10 Strategies for Effective Virtual Team Building
The great work-from-home experiment is here to stay. Companies and employees alike have embraced the virtual working environment, with managers acknowledging that the future workforce will have significant virtual components and employees moving towards a preference for virtual teamwork.
With this new way of working comes the inevitable trial and error process of discovering how best to manage virtual teams. Focused team-building strategies have always been paramount for a business to succeed, but is it possible to translate these strategies into the world of video conferencing, virtual happy hours, and remote project management?
The answer is a resounding yes. Here we will explore what a virtual team is, what a successful virtual team looks like, and the proven virtual team-building strategies to make your remote teams shine.
What is a Virtual Team?
Virtual teams, or remote teams, are simply groups of people or a company workforce that do not work together in the same physical environment. They are connected online through video conference technology and instant feedback and messaging services. This way of working has allowed companies to coordinate global remote teams.
While every virtual team will have several common characteristics that define them, there are several different types of remote teams that a company can assemble, with the most prevalent being as follows.
Perhaps the most widely used and versatile virtual team, a network team consists of virtual team members who each bring a specific skill or role to the table and contribute their expertise to a subject area. As this area is generally static, the remote team members are often interchangeable.
Often a company will set up multiple virtual teams simultaneously, each with a specific objective. These are usually highly targeted teams that stay together for a short period until an objective has been achieved or a project completed.
Product Development Teams
This type of virtual team truly utilizes the power of online collaboration and virtual teamwork by bringing together experts from all over the globe to work on a new product or service. Each team member contributes a technical aspect to the overall product.
Usually, these are a series of virtual teams that each inhabit an area of the globe. This enables a company to continuously work on a product or offer customer service no matter the time of day.
These are often static teams, with each team member specializing in one specific area. They will often take on multiple projects or productions throughout the year and continue to work on them until completion.
Characteristics of a Successful Virtual Team
Developing a successful virtual team is not easy. Technological issues, isolation and loneliness, and the potential for diminished productivity are all pitfalls that a team leader must constantly be aware of. Virtual team-building, as with in-person collaboration, must be nurtured over time.
However, through organized and regular virtual team building activities, robust utilization of online project management tools, and a thorough understanding of the nature of remote work, successful virtual teams and team members will typically inhibit the following characteristics:
Independence and Self-discipline – without a physical presence to monitor progress, a remote worker can fall foul of a lack of focus and productivity. Successful teams will have trained their workforce to ignore distractions and take ownership of the tasks they have been given.
Trust – within an office, it is much easier to ensure that everyone is on task. Team leaders for virtual teams don’t have that luxury, but a successful online workforce will have developed an inherent trust that other team members are pulling their weight and completing the work.
Balanced, Effective Communication – successful virtual teams know the importance of consistent communication, but they also appreciate that too much reliance on video conferencing will affect the overall output. Through careful team building, a good balance can maintain both communication and efficiency.
Inclusivity – free from the physical boundaries of an office, virtual teams are often made up of employees from around the world, from many diverse backgrounds. A successful virtual team can embrace and celebrate these differences and overcome how these differences might impact team performance.
Flexibility and Initiative – even though technology is more reliable than ever, it is not perfect, and there is always the risk of disruption. Further to this, other unexpected distractions might befall remote team members. An effective team can adapt and account for these incidents without negatively affecting the team’s success.
Strategies for Successful Virtual Team Building
As discussed above, an effective, well-oiled virtual team can exist. As with the development of all teams across all walks of life however, it is not something that happens overnight.
By following these virtual team-building strategies, a manager can take the first steps to ensure that their entire team is ready to succeed in the online working environment.
1. Secure Your Technology and Tools
The staple of any virtual team is the efficient use of online technology. Before any tasks are delegated, make sure that your chosen video call software and messaging service is fully set up to handle virtual project management and that your entire team is fully capable of using it. Host a couple of introductory team meetings or a virtual team-building exercise to allow your workforce to get used to communicating in this manner.
You may also need to consider the additional hardware and software needs, such as robust cyber security, laptops, and webcams.
2. Establish Strong Relationships
Once the technology is in place, it’s time to begin forging a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion with your remote workers. Though they are predominantly used for virtual team meetings, video conferencing platforms such as Zoom can be brilliant for delivering virtual team-building activities that are fun, engaging, and effective at building rapport.
This can be particularly important for new members or if you have a particularly diverse team. Allowing for regular team building and team bonding sessions not dedicated to work matters will make sure that all team members quickly feel comfortable.
Remote team building activities should be scheduled regularly so that workers have something to look forward to and where they can
3. Set Clear Expectations
As would be the case in a physical office environment, a team leader must make sure that all team members know what is to be expected of them. Clear and concise communication is essential so that staff members can adhere to company values and understand what is required to hit targets and objectives.
Regular team meetings, focused 1-to-1 sessions, and clearly defined and accessible work policies all empower each team member to complete their work independently.
However, it is also important to make sure your team is aware of what they should expect of you as team leader. Always try to make yourself available if a team member has any concerns they wish to share. This will help to develop trust and accountability for all parties.
4. Maintain Employee Engagement
Working in physical isolation for an extended time is still a daunting proposition for many people. Isolation and lethargy are common obstacles for a virtual workforce to overcome. As a leader, you are in a position to facilitate this through regular virtual team-building activities and competitions.
Start each day with a brief series of games and challenges to build energy throughout your team. Ensure that their efforts are being recognized through focused and consistent recognition, and allow the opportunity for team members to celebrate the achievements of their peers, as well as their own. Virtual teamwork must be acknowledged in the same way as in-person success.
5. Provide Feedback Regularly
A large part of your virtual team-building efforts is ensuring that your team members know what they are doing right and where they can improve. This is particularly important in a virtual environment as it is not as easy for remote teammates to check progress and productivity with each other.
Positive feedback should always be encouraged through recognition, evaluations, or simple ad hoc messages. It is also vital to ensure that constructive criticism is offered during feedback sessions so that high-performing team members can continue to work effectively. Online meetings are also an invaluable team-building exercise to offer more generalized feedback.
Virtual team building is a continual process that needs to be monitored and adapted when necessary, but by following these five steps, you will be well on your way to developing a highly effective team and making a virtual team work.
Virtual Team Building with Making Teams
Here at Making Teams, we have made a commitment to deliver first-class, tailored team-building events no matter the size or budget of the company. With over fifteen years of experience and a team of specialists dedicated to your needs, you can rest assured that your virtual team will be well looked after!
Drop us a message to find out more.