Virtual Team Management Best Practices

Over half of all firms employing virtual workers achieve significant productivity increases [3]. It takes the right people to build an effective off-site team. Though this work is more flexible, it is still important to schedule employees to work together, conduct regular meetings and assign finite deadlines. Virtual managers must also establish how team members will communicate with the office and each other.

Why Virtual Work Makes Sense

Companies are increasingly employing virtual workforces. According to a poll conducted among 1700 information technology professionals, 80 percent of them frequently collaborated with dispersed, offsite team members. Of those workers, 82 percent failed to accomplish their goals and 33 percent admit they failed in their duties. Additionally, 88 percent of those workers failed to fulfill their clients’ needs [3].

Despite these results, experts believe these employees can outpace in-house staff members. Though there is still much to be done for the logistical success of the virtual worker, firms have noticed a nearly 50% increase in the productivity of their hired virtual workers, while giving workers the ability to balance career and personal responsibilities and opportunities to work with global talent.

Productivity Begins with the Right Virtual Employees

Virtual team success begins with the right candidates. Despite individual qualifications, a potential new hire’s willingness to work remotely does not guarantee s/he can function well with others or in an unstructured environment. To identify suitable prospects and save valuable time, hiring managers can use personality tests. Follow through with background and reference checks. Finally, when building an off-site team, hiring managers must also consider whether the on- and off-site team members will work well together.

Scheduling a Virtual Workforce

Experts recommend scheduling shifts so at least three to four hours coincide for all staff members. If the entire team is not available, managers should try to schedule as many staff members as possible during this time. The team members will feel more unified knowing they are working together. This also makes it easier for employees to troubleshoot issues. Hiring managers must keep in mind that staff members do not all work the same way and should consider how this can affect scheduling.

Maintaining Ties to the Office

Virtual team leads must schedule regular meetings to monitor and control employee progress. The manager should also clearly outline meeting procedures and frequency during the hiring process. Regularly scheduled meetings help workers establish consistency and feel more comfortable in their positions. As a result, staff members experience less job related anxiety and feel a closer connection with their virtual peers and managers.

Communicating with Virtual Employees

Hiring managers should also designate communication protocols during the hiring process. By doing so, employees will know who to contact when urgent matters arise. This helps to create standard policies and establish structure, which builds employee morale and creates unity.

Video conferencing can increase the connection employees experience while attending meetings. Although workers commonly communicate with phone calls and emails, the added visual element greatly reduces misunderstandings.

Defining and Clarifying Virtual Responsibilities

Just as in-house staff members need precise instruction, it is important to define deadlines for virtual team members to produce consistent results. However, strict supervision can make employees feel uncomfortable and underappreciated. Experts recommend providing methodical instructions along with suitable examples [2].

Managers can increase morale and productivity by rewarding employees for their performance. Project management programs can help clearly define what tasks employees must complete. These programs can also send notices and reminders to keep employees on schedule.

Firms realize substantial productivity increases by hiring virtual workers, but not all employees function well in this environment. To manage these teams, employers must define clear communications policies, monitor productivity and hold regular meetings to foster employee cohesion. Although managing on-site and off-site employees is equally challenging, virtual employment is a growing practice offering workers freedom to balance their personal and work commitments while facilitating increased productivity for firms.

Learn More

Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is an internationally recognized research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis University is pleased to offer its M.S. in Project and Program Management (MSPPM) in a convenient online format for working professionals interested in project management.

 

Sources:

[1] https://hbr.org/2013/06/making-virtual-teams-work-ten

[2] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244197

[3] https://hbr.org/2014/12/getting-virtual-teams-right

 

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