Virtual and distributed teams have become an internal part of how we do business. However, companies still face enormous challenges when it comes to managing hybrid teams. But with the right strategy, you can overcome these challenges and successfully manage remote, distributed, or hybrid teams.
Keep reading to discover techniques to effectively manage your team and boost productivity.
The first step in making any teamwork is to hire the right people. It may be best to utilize environmental scanning before hiring to know where the holes are within the organization. Although many companies are embracing virtual work, it may not be the right choice for everyone.
Virtual work environments require individuals to be motivated and self-sufficient.
If you don't hire the right people in the first place, it won't matter that they have the support of virtual team managers.
When building your team, choose people that can thrive in a virtual or hybrid work setup. There are different platforms to find these experts, but the most popular are Fiverr and Upwork.
Searching for the best employees can be stressful and time-consuming. However, there is also a way to help you structure the hiring data and cut down on time.
Leveraging recruitment CRM software will allow your team to:
Since these potential employees will be working remotely at least part of the time, be sure to check their professional references. This is a different work environment that takes a particular skill set to succeed in.
The second basic principle for successfully managing hybrid teams is to create [and commit to] a communication charter. Depending on your team structure, virtual teams tend to communicate on a less frequent basis. Also, the communication they do have is typically not as rich as face-to-face interactions.
It lacks contextual cues and other information regarding emotional states, such as engagement.
That's why communication between hybrid teams needs to be extremely clear. You also need to be disciplined about how the people in your team communicate. So, it's a good idea to create a charter to establish norms of behavior.
It's also become relatively common for large organizations to have a company podcast for internal use that helps educate and develop internal teams. All communication should be clear and at a reasonable pace, actively listen, and not dominate the conversation.
Next, you need to set up the right communication technology - and actually use it. This can be a shared workspace, a multi-point video conferencing system, a webinar platform, product management software, or anything in between.
You can choose any collaborative technology that will work best for your business and allow your team to easily communicate and collaborate regardless of where they are in the world. Whatever you choose, make sure everyone commits to using it.
You will find a lot of state-of-the-art platforms and tools to choose from. Make sure you don't sacrifice reliability for the sake of being on the cutting edge. After all, if your team struggles to get connected or wastes time trying to understand the elements of the collaboration suite, then it defeats the purpose.
Every team manager needs to align their team on objectives, responsibilities, and roles as soon as possible. This challenge is more significant for virtual teams where coordination is a lot harder to achieve since employees are not co-located.
That's why it's crucial to focus less on objectives and roles and more on tasks and processes.
How can you do this? By simplifying the work as much as possible. Ideally, tasks should be assigned to sub-groups of just two of the team members. Clarify the details of each task, as well as the processes that are required to complete it.
Be specific about who must do what and when.
You can then periodically conduct "after-action reviews" to evaluate how the team is performing and identify any needs for training or adjustments in the process.
If you find that your teams are running into issues, consider using online course software to develop training courses for your team.
When you have members of the same team working in different time zones, it can be challenging to create a rhythm that works for everyone all the time. However, you can create fairness by not placing all the time zone burdens on the same team members.
For instance, if you have regular conference calls each week, rather than having them simultaneously, you might consider rotating the meeting times to make it more equitable for all. Just remember to keep in mind that flexible hours are better for helping people stay more productive. So don't expect employees from California to be on a Zoom call at 9 am EST.
This is an integral part of successfully managing hybrid teams. You need to have a system in place for tracking commitments and pushing accountability to your team members. This is inherently harder to do with remote teams since there is no way to observe productivity and engagement. But, you can partly address this through carefully designed tasks and regular status meetings.
It also helps when you can get the individuals on your team to commit to milestones so you can track their progress. You might consider using a "deliverables dashboard" and making it visible to everyone on your team's collaboration hub.
This ties into the point about effective communication. Make sure you support your team's collaboration on projects by using the best online tools to make virtual teamwork as easy as possible. Such tools will allow you to rest easy knowing that your team is getting work done, sharing spreadsheets, documents, powerpoints, etc., in the most efficient manner possible.
Just remember, there are tons of options available, so take the time to go through all the different platforms to find the best one for your organization.
Managers need to make time for one-to-one interactions with team members for coaching and performance management. This is a fundamental key to making any teamwork and is particularly important for virtual and hybrid teams.
Integrate these interactions as a regular part of the overall team rhythm and use them to provide employee feedback and check the status and help members maintain a connection to the vision as a whole and the part they play in it.
With workers scattered across the globe, it's crucial to make sure your systems are secure. One way is through VPNs [virtual private networks] to encrypt the connection, especially when using public networks in coffee shops and other public spaces. Besides VPN, ensure that employees only surf secured websites that are protected with an SSL certificate. Such sites do not allow spying from a third party.
This means your workers will be able to securely access company information and resources from wherever they are located, which, in turn, will aid in maintaining high levels of productivity from your team.
Although getting a remote team together in a physical space may seem like a paradox, it's essential to consider that face-to-face communication is always better than virtual. This is why a hybrid work model is great. Your team can work virtually and in person.
Connecting, fostering trust, and building strong relationships is an essential foundation for successful teamwork. If it's impossible to bring your team together physically, you can still focus on virtual team building. Use that time to help the team members get to know each other better professionally and personally.
You can also use this time to build a shared vision and a set of guiding principles outlining how the team will work. Make sure to schedule regular meetings for the team to reconnect throughout the year.
A virtual water cooler is a space created for your employees to share informal interactions that reinforce social bonds. Unless you make an explicit effort to create such a space, your team meetings will typically be task-focused, leading to important information not being shared, ultimately resulting in weaker team cohesion.
A simple way to avoid this is by having regular virtual team-building activities that will help inject more fun into otherwise dull proceedings. As a gaming company, for example, the team at Solitaired requires their team to play their solitaire game of the day after every one of their team meetings. They found this creates both friendly competition and engagement among their team.
Along with developing your own activities, you can choose from the many enterprise collaboration platforms that incorporate social networking features into shared workspaces as a way to help individuals feel more connected with other team members.
The majority of organizations now have a work-from-home plan or hybrid model. They have realized that having a remote workforce comes with many benefits - including massive cost savings and the opportunity to build a more diverse talent pool.
For those that intend to remain fully remote after the global health crisis has passed [or even those businesses that want to create a more flexible work policy], it's crucial to start putting scalable systems in place to accommodate a growing remote and hybrid workforce.
Although successfully managing virtual and hybrid teams can be a challenging task. These tips will guide you every step of the way. In a post-pandemic survey of business leaders, 80% plan to allow their employees to work part-time from home in the future. Before the pandemic, only 69% of companies allowed employees to work from home at least some of the time. So, although managing virtual and distributed teams can be a challenging task, it's a skill that will become more and more valuable over time.