear goals and each person's responsibility inside of those goals is crucial.
3. Tech tools: A virtual team likely won't be successful without the appropriate technology to get the job done. This may include a telephone system, computer hardware and software, and even videoconferencing tools like Skype to enable team members to connect to share files or have ''face-to-face'' meetings.
4. Relationship-building: A big part of the way in-office workers build rapport is simply by interacting with each other, face to face, every day. They eat lunch together, talk about their weekends, and work in close proximity to one another. In virtual teams, this can be a challenge. Leaders of virtual teams should establish social opportunities for workers such as virtual lunches or Google Hangouts focused more on getting to know other virtual team members and less on work projects.
5. Workspaces: Whether virtual team members are scattered across the country or around the world, providing workspaces that facilitate easy collaboration is a necessary consideration of a virtual work environment. Emailing documents may work, but a shared cloud workspace may be more effective. Project management software could be utilized to help everyone, no matter where they are, see each employee's tasks and how they interplay with their own.
6. Setting guidelines: Maybe it's a challenge to schedule a meeting that works for everyone, or since there are multiple forms of communication - like email, direct message, and chat features, or texting - it's hard to know which is best. Establishing clear guidelines and best practices for communication, meeting deadlines, setting work priorities, and other important business decisions can help keep everyone on the same page and functioning as a well-oiled machine.
7. Structure: While working from home affords a more relaxed environment, it's really important that virtual teams operate with stronger structure than face-to-face teams might require. This may mean defining what success looks like both individually and as a team, focusing on accountability, proactively scheduling meetings to discuss task management, and keeping conversations about projects in group settings rather than private, individual conversations.
8. Respecting differences: In some instances, differences may be as simple as recognizing time differences and scheduling team meetings accordingly. In other virtual teams, there may be cultural barriers that need to be recognized and handled appropriately. Communication concerns in particular could lead to misunderstandings due to not being able to see each other's facial expressions or body language. Educate members of a virtual team to understanding how various cultures approach things like deadlines, constructive criticism, and communications.
Let's take a few moments to recap the important information that we've learned about virtual teams, which are employees of an organization who work together, but remotely, from outside a traditional office location. The growing popularity of virtual teams creates unique challenges for workers and leaders alike. There are special considerations that project managers, directors, and executives should make when building virtual teams. For example:
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Back To CourseBuilding a Virtual Team
3 chapters | 18 lessons