The decisions of bringing together virtual teams have two main reasons behind it: one is cost related and the other is proficiency related. The financial aspect involves cost savings around conventional employee indirect expenses, such as workspace, electric power, transportation, hardware resources, etc. The proficiency aspect is linked to the employer’s liberty of hiring for quality rather then location restrictions. So you get the best people and they cost you less.
There are some challenges to successfully managing a distributed team, though. All of which can be overcome with the combined help of technology and collaboration.
Let’s have a short overview on five of the most common challenges the virtual team members run into and how collaborative software can assist them in reducing it and even wiping it out:
- Coagulation deficiency – it’s harder to form a bond (see why unity at work is important) when people don’t actually meet in real life and don’t have the opportunity to know each other better over the morning coffee or share common interests over lunch break.
Tip: Compensate with providing an interactive platform that allows them to create users profiles where they can share professional information, help each other out and thus learn about each others expertise and know-how.
- Teamwork leaks – Virtual employees are independent and thus inclined to self-sufficiency. But when they’re assigned to a team they need to join efforts in order to succeed in complying with common deadlines – coordination is crucial.
Tip: Encourage communication activities in order to trigger interpersonal skills. Have them collaborate, not compete.
- Tribal knowledge absence – A distributed team member doesn’t have the opportunity to call for his desk colleague assistance or chat about an issue they encountered over the coffee machine, so old school collaboration is out of the question and so is making them perform as a tribe when it comes to knowledge.
Tip: Bring together their capabilities by encouraging knowledge sharing activities – this will help with jellifying the group and build trust among the virtual team members.
- Purpose lack – digital workers often lack a sense of purpose mainly because the absence of a community. Or rather the misleading feeling of not belonging to a community. Though they are part of the same organization, it’s more difficult for them to feel connected to others without a tangible interaction.
Tip: This is connected to the teamwork leaks causes – since remote workers have to be self-managed, sometimes alienation steps in. Giving them reputation rewards will help – this calls for some good old gamification features.
- Over-perseverance risk – it’s highly important for the members of a virtual team to be more task-orientated than the average employee. They have to express themselves well and avoid over-polished work. Working hard doesn’t mean working better.
Tip: Prevent this effect by offering them tools that help with keeping work as practical as possible. Stimulate them to ask for help when they confront with knowledge obstacles and for early feedback to avoid re-work.
Working with virtual teams might be cost effective and offer you the possibility to hire for quality, but it’s important to provide its members an appropriate collaboration environment in order to avoid malfunctions. Otherwise, the team will be divided not only by distance and time factors (which as shown in this post can be overpowered), but also by the difficulties above listed.
Happy Knowledge Sharing!