Teams of today are not what they used to be. With all the possibilities that high-end cooperation tools and fast Internet connection offer, why limit your company to the labor force of your area only?
There’s so much talent scattered across your country and worldwide, that it makes perfect sense to recruit a team of telecommuters, often referred to as a virtual team.
However, although managing virtual teams is in some ways easier than working with co-located ones, it is also challenging from many perspectives.
Here are a few useful hints on how to manage a virtual team, to help project managers cope with these challenges.
1. Provide clear objectives for all and everyone
The members of a virtual team need to know both their individual objectives and the bigger goals they are working on together as a team. It is more difficult to formulate tasks clearly over the phone or email than in a personal meeting, but make sure every member of the team knows what to do, and when and how it should be done. At the same time, be sure all team members are aware of their common goals: this empowers them and helps them realize how they contribute to overall success of the project.
2. Set basic workplace rules
Although virtual team members all work in different locations and generally enjoy a more relaxed workplace atmosphere, it is good to set basic rules to facilitate discipline. This normally means establishing working hours, meeting dates and other details. Managing a virtual team, where all of the members work when they please, can be time-consuming and ineffective.
3. Know what they are working on
Knowing what each virtual team member is working on makes it is easier to track their productivity and to see the status of the project on the whole. Some helpful strategies to use are short daily reports or everyday virtual team meetings (via a phone or chat), discussing every day’s accomplishments.
4. Communicate more
For telecommuters lack of communication is one of the drawbacks of this style of working. Besides, it is more difficult for them to see the whole picture of what they are working on. As a manager of a virtual team, be prepared that you’ll often need to compensate that by communicating with your team more. Make sure they don’t feel isolated: provide constant feedback and facilitate communication between the team members.
5. Take diversity into account
Managing a virtual team requires an even more individual approach than working with a traditional team does. As virtual teams tend to become multinational, you’ll often have to take diversity into consideration. There’s the time difference issue that you have to find a compromise with: you don’t expect your team member to be present for a meet-up at 3 a.m. their time just because it’s 9 a.m. your time, do you? Besides, the cultural differences can also be a factor that influences the working style or behavior of a team member. Try to allow for these peculiarities: you know all bread is not baked in the same oven.
What do you think? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.
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