5 Essential Steps To Managing Successful Virtual Teams

 

9 to 5 desk jobs may be far from becoming obsolete, but the rise in demand for flexible working arrangements has pushed the establishment of new rules of engagement and normalised remote working and virtual collaboration.

Entire companies today are run by fully remote workers, while others have back-pedalled their remote work policies. What gives? What makes one virtual team succeed, and another fail?

 

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Take SSA Academy’s WSQ course on managing virtual teams and arm yourself with all the knowledge and skills you need to lead your virtual team towards consistent success today.

 

1. Hire workers with excellent communication skills


Good self-management and communication skills are generally important criteria in hiring decisions at any organisation, but considering the fact that remote work requires less (or in some cases, minimal) supervision than typical working conditions, it’s even more imperative to hire people who thrive under such settings.

It’s also imperative to ensure a good candidate-team-company fit.

The higher the intensity of collaboration and communication required for your project, the more detrimental it is to have a team member who doesn’t fit in well–it would only augment their isolation relative to the rest of the team more than they already physically are.

  • Hire only people with a proven track record in remote work
  • Have multiple interview stages using different mediums to get a better gauge of a candidate’s communication skills
  • Consider how well the candidate fits into a given team or company culture

 

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2. Establish clear expectations


Once you’ve secured your ideal candidate, set aside some time to ensure that both parties are on the same page with regards to what is expected of who, how much, and by when.

Determine:

  • Daily, weekly, and/or monthly KPIs (depending on your organisation’s needs)
  • Daily working hours (where applicable–some companies don’t institute working hours for remote employees)
  • How many times a week they’re required to come into the office (if at all)

A big reason why working remotely is still shunned today in some quarters is the difficulty of tracking performance. Having concrete and concise performance metrics tackles the problem head on, allowing each member of a virtual team to keep to a given standard, and providing clear avenues for you (as a manager) to evaluate individual and team performance.

 

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3. Make full use of digital management tools



Without the crutch of physical proximity, virtual teams rely more heavily on digital tools to have fully centralised project management systems.

That heightens the need for an efficient and organised virtual project management system, but it also has the potential to eliminate redundant, time-wasting processes in the workflow like unnecessary, overrun meetings, and leaves more time for personal productivity.

  • Virtual workspaces e.g. Google Drive, Prysm
  • Communicators e.g. Slack, Hall
  • Project management tools e.g. Asana, Monday
  • Conference-calling platforms e.g. Skype, Google Hangouts
  • Virtual team calendars e.g. Google Calendar, Teamup

Think, as well, about instituting unique company practices virtually, for instance, having a daily Scrum every morning (via your chosen communicator) where each team member states:

  • What they did the day before
  • What they’re doing today
  • What challenges they’re facing in completing their work.

 

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4. Schedule regular virtual and physical meetings

 

When you spend as much time working by yourself as virtual team members do, it’s easy for each member to lose sight of the bigger picture in favour of focusing on their individual work, even with daily team status updates.

Dedicate time for:

  • Weekly virtual meetings (respecting time zone differences as much as possible)
  • Quarterly/monthly/yearly physical meetups

How you use these meetings depends greatly on your project needs.

Weekly virtual meetings, for instance, are a good way to discuss overall progress on a given project, while the less frequent physical meetups are better utilised for team-building exercises like company retreats.

 

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5. Create avenues for quick conflict resolution


Remember when you accidentally upset a friend because you sent her the wrong emoji? Without the physical cues normally present in interpersonal relationships, conflicts that occur between virtual team members may deteriorate faster than normal.

Resolving conflicts between virtual team members requires a quicker hand and a team culture that’s more forthcoming and problem-solving oriented rather than antagonistic.

  • Create proper channels for feedback within the team 
  • Emphasise importance of maturity and problem-solving so conflicts can be resolved more directly without requiring team interventions
  • Build rapport by having channels for team members to discuss non-work-related issues

 

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