Managing Virtual Teams: Get Better With These Time Tested Best Practices
By Ryan Bradman
In the last few years, the population of remote working employees has been increasing steadily. Don’t believe us? Check some numbers.
As of 2015, only 3.9 million workers were working remotely, but the numbers skyrocketed to 4.7 million by the first quarter of 2019. According to a report from Global Workplace Analytics, enterprises have at least 40% of their employees working remotely.
While virtual teams cost the company less and there is a negligible cost of hiring, they pose unique operational challenges. Communication is still a challenge for many teams and their leaders, along with management of differences between time zones (in case of global corps). The establishment of group identity is not easy as well.
However, the significant advantages of appointing remote employees keep the team leaders searching for the best practices that aid virtual team management.
Here are seven best practices that stand tall against the tests of time and trend –
Choose the best effective technologies
When picking a set of team members, you need to pick the right technologies as well. Effective tech is an integral part of virtual team management.
Here’s what your tech of choice should have –
- Document sharing
- Easy information exchange
- Scheduling tools
- Time tracking and attendance APIs
- Prototyping and collaboration software
- Project management features and add-ons
Google Suite, Zoom, Zenefits, Slack and Trello are cost-effective teamwork apps for virtual team management.
Lay down operating procedures
Employers need to establish detailed operating procedures for virtual team members. The code of conduct includes project deadlines, the process of submission, and codes on tracking attendance/working hours.
Here’s what you need to establish –
- Procedure work the submission of work
- Attendance tracking and timeliness
- Providing the status and progress of updates
- Procedures for the resolution of conflict
- Process for participation in ongoing training
- Submission of time-off or leave applications
Build a company culture
Building a sense of group or belonging can be extremely difficult when you are working with remote team members only. While software platforms like Slack, Zenefits and Google Suite do help, you need to be pro-active about building a company culture.
- Get to know your teammates – interact informally and talk about life outside work. Be very careful so as not to seem too intrusive, but show interest in their concerns.
- Recognize effort – be quick to say “thank you” and appreciate when your employees take the extra step to aid your ongoing project(s). Remember to celebrate success together!
- Communicate clearly – nothing can replace transparency. Remember to communicate your mission, vision and company ideals. Clarify doubts on time and respond to employee emails/messages as soon as possible.
- Respect personal time – managing the time difference can be difficult especially if your employees are from different parts of the world. Respect their personal time and always ask if it is a good time to talk when you call.
Appoint the right people
That sounds very basic, but the success of every team depends on the team members. Since you won’t be overseeing their work every minute of the day and there is no way you can “micro-manage” each employee, you need to appoint self-motivated, dedicated and punctual individuals.
Don’t just look at their certifications and education. Get a good look at their experience as virtual team members or leaders. Verify their communication skills and the ability to use teamwork software/apps. Set up video interviews to assess their internet connection, body language, professionalism and communication skills.
Schedule regular meetings
You need to think beyond sending the occasional email and SMS reminder. You should schedule weekly progress meetings over Skype or other communication platforms.
Keep your leadership visible and transparent for gaining the best productivity out of your team.
For smaller teams, set up 1-on-1 meets online. For larger teams, make us of conference calls and conference videos. Using dedicated co-working software can help you set up conference calls and meetings for larger teams without additional confusion.
While you should not come across as a helicopter boss, you should check-in on your team’s progress at least once a day.
Take time out to contact each team member at a particular time of the day. If you have a large team with 10+ members, set a time apart for conference calls and virtual meetings.
Keep your communication clear, well-documented and precise. Ask for their feedback and be a good listener. Clarify what you expect from each team member and make sure to resolve confusion, if any.
Undergo training for virtual team management
Virtual teams are NOT easy to manage successfully. If you are struggling with establishing a virtual team culture and imbibing a sense of group among the members, you might need help from the pros.
A virtual team training can tell you the following –
- Which tools to use
- Which communication platform is ideal for your team
- Virtual team-building exercises
- Ice breakers for multi-cultural virtual teams
- Setting up goals and collaboration exercises for the virtual team
The virtual teams have the potential to save a large corporation millions in terms of employee acquisition, insurance, real estate rentals, and office maintenance costs. However, managing virtual teams takes flexibility, out-of-the-box thinking, and the right tech support.
These seven time-tested best practices have helped hundreds of team leaders manage their virtual teams successfully.