Virtual workgroups are changing the way we do of doing business as we know it. Those that learn to set up and successfully manage their remote teams are in for some lucrative results. Is it easy to achieve? What kind of challenges do managers have to face to get there? Let’s take a closer look at 5 tips for getting agile virtual teams up and running!
Remote work teams are increasingly common and benefit both sides. For example, companies have lower overhead and improve their cash flow, and remote workers enjoy the flexibility of working from home and being more productive.
There are some challenges associated with managing remote workers; from the onboarding process to daily employee management. Hiring, educating and supervising is slower and more complicated when you are dealing with remote workers.
Additionally, differences in time zones can make assembling the entire team a difficult task. Organizational issues are commonplace. However, the right strategy makes it easy to build and manage a virtual team.
1. Provide Clear Instructions and Operational Guidelines
Remote workers must understand what their responsibilities are and need specialized instructions for projects. It’s in the best interests of every company that their employees execute tasks in the proper order and as smoothly as possible.
When you prepare standard operating procedures, divide them into two primary document types: general guidelines and step-by-step actions. For example, an SBS procedure is like a checklist that all workers should follow by heart and must be held accountable for. It’s the go-to type of document that needs to give employees answers at a glance.
The second type would be a general guideline for operating procedures relevant to one worker or a selected team. It can be as long and as detailed as you like, because it’s not meant to serve employees in their daily work.
Written documents can become the foundation for educational videos and presentations. Webinars are a great method to walk someone through the process. The person presenting can follow the steps to minimize the risk of skipping critical parts. Listening while watching the implementation on screen perfectly complements the written word.
Everyone learns differently, but our brains are wired for visual interactions. Interactive education can shorten the learning curve, and modern solutions often embed different studying materials in one place.
Remember that remote employees cannot gather around the water cooler to catch up with co-workers. They also do not have supervisors hovering over their shoulders and must rely on documents and directives to replace live daily communication. Any manager of a virtual team must master the art of creating straightforward learning materials.
2. Create a Transparent, Flexible Work Environment
As it important as it is to provide guidelines to your remote team members, you still need to give them the flexibility to get their job done promptly on their terms.
For example, sales development representatives need to make a specific number of calls and follow a sales script. However, they may need the freedom to choose the ideal time and personalize the script.
A combination of strict rules and creativity is a framework for success.
While encouraging flexibility, managers also need a way to check on employees. For example, you can implement a system that logs sales performance so that operators are held accountable for their work.
3. Maximize Technology
Technology enables teams to connect virtually in real-time and collaborate better when they are unable to connect. Online meetings are useful for recruiting and interviewing. Additionally, video presentations represent a company in a modern way.
Screen sharing and live video enable participants to communicate more effectively and make sure all team members are educated and informed. Business can set up and manage courses easily and enable employees to take the initiative in solving roadblocks through a learning portal.
Make education materials accessible on demand. This ensures that everyone receives the same content, but they can view it on their own schedule.
4. Regular Oversight
Even if you want to avoid micromanaging your remote employees, you should not give them complete freedom until you know they are well trained and are working by the book.
As you oversee new hires, you may notice variations on how different people approach the same tasks. For example, someone may add an unnecessary action in a process, and others may cut a critical step because they do not believe it is important.
Your supervision promotes efficiency and quality work.
Micromanage new hires carefully until you are confident in their abilities. They may appreciate the extra guidance and support you offer to get them up-to-speed.
When possible, use online meetings for course correction rather than a chat feature or email. Written communication lacks emotion, and some things need to be said delicately to avoid hurt feelings or misunderstandings.
5. Focus on Continuous Improvement
Managing remote teams requires patience and a detailed long-term strategy. Forget perfectionism and focus on small incremental improvements to drive success. Many successful companies have adopted Kaizen as a business philosophy. It’s the Japanese term for continuous improvement, that focuses on finding new ways to improve existing processes.
Continual refinement can help companies become more efficient. Empowering the whole team to drive business growth is one of the key concepts of Kaizen, along with waste reduction, consistency, and other principles. Toyota Production System, which emerged from this philosophy, paved the way for modern lean companies and efficient remote teams that are more satisfied with their job.
Think of continuous improvement in relation to buying a car. It might be better to look for a model that has been in production for several years, as the first year often goes under many refinements. Car features aren’t perfected in one take, and it’s the same with your company’s processes.
While assembling a remote team brings substantial benefits, there are likewise challenges that management must address. These challenges begin on an employee’s first day, and they continue to varying degrees over the years.
If you find yourself tasked with managing a virtual team, use these tips to improve the productivity, efficiency, and overall success of your team.
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.