Gallup polls show that only 9% of the U.S. workforce telecommuted during the 90s. By the time 2015 arrived, over 35 percent of the employees now telecommute to work on a routine basis. When the virtual team is constructed correctly, dispersed professionals are often more productive and produce better results than the employees limited by a conventional office environment. Successfully developing a killer virtual team like those that work with Support Ninja involves following important tips embracing team building, management strategies and technology applications.
1. Start with Team Building
Hiring qualified candidates, divvying up labor and grouping employees proportionately should be the first steps for building a virtual team. Employees qualified for virtual work often exhibit strengths in emotional intelligence, communication, awareness, resilience, empathy and working independently. According to the Harvard Business Review, using personality tests and behavioral interviews may be an effective strategy for identify the best workers for your new virtual team.
2. Size and Groupings Matter
Grouping employees in teams comprised of no more than ten members each is the most effective approach when running a virtual organization. Studies show that social loafing begins to negatively affect the group once there are at least 13 members. Once the team has more than four or five members, employees can begin feeling less responsible for their individual performance and production. Having more than ten members on an individual team can also make effective communication a challenge as well.
3. Improve Communication with Technology
The technology used to support the business typically dictates how effectively management and the virtual team are able to communicate. For the initial orientation, important meetings and group chats, the most successful virtual teams use video applications like Skype. The ability to instantly chat or email a co-worker on popular platforms like Google, and submit work through project management software like Basecamp is also vital to keeping everyone in the organization on the same page.
4. Adopt Soft Management Strategies
Researchers have concluded that the most predictive factor for a virtual team’s success is whether or not management has experience overseeing dispersed teams in the past. Establishing trust, procedural guidelines, organizational goals and an open dialogue between leadership and the remote employees is important to focus on when organizing a virtual team. Making an effort to foster camaraderie in the virtual workplace can be effective at mitigating some of the isolation effects many remote workers experience.
5. Prioritizing Quality Assurance and Tracking Performance
Automating recurring tasks can help reduce the workload and provide more time for monitoring performance metrics and the quality of service being provided to the consumer. Keeping records of meetings, group chats, email chains and other conversations may prove to be beneficial as well. Industry experts recommend using a project management system with an interface designed to help with scheduling, organizing files and collecting data is recommended.
Statistics show that more often than not, most virtual teams don’t work as well as intended. However, the ones that do work typically outperform the production of employees at a standard workplace. Understanding the fundamentals of how to design and manage the team is imperative for success. With internet access and capable devices, employees can be productive anywhere, and anytime if they are provided with the proper infrastructure and leadership.