Virtual Teams

It is hard to take anything positive away from something as grim as this pandemic. However, it is obvious that COVID-19 has been transformative. In fact, it has been almost as transformative as the internet in the business world. The transformation has been more violent and much faster than internet penetration, but it has happened whether businesses like it or not. Remote working is the new normal and virtual teams are how businesses can continue to function.

However, as most of the world is still new to remote teams and working online, it is unfair to expect work to continue at the same pace. Many professionals who appear capable and well versed in the office struggle to do the same tasks in a remote setting. Many managers are quickly learning that they need to manage remote workforces differently. This blog discusses several ways how to accomplish this in a way appropriate to our current setting.

Develop Essential New Skills for Virtual Teams

Certain soft skills that are important in an office setting may not be relevant anymore. On the other hand, you may find that you need to develop certain new skills for your employees to function under the new dynamic. These can be done from things as simple as online games for virtual teams to virtual training sessions.

The specifics of the skills needed for your team or workforce to adjust are dependent on the specifics of your business and the nature of their work. But here are a few examples of redundant older skills and essential newer skills that you may need to reevaluate:

Communication

Even under normal circumstances, work situations frequently involve the need for communication. Managers need to communicate their expectations and requirements to individual team members. On the other hand, teams need to be able to reach out for clarity, guidance, and further discussion to get the job done. Conventional office environments usually have a number of team meetings and huddles during the course of the week.

This help reduces confusion and ensure everybody is on the same page. In part, this is why the ability to communicate clearly in-person is such a valuable soft-skill in the business world.

However, conventional workplaces aren’t what we need right now. That means you need to do more than develop a team with clear in-person communication skills. The focus instead is on adapting communication to digital or virtual means. In terms of mediums, virtual employees can communicate through instant messages, emails, collaboration software, and even virtual conferences or meeting rooms.

The challenge for managers is to ensure their teams are proficient at communicating through all of these mediums instead of just a few. It’s not just about teaching employees about virtual communication, but also pushing them on how to make the best use of it.

Collaboration

Collaboration or teamwork is the secret ingredient that allows businesses to achieve so much more than individuals can on their own. More hands make light work, as the saying goes. Teams with dependable collaborative abilities frequently propel their departments to much higher achievements than teams with poor collaborative ability.

Conventionally, teamwork isn’t just about collecting a group of experienced and competent individuals. It is also about selecting people based on their ability to gel and integrate with the overall team and add value to it. Many managers, yourself included, may have recruited new hires based on this strong soft skill.

However, conventional teamwork is redundant when it comes to the benefit of virtual teams. The work-from-home dynamics mean teams cannot brainstorm or conference the same way. The focus for managers should be to encourage independent work instead. This does not necessarily mean teams should stop communicating or engaging with each other; it means an increased need for team members to execute their part of a task efficiently and competently.

Of course, this will mean a further change in the way workflows are organized and how individual employees keep track of and manage their tasks, but it may be virtually impossible to get meaningful work done based on pre-COVID collaboration methods.

Recognition

There are many pros and cons of virtual teams but one of the biggest drawbacks is the reduced visibility in a remote working model. Employees thrive on being recognized (and possibly rewarded) for their performance. Employee recognition ensures your strongest worker serves as an inspiration to the rest of the workforce. At the same time, it raises employee satisfaction levels immensely, helping with your retention efforts.

In a conventional work environment, managers can usually see which team members are putting in the most effort and dedication to their role. This generally makes it easy to reward and recognize good performance.

In remote working, however, there is not as much visibility to individual performance. It is virtually impossible to keep an eye on your team since you’re not physically in the same room or floor. In this case, it falls to employees to self-advocate their performance. They can’t reasonably rely on you to recognize their hard work since you’re likely managing a lot of things yourself.

As such, they need to be more vocal and proactive. This applies to the talent acquisition aspect of business as well. Virtual interview settings mean that recruiters and staffing firms can’t pick up on many things like physical cues and body language. Employees and candidates will need to advocate themselves to effectively communicate the value they add.

FAQs

What are virtual teams?

Virtual teams are employees and managers working on tasks in a remote setting.

How to manage virtual teams?

Managing virtual teams requires agility, flexibility, and increased autonomy.

Which technique helps virtual teams to remain energized while working toward their goals?

Modified approaches to collaboration, communication, and performance appraisals are the best motivators so far.

How can virtual teams overcome the absence of some or all nonverbal cues in team communication?

Familiarity with all mediums used in digital communication will help teams get better at reading between the lines and understanding the message.

Why do virtual teams fail?

Rigid approaches and lack of flexibility, along with gaps in cybersecurity staffing to ensure remote working security.

Why virtual teams are growing in popularity?

Remote working has always been desirable, but COVID-19 has made it a necessity, leading to an increase in businesses using virtual teams.

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