If we go by the recent statistics, there has been a sharp rise in the number of remote workers. This indicates a favorable picture of work from home trend that most businesses today rely on. Many look at remote working as a great opportunity for the employers to save on costs and for employees a way to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
But is the picture actually as pleasant as being portrayed? Well, practically not. Managing and leading virtual teams is a real challenge that makes project handling difficult for the managers. Ensuring all the employees are connected and motivated towards the same goal is a task that calls for immense talent and patience. It’s no surprise then that some major companies have retracted their work-from home policies- signaling the probable problems that businesses are facing with remote teams.
However, if the concerned issues are addressed directly, the benefits coming from the same can hardly be questioned. Identifying the key problems and taking right measures to resolve can shape up things perfectly.
To understand the topic more deeply let’s take a look at the top 3 problems that managers often confront while dealing with virtual team management. This relates to communication, trust building and productivity enhancement. Interestingly, these are also the essential parts of most management and leadership development programs.
Problems and solutions pertaining to virtual team management
Good communication across all the team members is the cornerstone for smooth and successful completion of a project. However, maintaining effective communication through calls, mails and chats is certainly not an easy task. Ensuring free flow of correct information to the respective employees demands nurturing proper communicative culture, hiring right people and using relevant tools for the job. The main idea is to build a collaborative environment that facilitates communication process and helps in relation building.
Way to go!
Hiring right people:
We must look out for people who can adapt well to the virtual working style. Interviews are the time when we can judge the candidate’s communications skills and willingness to adapt. How well the person can interact through calls and emails, what are his opinions and expectations about remote working are some of the factors that can help set right foundation for building a strong team.
Developing interactive culture:
Hurdles to communication can be eliminated through building culture of clear communication. We must provide guidance to the staff as to what kinds of messages should be sent, through which mediums and how team members should respond or interact with each other so that there are no chances of misunderstandings. Best way to train the staff is to meet once or twice a year and apprise them with guidelines on effective communication.
Using appropriate tools:
Virtual teams rely on tools and software to carry on with their operations. There are different tools available for chatting, messaging, video conferencing and more. We must select tools that serve as good fit for our team. It would be great if we could conduct few trial sessions or do some research to determine which suits our needs. Training the staff on the tools selected is also critical to ensure everyone is utilizes them consistently and to the optimum advantage.
Problem Area #2
Be it leadership programs or executive presence training, earning employee’s confidence is considered as the route to accomplishing outstanding results. But, in a scenario where managers or team leaders hardly get to meet the team members in person and personal interaction is a rarity, it’s difficult to build strong bonds which form the very basis for shared mission, collaborative spirit and strategic team building.
Way to go!
Establish your Mission:
We must draft a document highlighting the mission statement of our business that relates to the greater cause of humanity. Most non-traditional and younger working professionals like to get associated with a mission-driven organization. Stating mission clearly and embedding it in actions like donating charity and partnering with NGOs that share the mission can help win employees confidence and loyalty.
Collaboration is even more important when it comes to virtual team building. We recommend encouraging teams to meet regularly via video conference, as these virtual face-to-face meetings breed sense of community and familiarity. Managers should communicate their expectations for each team so they know they’re working toward a shared goal.
Problem Area #3
Low productivity is one of the major concerns when employees are working outside the system of traditional office. In the absence of proper monitoring and personal interaction, some team members may fail to give in their best while others may risk burnout due to a lack of clear-cut boundaries.
Way to go!
Set up accountability structure
Setting clear expectations for each job role and regular check-ins to monitor the progress is important for ensuring accountability. Employers must have a basic idea of how long tasks take and how much each person is accomplishing every day/week. This is especially crucial for staff that is dealing with clients as it gives a sense of billable hours spent.
For employees not working directly with the client, conducting regular one-on-ones with each team member can be useful. This is recommended not just to hold them accountable for their performance but also to know about workload and support required.
Forming informal group to establish daily check-in process keeps the team on the same page and holds respective employees accountable for their routine tasks and work contributions.
In addition to group check-ins, the managers must follow a system of monthly or quarterly one-to-one time with their direct reports. This could remove the stress of a sudden request for a meeting, and provide employees a specified time to talk about their issues, hurdles and progress.
Leading a virtual team successfully is challenging, but addressing the issues in the process head-on is certainly worth the effort. Overcoming the challenges establishes a solid base that supports a cohesive and dynamic virtual team.
To explore more about how to lead virtual team effectively connect with our training plans. Pragati Leadership virtual team programs ensure:
- Improved communication, cooperation and collaboration
- More systematic team working & enhanced productivity
- Improved proficiency while working in a virtual environment
- Better working relationships with customers and suppliers- sound stakeholder management