With the increase in communication and internet technology, remote working has become a norm. With the right processes and strategies, virtual teams can collaborate successfully and maintain positive relationships between team members. However, building and strengthening virtual teams requires effort and a focus on communication, collaboration, trust, productivity, celebration, and evaluation and iteration. This blog aims to delve deeper into these six areas to provide guidance for virtual team managers and members.
Effective communication is crucial in creating and maintaining successful virtual teams. Virtual teams can experience communication challenges due to cultural or linguistic differences, time zone differences, misinterpretation, and miscommunication. Here are some best practices to improve communication within virtual teams:
1.1 Define the expectations for response time
The response time for different types of communication, such as emails, chat, or phone calls, should be established. The team should be clear about how long it takes to respond to messages and set up regular virtual meetings to discuss work progress, issues, and concerns.
1.2 Use project management software to track the progress
Project management tools track progress in real-time, making it easy for team members to see who is doing what and the project’s current stage. These tools also enable teams to communicate deadlines, commitments, and expectations and give everyone visibility into the current status of projects.
1.3 Use video conferencing for important conversations
Video conferencing brings human connection into virtual communications, allowing team members to see facial expressions and non-verbal cues that would otherwise be missed during audio conferencing or email exchanges. This helps to avoid misunderstandings and shows your team members that they are important and valued.
1.4 Consider language and cultural differences
Virtual teams may be composed of members from different countries, which may result in language barriers and cultural differences. Establishing a common language and cultural understanding are essential for effective communication. Managers should encourage the use of a lingua franca, which is a shared language used as a second language by team members.
Collaboration is the key to producing high-quality output in virtual teams. Here are some best practices to encourage and enhance collaboration:
2.1 Clarify the roles and responsibilities of each team member
Virtual teams must define their roles and responsibilities, ensuring that everyone has a clear understanding of their role. It’s important to communicate roles and responsibilities clearly so that team members understand how they contribute to the project goals. This can avoid confusion and promote team collaboration.
2.2 Encourage the Sharing of Ideas
Encouraging collaboration and idea sharing among team members is critical for continuous improvement. Online forums, messaging groups, and video conferencing are effective ways to encourage sharing and collaboration. This type of communication environment enables team members to offer feedback on each other’s work and stimulates creative problem-solving among team members.
2.3 Make Decisions as a Group
Virtual teams should agree to make decisions as a group. This approach ensures that everyone has a say in project outcomes and helps to ensure that the final decision is widely supported. Encouraging team members to participate in the decision-making process promotes a sense of ownership and accountability among team members.
Establishing trust in virtual teams is essential to maintaining positive and productive relationships between team members. Teams need to develop a level of trust that allows them to communicate freely, collaborate effectively, and work towards a shared goal. Below are best practices to build trust within virtual teams:
3.1 Use communication tools that allow teams to connect on a human level
Virtual teams need to connect on a human level occasionally. Team building activities such as shared interests, trivia games, online book clubs, and office birthday parties can help build camaraderie and improve relationships between team members. These connections have a positive impact on team dynamics, creating a stronger sense of team identity and promoting mutual trust.
3.2 Provide Feedback Regularly
Regular feedback is critical to team building and trust development. It provides an opportunity to discuss what is working, what needs improvement, and establish accountability among team members. It also serves as an opportunity to acknowledge progress and reinforce positive behavior.
Virtual teams must maintain productivity levels to achieve their goals. Managers need to establish best practices to create a work atmosphere that encourages productivity and efficiency. Below are best practices to improve productivity with virtual teams:
4.1 Set Clear Expectations and Goals
Virtual teams need to have a clear understanding of the project’s goals, timelines, expected outcomes, and quality standards. Managers should make sure that each member understands their role in the project and how their contributions will impact the final outcome.
4.2 Establish Daily or Weekly Check-Ins
Virtual teams should hold regular check-ins to monitor progress, address any roadblocks, and ensure that projects are on track. These check-ins can also provide an opportunity to identify potential issues before they become significant problems.
4.3 Use Time-Tracking Software
Time-tracking software can help virtual team managers identify areas that require improvement. It allows the team to analyze performance metrics to identify areas that require improvement and verify that team members are working efficiently and effectively.
Celebration is a critical aspect of building a successful virtual team. Taking the time to acknowledge team members’ accomplishments, achievements, and contributions creates a sense of community and enhances team morale. Below are best practices to recognize and celebrate the success of virtual teams:
5.1 Recognize Short-Term Goals and Accomplishments
Acknowledging short-term goals and accomplishments is motivating and helps to build momentum. Virtual teams should celebrate milestones and accomplishments to keep team members motivated and engaged.
5.2 Use Virtual Celebrations
Virtual celebrations can create an opportunity to celebrate success and foster team camaraderie. For example, online games, video messages, or digital gifts can all contribute to a positive work environment.
6.0 Evaluation and Iteration
Virtual teams need to innovate and evolve continually to achieve maximum productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Managers can use feedback, performance metrics, and continuous improvement processes to refine teamwork processes. Below are best practices to evaluate and iterate virtual team operations:
6.1 Collect Employee Feedback
Collecting feedback from team members provides valuable insight into what works, what doesn’t, and what can be improved. Use anonymous surveys to encourage team members to provide honest feedback, which can help improve team processes and promote trust and transparency between teammates.
6.2 Measure Performance Metrics
Measuring performance metrics allows managers to assess the team’s efficiency and effectiveness. Team metrics, such as productivity, efficiency, and quality standards, can provide insight into areas that require improvement and guide iterative improvements.
6.3 Use Anonymous Surveys
Anonymous surveys are an excellent way to get direct feedback on what is working, what is not, and what can be improved. These surveys can encourage open communication and provide team members the opportunity to express opinions or concerns without fear of repercussion.
6.4 Use Data to Assess and Improve
Managers should use collected data to assess team processes and identify areas that require improvement. Using data-driven decisions not only promotes transparency and accountability but also leads to improved communication and collaboration within virtual teams.
Building and strengthening virtual teams may require additional effort but are worthwhile in the long run. Effective communication, collaboration, trust, productivity, celebration, and evaluation and iteration leads to a highly productive team that accomplishes its goals. Virtual team managers should use the best practices outlined in this blog to enhance their team’s performance, creating a robust foundation for success.