Managing virtual teams has never been an easy task, but before 2020 and the Covid pandemic, it was not a common form of team configuration. However, with the advancement of technology and the blurring of boundaries between where you live and work, virtual teams are becoming more widespread. Thus, it is essential to know how they would be most effective. In this article, I will touch on a little more information about organising the work and efficiency of virtual teams.
The most important things that the article will go through are clarity, communication, and culture in the team.
The more distant the people in a team, the more the focus should be on clarity of responsibilities and goals. What I mean by this is the following: the essential steps for a team to be effective are knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Then, to achieve high results, the team must be aware of the goals and tools it has to achieve them.
For the team to know its own qualities, an important step is for people to know each other. They need to know their expertise and that of other people around them. This way, they will understand how to act during critical moments.
Four factors are crucial for the functioning of virtual teams:
- Awareness of the differences between team members and communication at the level of individuals, not professionals.
- The application of individual preferences to people. Knowing the strengths of people, everyone can be more than adequate and at the same time feel happy during their activities.
- Regular communication in the team is another essential element. Providing an opportunity for discussion and, at the same time, the freedom of everyone to speak freely is of great importance for the team.
- Providе a reward that can motivate people for even better results.
The listed factors are essential for managing virtual teams. People need to feel free, be creative, and add even more value to their work.
As you may have guessed, communication is probably the most critical asset for virtual teams. However, for the team to work well, a few things need to be provided, some of which may seem like common sense but are still sometimes forgotten:
- Make sure everyone has the necessary techniques to make communication effective. For example, access to all the required platforms and the availability of cameras and microphones are essential parts of making communication easier.
- Find an interactive way for each team member to share information or questions during your meetings.
- In addition to business meetings, don’t forget to set aside some time for virtual team buildings. As much as this is already part of our daily lives, many places still do not host online events. And this is usually important for fostering close relationships within the team.
- Make each member of your team feel free to share the challenges they face. Always have a meeting facilitator, monitor the progress of the set goals and ask for feedback. And give one in exchange.
- Feedback – We will not touch on details, but let’s briefly elaborate on the context of virtual teams. Make sure you build processes to give and receive feedback. This is an easy task if you know your team well enough. Explain the benefits of feedback and motivate people to provide feedback. Constructive feedback enables people to clear potential problems with each other, but it also gives people more clarity about their work.
The first thing we all think of when we say culture in the context of virtual teams is an international environment. However, this is not the only thing: creating a team culture is another one.
Creating a stable culture in a team or company is a constant challenge, but it is essential for the work and productivity of the team and especially for the belonging of the people in it. I cannot give you specific steps to create a culture in the team or the company that is valid in all cases. Nevertheless, I would like to tell you about my experience in the bespoke software development company Dreamix.
- Create values to develop your team and your company. Every company talks about values, but not every company actively supports these values with activities. The activities are essential for developing the people in your team and their belonging to your company . Come up with specific team activities depending on the company values and make sure they are helpful and enjoyable.
- Create a culture of support and freedom! Make sure that the team members feel supported by you and know that their team is ready to help them. This makes them feel confident that they have someone to rely on. Also, make people feel free to suggest ideas, express opinions, and encourage them to reach their full potential.
- Always think about how to improve your team environment even further. This is a crucial step to nourishing the culture in the team and, at the same time, it lets people know that you care about them.
Managing virtual teams will always be a challenge. Given the WFH / Hybrid model of working, however, it is something we need to get used to and be ready to develop our people in the company and team and support them.
What inspired me to write about virtual teams was a great book I read recently called “Teams without borders: A story about the power of virtual teams and how they change our world” by Petar Ivanov. The book is originally published only in Bulgarian.