10 Ways to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams
A Note From The Editor
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If you are managing one or more virtual teams, you are not alone. The Workforce 2020 survey claimed that 83 percent of executives plan to increase use of consultants or intermittent employees over the next three years.
Virtual teams can be a challenge to manage because one needs to create a corporate culture remotely. Here are 10 strategies to successfully build a virtual team that can be implemented instantly.
1. Define work systems.
Different people have different ways of going about tasks. Setting standards can shorten the time needed to achieve the desired result. By setting standards and defining repeatable work systems, the team has generally less questions and gets a feeling for how long certain tasks should take. These work systems need to be both standardized to allow for maximum effectiveness and tailored to allow the necessary freedom to complete the task at the best of one’s ability.
2. Establish multiple communication tools.
The benefits of establishing multiple communication tools is two-fold. First of all, your team has a way to communicate something that is urgent to the right person immediately. Secondly, it unifies processes such as what to use for conference calls, screen recordings, and so on. It is clear what tool is used for what, which contributes to creating that internal feeling of togetherness.
3. Schedule regular meetings.
Scheduling briefings at the same time on the same weekday contributes to creating a routine. Routines provide the team with something they are used to and familiar with. That in return puts the team at ease and reduces stress. Video calls are one of the best ways to maximize efficiency because they recreate the routine office feeling remote teams are missing out on.
4. Have clear and detailed deliverables.
Simply telling somebody to do something is usually not the popular way to go about managing teams. Micro-managing isn’t either which is why some managers avoid giving instructions with too many details.
Based on my experience, it is better to provide more detailed descriptions of the tasks with examples of what the final result should look like. Give the team the freedom to execute it than less instructions and having to deal with potential misunderstandings.
5. Make sure work hours overlap.
Regardless of what time zones your team members are in, it is recommendable to have at least three to four hours a day where most of the team is online at the same time. Even if some of the team members are unlikely to need each other to complete their tasks, being online at the same time brings the team closer together and is the quickest problem solving solution there is.
6. Create a professional work environment.
Professional attire and a distraction-free work environment are part of any corporate culture. Additionally, setting professional standards contributes to being efficient and puts people in the right mindset.
7. Choose (video) calls over chatting and emails.
With Skype and email being available at everyone’s fingertips, it is tempting to chat and send a quick email whenever there is something to discuss. This can easily lead to misunderstandings. With virtual teams, video calls or at least regular calls are more than a way to avoid misunderstandings. They connect the team members on a more personal level.
8. Find the right people to work with.
Not everyone is cut out for remote work and not everyone fits the team personality-wise. There are quite a few professional personality tests out there, and they can be a great way to determine whether someone is the right fit is still to ask yourself whether you are sure about that person or not. If you are not, it is usually best to move on to the next candidate. Additionally, double checking all references is a must to make sure you know as much as possible what you are getting yourself into.
9. Establish a meritocratic system.
Meritocracy -- or the process of rewarding and recognizing people based on their skills -- stimulates people to work harder and better. Make sure to set up reward systems to keep your team motivated and to better pinpoint the team members that can take on more responsibility.
10. Use project management tools.
Project management tools can be ideal to keep track of deadlines. They also send alerts and reminders for deadlines and give you a quick daily, weekly or monthly overview of what needs to be done, by who, and when. Things like Google Docs can still be a great addition and the same is valid for time tracking applications.