Virtual Team Management
As managers seek ways to cut costs, increase revenue and spark innovation, and employees strive for a better work-life balance, a mutually beneficial solution—telecommuting—is on the rise. In the U.S. alone, there are 28 million telecommuters, expected to double to 50 million by 2005.
To benefit, remote workers need the right tools to connect with colleagues, applications, and information. When telecommuters feel isolated, they become disconnected from current priorities and miss opportunities to contribute to their highest potential.
Afore undergoing its last earthly transformation, the external covering of the virtual team management, from the moment of its conception as an virtual team, passes in turn, once more, through the phases of the several companies.
The solution that addresses the challenge is a virtual e-workplace that provides employees with access to information and a broad set of Internet-based collaborative technologies, such as e-meetings, e-learning, and instant messaging designed to make them more nimble.
Ways to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams
An e-workplace provides users with a single point of access for the right technology tools to immediately access information, collaborate with colleagues, and participate in online training courses to improve skills. Virtual employees can streamline work by accessing information customized for their roles. For example, a salesperson might need access to information on products, customers, and competitors and connect with people who can address customer issues, provide expertise, or share best practices.
Another example is eHR. Integrating eHR capabilities into your e-workplace enables remote workers to attend to personal needs, such as understanding their health care benefit options, without having to speak with an HR professional. An e-workplace bolsters efficiencies and provides more flexibility. When they have left the countries to which their doctrines were unacceptable, and established themselves in a remote corner of the earth, this is neither possible nor desirable.
Building and Managing Virtual Teams that Work
Many organizations have an intranet in place. Large businesses can have as many as 300 to 10,000 intranet pages, each with their own look and feel and navigational construct. In this case, employees lose productivity searching for information. By consolidating these pages into one e-workplace and integrating team-based technology solutions, productivity and the quality of communication can skyrocket.
With team-based technologies, users, and remote workers can instantly form virtual teams and collaborate on the fly right from the intranet to respond to market changes. For example, if your intranet includes a corporate directory with connections into team-based technologies, users can rapidly find colleagues with a certain expertise and see where they fit. Aware of this context, the user can initiate contact through appropriate channels. These are not questions of liberty, and are connected with that subject only by remote tendencies; but they are questions of development.
For example, the user can see if the expert is online, click on the expert’s name, and instantly contact him or her via an instant message or in an e-meeting. The user could also create a virtual team room and invite the expert to comment on documents created and posted within the team room. Without an integrated e-workplace program, employees must navigate on their own to find expertise.
By giving people access to the information and experts they need at their fingertips, an e-workplace enables remote workers to be more productive, maintain their competitive edge, and respond quickly and accurately to demands from customers and partners.
IBM, for example, has achieved big benefits from its e-workplace program. The intranet has helped us to cut costs, saving an average of $10,000 per employee who goes “mobile,” meaning they give up their dedicated office space. In addition, employees conduct more than 8,000 e-meetings per month, saving us about $50 million per year in reclaimed travel and productivity costs.
Must-Know Strategies for Managing Virtual Teams
e-Workplaces increase collaboration among virtual teams. IBM’s e-workplace allows me to bring in the right expertise, regardless of their location.
As a manager of a remote team, you need to measure people based on their accomplishments and deliverables. Support their activities by ensuring that they have what they need to succeed.
Here are four guidelines:
- Establish a purpose. Ensure that each virtual team member has a defined purpose and objectives against which they will be measured. When remote workers have goals and incentives for reaching those goals, they are more motivated and productive. Create a training schedule for your e-learning program, so that people are learning new skills.
- Measure the output, not the process. Virtual teams are more structured than teams located in the same office. Since face-to-face meetings are not practical, you must adopt other ways to communicate and seek approvals. Managers of virtual teams should create a culture of trust, be available through instant messaging for quick questions, hold conference calls to identify when a project is off track, and make use of instant messaging, e-meetings, and team workspaces. Focus on output, not hours.
- Balance between virtual and face-to-face meetings. While e-meetings are great for keeping up with progress, they are not so great for team building. Face-to-face meetings, for example, are important for brainstorming sessions, building trust, and getting to know each other. Schedule face-to-face gatherings quarterly to foster team building, rapport, and communication among team members.
- Use presence awareness to show your virtual office door is open. Presence awareness technology embedded in an e-workplace will let your reports know when you are available to discuss progress, answer a quick question, or to chat about their concerns. It can also alert your staff if you are online via a mobile phone, so they know to keep messages short or call on the phone.
Managing the Virtual Team
Virtual teaming and telecommuting are necessary responses to our global economy. People are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. With an e-workplace, people can interact with more colleagues, break down barriers, respond more rapidly to customers, make decisions faster, and be more productive.
By placing the desired behavior along the path of least resistance, we turn it into the behavior we’re most likely to repeat. And the more we repeat it, the more likely it is to become a habit, and the less and less we need it to lie along the path of least resistance.