Managing virtual and remote teams present a number of challenges including maintaining employee engagement and cultural consistency. Early, seminal studies 2001, 2005 showed that teams were not meeting goals, client requirements were not met and that employees struggled with the learning curve of collaborative technology. Focused leadership is essential now as the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many businesses to now build out these teams quickly.
Simplify the Tasks and Processes. In order to ease the coordination between team members, make sure that the tasks are abundantly clear, labor is divided, and processes streamlined. The contextual and emotional cues that typically signal to employees if something is working or not are now absent. It is also important to use small subteams if possible–research shows that teams under 10 employees are more effective (and less effective over 13 people). Finally, select a model to use in managing your team. There are multiple models including the popular X Team model and GRPI model; click here to familiarize yourself further.
Clarify and measure Goals. This may seem like common sense, but organizational objectives can easily derail with virtual teams for many reasons. Try simplifying your KPIs/OKRs, especially at the beginning until your team adapts. Also try setting up a virtual dashboard.
Pick and stick to Communication Tools. Some employees will adapt to and learn collaborative technologies very quickly while others may feel overwhelmed and learn slowly. To accelerate the learning curve you may need to provide more frequent onboarding tutorials in either a 1:1 or small cohort setting. You may also need to assign a technology mentor to those specific employees. Get constant feedback from your team on how to improve the use of these tools.
Check-in. Check in with your team members informally to gauge their level of motivation and engagement. Ask how they are doing and how you might support them. Remote teams run the risk of losing the informal, spontaneous socializing that happens in a typical office setting. Consider setting up a virtual water cooler–for example, allot extra time before formal meetings or a assign a designated chat room for employees to small-talk and bond.
Check-up. Schedule more structured 1:1s to review their performance, give feedback and coach them through any obstacles.
If you need assistance in managing virtual teams please contact me.