Author Archives Amir Ahmed

Taking On The Future: The Growing Role Of Virtual Teamwork, Challenges Facing CEOs In 2015

Do you wonder how technology and the web will impact the future of the workplace? CEOs certainly do, and below is an overview of some of the key issues they report dealing with in the changing business landscape of 2015. Naturally, changes that are important for CEOs are important for managers of Virtual Teams as well. Some of the main issues relating to working in Virtual Teams which CEOs have to address are keeping their business focused on core strengths, effectively reaching online customers, finding new talent, adapting to mobile technology, solving employee commuting and scheduling problems, minimizing distractions, being an effective voice for their companies, and taking on more millenials, with their particular challenges, into the workforce. We will be addressing each of these topics in more detail in future weeks.

Virtual Teamwork Is A Way For The Future, Complete With Pitfalls

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For a lot of workers, coming to the office every day may soon become a thing of the past. As business moves to the web, work becomes less reliant on physical presence in the office. But this is a double-edged sword: for every instance in which it facilitates communication with the office and clients, there is a flipside of technology and social media as productivity black holes. (Who has not lost valuable time contemplating images of pets playing piano or other similar Internet offerings?) So managers of Virtual Teams need to ensure that team members stay focused on work. Any efficient framework for virtual teamwork must support proper work habits from its very design.

All employees, both those working in the office and those working remotely, will have to stay in constant communication with the main office. But staying in the loop at the office rarely boils down to just reading the relevant emails. A good Virtual Team environment has to facilitate the dissemination of relevant information to all workers and to ensure that Virtual Team members receive the information they need to do their job at the same time as employees working in the office.

As communication technology makes work in Virtual Teams increasingly practical, the workforce itself shifts towards millennials. These individuals require a democratic, flexible work environment to stay loyal and committed, and they need more information about why they are asked to do to what they are doing. A Virtual Team manager has to answer such questions and take these factors into account to create a functional work environment.

Team leaders are also aware that working in virtual teams will play a key role in the discovery and retention of talented employees as more job opportunities become available in the current period of economic growth, making employee retention more difficult, and in response to chronic overcrowding and mounting commuting issues in large urban/financial centers. A company’s business model impacts the overall time employees have to commit to their job. Virtual teams are a way for companies to accommodate workers’ needs for a flexible work schedule, and most companies are already working virtually to some extent, Additionally, since not all desirable employees will be physically present in the geographic vicinity of a company’s headquarters, Virtual Teams allow employers to increase their area of search for talent.

Opportunity Always Entails Risk

Taking the workforce out of the office environment goes hand in hand with expanding business on a global scale and with diversifying a company’s activity. But diversification always carries the risk of dilution of core strengths (see item #1 of the article above). The recent increased availability of capital and the current economic boom could tempt American CEOs to try to expand their companies dangerously beyond their core business, even as companies’ increased reliance on the web as a marketplace and their diminishing physical presence makes identity a more pressing issue than ever.

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While technology supplies the means for efficient communication, its potential productivity and identity drawbacks require that comprehensive strategies be established to ensure that the gains do not outweigh the costs. Virtual Team leaders need to pay close attention to the implementation of these changes, as their business depends on it. Over the next weeks, we will be looking in more detail at specific issues which have shown up on CEOs’ radars in 2015.

By : Amir Ahmed /October 05, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, CEO concerns, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

Reliance on Technology in a Virtual Team

A few days ago, I was scheduled to present at a conference in San Diego. I was working in the lobby of a 5-star hotel, where the conference was being held. I was just finishing up some work when I got up, stretched, and had a one-minute conversation with a colleague just a few meters away from where I was sitting. When I returned to my seat, my laptop was gone.

Imagine if your office vanished one day: all your files, all your correspondences, all your projects and reports and presentations. Gone. No idea where it went, no idea who took it, no idea what could happen to all of the contents.

This—pretty much—happened to me.

There was a bellman to my right, and my colleagues to the left of where I was sitting. And, straight across from me was a man on his iPhone. He was so engrossed in his work that he didn’t even notice the theft.

My pulse was steadily beating harder and harder in my chest. I struggled to remain calm, and called security. They took me to look at the camera feeds for the lobby, and reran the footage from a few minutes ago.

On that screen, I saw a man with a thick beard, beaten clothes, and distinctive running shoes enter the lobby—he looked homeless. He had a blanket wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, obscuring his face. The security officers remarked that the homeless tended to congregate in this area.

The feed continued. The man picked up my laptop, and ran out the door. Him, his blanket, and his running shoes disappeared off the screen.

I needed to get my laptop back.

The security guards said they’d look for the guy. Meanwhile, I had my own ideas. I ran out the door myself, determined to find the man who stole my laptop.

San Diego is home to over 1.3 million people. And, among those millions, there are over 10 000 homeless people. I stopped at every corner, asking any homeless people if they’d seen a man with a blanket wrapped around him. They said they knew who I was talking about, but that they hadn’t seen him today.

My life was on that computer. It was my connection to my work, and to my family. My presentations, invoices, and courses were all on that laptop. My family photos, emails, and social media were all on that laptop. You know the drill.

Three hours later, the hotel security called my room. They found the man sitting on the ground about four blocks away, still holding my computer. He gave the computer back to them, and was taken into custody. My life returned to normal.

In virtual work, we’re reliant on our machines. The technology we use to work is more than just a tool: it’s our gateway to our professional lives. I’ve shared this story today to give us all a reminder of the importance technology places in our lives today, and to encourage us all to be safer with how we treat these devices.

By : Amir Ahmed /March 24, 2015 /Blog, Resiliency in a Virtual Environment /0 Comment Read More

Don’t Use Face-to-Face Management for Virtual Teams

In our last blog post, we talked about how virtual teams are more common that you think. Virtual teams aren’t just small groups separated by hundreds of miles. In fact, you can be of a virtual team if you are more than 90 feet apart from each other. You could be in a virtual team right now, and not even know it.

So far so good. But, there’s a problem here: what happens if your virtual team has challenges (as all teams do from time to time)? Would you try to solve the virtual challenges using traditional, face-to-face solutions?

If you do try to fix virtual team issues with traditional face-to-face solutions, it’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We’ve seen this before, and it wastes leaders and managers time and money, without even solving the problem. This happens because face-to-face teams are just not the same as virtual teams. To solve virtual problems, we need to use virtual team solutions.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves: before we even talk about what problems a team might have, we have to talk about three major differences in virtual teams that typically cause issues.

Communication

In spoken conversation, a sentence means a lot more than its parts. The non-verbal cues—tone of voice, body language, context—affect the meaning of the message. In fact, in face-to-face conversations, studies show that a large part of communication is completely nonverbal. But, when we communicate virtually, we lack this nonverbal communication. This makes it much harder for us to communicate, in an environment where everyone needs to stay on the same page.

When we can’t communicate clearly, we open the door to inefficiency—“when was that meeting again?”—and to lack of trust—“what did they really mean when they wrote that email?”—which is why we need to emphasize clear communication in our virtual teams.

Trust

We build trust based on how reliable a person is (how often they match their words to their actions), and how similar they are to us. Developing trust is probably the most important element of virtual teaming, and it’s definitely the most written-about element in blogs and articles on virtual teams. But, what does trust really look like in a virtual environment? What does it mean to build truly meaningful, authentic, and trusting connections virtually, and why is this so important to talk about?

We will address these questions in future blogs, but for now lets look at some facts about trust; did you know that it takes four times longer to build trust in virtual environment than it does in a face-to-face environment? And when you add cultural diversity into the mix, this adds an extra 17 weeks for the team to perform as well as a face-to-face team. This is because, in a virtual environment, we need to re-learn how we communicate and interpret our non-visual communication.

If trust is breached in a virtual environment, it can form a toxic work culture. If a virtual team has diminished trust, they become disengaged and demoralized. This can lead to retention problems. Lack of trust can also derail projects; in a study by Reed and Knight in 2010, these researchers found that “hidden agendas”—a single team member working towards their own end, and not the team’s—were reported as more common in virtual than face-to-face teams. They suggested that strong trust prevented hidden agendas from becoming a problem.

Engagement

Engagement is a broad term that more or less means how committed a team member is to the team. Engaged team members work harder, think better, and enjoy their work more.

We all want engaged team members, but engagement in the virtual workplace requires new engagement strategies that are tailored for virtual work. Engagement in virtual teams is also tricky, because it’s much harder to know if a team is engaged or not: many companies measure virtual engagement with surveys that are designed for face-to-face teams. Unfortunately, traditional engagement surveys don’t work on virtual teams, because they study the wrong metrics. That means if you survey your virtual team based on face-to-face engagement surveys, not only will you not get the data you need, you might just highlight that the organization doesn’t understand or value virtual workers. Again, using face-to-face tests for engagement in a virtual environment will waste time, lose money, and cause stress for everyone involved, without even providing any useful, actionable information.

Communication, trust, and engagement all change in virtual environments. That doesn’t mean they go away: in fact, they become more important. If you manage a virtual team and notice issues coming up, it could be due to these differences, and how they’re being addressed.

By : Amir Ahmed /March 10, 2015 /Blog, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Virtual Work is Here to Stay

We recently read an opinion piece by David Amerland in Forbes.com’s Tech section. In the article, Amerland talks about Marissa Meyer’s decision to end virtual work at Yahoo, and lists what he sees as ways that virtual work can prevent agility and effectiveness in organizations.

We have a different take. While the article points out Yahoo and Google’s aversion to virtual work, it also ignores the success of companies like Basecamp, Mozilla, and Upworthy, among others, who are hugely successful and almost entirely virtual. Yes, we heard about Marissa Meyer as well, but we’ve drawn very different conclusions about what this means for virtual work.

With the right training, virtual teams can act and behave just as effectively as face-to-face teams, and even show improved efficiency, better profits, and a more fulfilled workforce. That’s why we’ve selected the main concerns of Amerland’s article, and addressed them from our standpoint.

How can I lead my virtual team?

This is a common concern that we’ve been addressing for years. First, let’s say that many leaders mistake “How do I lead my virtual team?” with “How do I control my virtual team?” If you want to control your virtual team, it means you don’t trust them. And if you don’t trust your employees, you’ve got far bigger problems to worry about.

Trust issues aside, Amerland suggests that newly-appointed virtual leaders have problems with routine tasks such as performance reviews. Now, let’s be clear: this difficulty absolutely exists. But, this doesn’t mean that leadership is impossible in virtual work, it means we have to keep the core of what good leadership is, but change the methods and tools we use to enact that leadership in a virtual environment.

How can my virtual team help my bottom line?

Amerland writes “Yes, remote workers may indeed be more carefree, happier and productive, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for their companies.”

We still haven’t figured out why the article links happy and productive employees to bad business. If anything, businesses should be doing more to create happy employees. Research shows that business are more profitable when they are run by happy and fulfilled employees—the kind you can find in properly-managed virtual teams. Even if you don’t want to talk about “soft” factors like engagement, virtual work still drives up profits; in fact, one source wrote that more virtual work could lead to an estimated 800 billion dollars saved in productivity gains across America, not even considering the saved time and energy spent not commuting.

How can I connect with my virtual team?

This last major concern of the article argues that virtual team members just don’t connect with each other like face-to-face teams do, and this hurts organizational cohesion. We’re not surprised that people still worry about making human connections in virtual teams. It’s a valid concern. In fact, at Virtual Team Builders, we try to help virtual teams change the way they work and improve their ability to make human connections virtually. Suffice it to say that virtual teams can be just as cohesive and organized as any brick-and-mortar office. In fact, in the next few weeks, we’ll be posting blogs that detail this exact topic, from how virtual teams can support the genuine human connections that make work rewarding, to how virtual teams can provide an unparalleled opportunity for us to come together to work on issues that we care about.

While virtual work definitely differs from traditional face-to-face work, it’s not going anywhere. The solution isn’t to step back from remote working, diffuse teams, and telecommuting. Instead, we need to step forward—providing training and support for virtual team members and leaders—to move into a future of more empowering, fulfilling virtual work.

 

By : Amir Ahmed /February 27, 2015 /Blog, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

How to tell if you have a virtual team

Do you know if you have a virtual team?

It’s a ridiculous question, isn’t it? Of course you’d know if you had a virtual team.

But, would you really? It sounds strange, but we’ve seen leaders mistake their virtual teams for face-to-face ones, and we’ve seen this mistake cost organizations time and money. In this post, we’ll show how you can have a virtual team without realizing it.

Let’s start with some questions.

• Do you work more than 90 feet away from any one of your team members?
• Do you use communication technologies to accomplish specific goals?
• Do you have frequent web or tele-conferences?
• Are any individuals in your team “virtual”? As in, do they phone in, text, or email from a different location than the rest of your team?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have a virtual team. This is important, because a virtual team is not the same as a face-to-face team.

Our image of a virtual team usually involves a small group of people dispersed across hundreds and hundreds of miles. While this is definitely one form of virtual team, it’s not the only model. What distinguishes a virtual team from a face-to-face one is how they communicate. And, if you primarily communicate with your team with technology, that makes you a virtual team. This means that you can have a virtual team that works in the same office but on different floors.

Imagine that you needed to connect with a colleague for a routine matter. You work in the same building, but on different floors. How would you do it? Would you pick up the phone, use email, messaging, or take the stairs? If it was a routine matter, you’d probably avoid the stairs and use one of the first three options. In other words, you’d use communication technology.

When you shift from face-to-face to technology-enabled communication, you shift from a face-to-face to a virtual team. And, thanks to a study by Tom Allen, we have an exact number for when that shift happens. Allen studied a team of engineers; he found that if they worked in the next office over, they had a 25% chance of communicating once a week. If they were 30 feet apart or more, they had a 10% chance of communicating at least once a week. But, if they were more than 90 feet apart, the frequency of their communication dropped. Past 90 feet, it didn’t matter whether they were in the next building, or in China, they began to act like a virtual team.

This study shows us that virtual teams are much more common than we think. Virtual teams exist in offices across the country. And with virtual teams comes a new set of problems that can’t be solved with face-to-face solutions. It is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole: a waste of time, money and resources.

You need the right tool for the right job; if you think use face-to-face solutions for a virtual team problem, you’re using a hammer when you really need a screwdriver.

In our next post, we’ll talk about the differences between virtual teams and face-to-face ones, and what you can do to start managing virtually.

Tell us about your experience with virtual teams in the comments.

By : Amir Ahmed /February 12, 2015 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team /1 Comment Read More

Tips to Avoid Burnout

A few weeks ago, we wrote about burn out and how it’s a real issue that organizations need to take seriously. To recap:

Burn out, if not recognized early can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion; cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment. As a result of these symptoms, employees productivity levels may fluctuate, they are more likely to call in sick, they aren’t present even when they are working and their creativity may come to a halt. Click here to read the full post and learn more about burnout and its symptoms.

In a virtual environment, it can be hard to identify if true burnout is impacting your employees or if something else may be going on. As well, with many employees working from home offices, some of the ways to curb burnout may not be as easy to achieve as it would be for people who leave an office at the end of the day. Here are some tips, with a touch of creativity to help your virtual team avoid burnout if it comes calling.

Take a walk or exercise break

Recently in the news, we’ve been reading about the perils of sitting for most of the day. There’s no better time to make the case for employees to ensure they’re taking their breaks, and encouraging them to be active during their breaks. One way to help foster exercise breaks with your virtual team is to lead by example; send an email letting them know when you’re taking your exercise break and what that’s going to look like for you. Leading by example helps foster goodwill and lets your employees know that you won’t ask them to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.

To help lead activity breaks, describe something you’re looking forward to seeing while on your walk, or some of the exercise that you’re going to engage in. If something funny happened during your exercise break, share it with employees and encourage them to share the same. As you build your internal community of employees who are dedicated to getting up from their desk and recharging their batteries, encourage them to share the positive changes they are noticing due to the breaks.

Community Groups

Many organizations have community or charity groups that they support. If your company already has one, look for groups in the local areas where your teams are located. Encourage your employees to donating time to a charity (each location) by allowing them a set amount of work hours to dedicate to the charity. During a charity event take pictures/videos, and have the various locations do the same and set time aside to share them during a virtual meeting.

In addition to helping employees who may live close to each other, connect with each other, it will also provide your employees who may spend most of their time at their house an opportunity to connect with the community where they live. Dedicating time to volunteer groups and giving back to the community helps people who may be stressed and feeling disconnected develop a sense of meaning as they see the good that they are doing to help others less fortunate. In addition, the connectedness of being in the group and sharing what they are doing outside of work hours with their colleagues will help build their sense of accomplishment, therefore reducing stress.

Be conscious of the environment

As a manager, working to develop and create an environment of openness and trust where people feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, reservations and dreams will help people feel more connected to the office and coworkers. An environment of trust also contributes to people’s ability to be creative and innovative, as their ideas are being validated and built upon. Share your aspirations with your team, again leading by example. As people hear you sharing your ideas, they will be more likely to feel comfortable sharing their own. In a virtual environment, this can be difficult, but if you put in the time and effort to ensure your employees feel like they are working in a safe environment, you’re more likely to head off burnout.

As well, try to think of some creative ways to help your virtual team get to know each other and the environments their each working in. Something as simple as having everyone take a picture of themselves in their offices can help to foster this type of environment. This will help people have a visual when they’re working with someone who is far away.

Don’t take it home with you

Encourage your employees to shut their office door at the end of the day and refuse to let their work come in to their home with them. Remind them that you don’t expect to hear from them during their out of office hours. Encourage your employees to be present both at home and at work. The more they are present in their day to day life outside of work, the more they’ll be able to focus on the task at hand when they are at work.

 

More and more people are not allowing themselves time to decompress outside of work. We’re all busy and we all have multiple priorities, both work related and outside of work. With advanced technology that allows us to work from remote locations, we’re more connected than we ever were before. That said, it’s important to disconnect daily and connect with our loved ones. Encourage your employees to do just that, and lead by example can help to avoid the side effects of burnout on your organization.

By : Amir Ahmed /May 27, 2014 /Uncategorized /0 Comment Read More

Is your virtual team suffering from burn out?

Spring has sprung and hopefully with it, a new sense of vitality. That said, with hectic schedules, tight timelines and competing priorities at meetings we may not take the time to chit chat about what’s new with each other, as a result, employees who may be struggling with feeling burnt out might not be easy to spot. In a virtual world, where we don’t have the luxury of body language, this can be even more of a challenge.

Burnout is more than just being tired after a long or challenging week. For those who are truly burnt out, it is a considerable problem that interferes with one’s productivity, job satisfaction, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Those who are able to identify burn out early on can reverse the down ward spiral. So, how can you determine if you, or an employee, have been suffering from a long couple of weeks, or if it’s a true case of burn out?

The definition of burn out is a state of chronic stress and frustration. This can lead to:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Cynicism and detachment
  • Feelings of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment.

The end result is one where the person experiencing burn out is not able to function personally or professionally.

Signs to look for:

Physical and emotional exhaustion symptoms can range from chronic fatigue, insomnia, impaired concentration and attention, increased episodes of illness, anxiety, depression, lack of appetite, anger and/or serious physical symptoms such as chest pain, etc…

Cynicism and detachment symptoms can look like an inability to enjoy day to day life, pessimism, isolation and detaching from people and the environment. Feelings of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment symptoms can cause one to have a general sense of apathy, helplessness and hopelessness, increased irritability, lack of productivity and poor performance.

Some organizations may take the view that burn out is an individual’s concern and issue to deal with. Here are some compelling reasons for organizations to take note and do what they can to help employees avoid becoming burnt out.

When employees are burnt out their productivity levels fluctuate, they are more likely to call in sick, they aren’t fully present, and their creativity and innovation reduces if not stops altogether.

Has an employee who is typically upbeat and optimistic started shutting down, or making negative comments? Perhaps an employee who has previously never really used sick days suddenly starts taking personal or sick days.  These could be signs that burn out is setting in. In the virtual environment, these signs can be difficult to detect, however by using careful listening skills, paying attention to changes in your team’s dynamic and/or their productivity you may be able to identify burn out before it’s too late.

As an employer, if you’re trying to determine the difference between a burnt out employee and one who is just having a stressful week, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your employees frequently putting in long hours? This can be hard to determine in a virtual environment where you may not see when employees start and end their days. However, if you’re receiving emails from employees at all hours of the night and day, chances are they are putting in more than 40 hour weeks, and likely aren’t taking time to relax because they’re taking their jobs home with them.
  • Feeling isolated from the rest of the team can contribute to burnout. Do you have employees who work independently more frequently than others? That independence could be inadvertently creating a negative consequence.

Are your team members achieving less than they have in the past. Is there a valid reason for this, such as the economy isn’t doing as well? If not, it could be that they are experiencing burnout. If you are able to answer yes or maybe to more than one of these questions, it is a good idea to have an honest conversation with your employee.

Join us in coming weeks when we’ll look at how to deal with this type of conversation, additional reasons why it’s important to recognize and understand burn out, as well as what you can do to counter it.

 

By : Amir Ahmed /May 09, 2014 /Blog, Managing Stress in a Virtual Environment /0 Comment Read More

Gen Y in a Virtual Team

Pop Quiz!

a)      Did LOL ever mean “lots of love” to you?

b)      Do you remember a time before (or during) the Walkman?

c)       Was there ever a point in your life when perming was all the rage?

d)      In your heart, will Pluto always be a planet?
You probably realized by now this isn’t a real quiz. Nor is it a sadistic exercise to make you feel old. But what it should do is show that times have changed—and the workforce has changed with it. As each passing year increasingly necessitates cross-generational interaction, there is bound to be some cultural clashes along the way.

The Princeton dictionary defines culture as “the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization”. In this light, working with someone from a different culture doesn’t always mean working with someone of a different nationality. Cultural differences can boil down to your age.

This might explain why so much tension arises between the Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y cultural groups. That’s right…cultural groups. Each of these generations respects a unique set of values and ideologies. These ideals can begin to conflict if not clearly communicated and understood within the team. So when cross-generational frustrations emerge at the workplace—ask yourself: Is this an issue of cross-cultural miscommunication?

Cross-cultural miscommunication between generations can occur almost automatically. Why wouldn’t it? It is very easy to assume that an employee or co-worker who shares commonalities in language, nationality or education may also share similar outlooks in relation to work ethics, ideas of job satisfaction, motivational incentives and so on. But this is not the case.

For instance, while Generation X workers may find satisfaction in job stability, career growth and financial gain, Generation Y workers often find value in a proper work-life balance and the overall emotional fulfillment of the work. To put it crudely: if it ain’t fun, it ain’t done.

But don’t get it wrong. Generation Y workers will work hard—except their approach to work is what differs from previous generations. A Generation Y worker may even leave a job if it does not offer flexible or negotiable hours. The logic being: why work 8 to 9 hours a day if the work can be successfully delivered by noon? Such thinking patterns should not be interpreted, rather mis-interpreted, as lazy or self-centred by workers and leaders from previous generations. It’s just different.

Different isn’t bad. It is important for virtual team leaders to recognize the great potential Generation Y workers can bring to the workplace. The Gen Y worker’s love of technology, social media, remote working and willingness to prioritize work over salary (as long as the work is fulfilling) makes him or her an ideal candidate for the virtual work environment. However, if a leader’s mindset still dwells in past managerial styles and expectation, it is possible that such talented people could slip right through the company’s fingers (and perhaps, land right into the hands of another, more flexible organization).

To understand and adapt to the new workforce, the most important aspect is to be open. Try to understand the worker as a person—as an individual. Perhaps the Gen Y team member wants to take an extended amount of time off, to travel the world, do charity work, or spend time with his or her aging parents. A team leader willing to adapt to such requests will not only augment worker-leader trust, but also enrich the work experience for the employee, to make it exactly that…an experience, and not just “work”. In return, the Gen Y worker may start to adapt to certain traditional managerial styles out of mutual respect. At the end of the day, tasks are completed and both sides of the team are happy.

So as Bob Dylan would say (a name familiar across all generations!), “Times they are a Changing”…and perhaps our outlooks in the workplace should as well!

How do you cope with Gen Y at your virtual workplace? Let us know in the comments!

By : Amir Ahmed /May 08, 2014 /Blog, Gen X/Gen Y /0 Comment Read More

Are You Using These Three Strategies For Hiring Virtual Employees?

As a virtual manager, hiring excellent remote workers can be a frustrating, deflating process. When you’re not interviewing someone face to face, it’s harder to judge his or her professional skills and drive. If the applicant seems likeable, outgoing, and interested in your company, it’s tempting to hire them right away. But if that person turns out to be lazy and unqualified, you’ve just wasted unnecessary time and energy—and back to square one you go!

To help you avoid any hiring blunders, we spoke with recruitment specialist Mike Fox at Brightlights and got his advice. As a recruiter for small and mid-sized technology companies, Mike knows what to look for in potential employees. He offered the following three tips to help you hire the best possible employees you can find.

1. Look for self-motivated employees. Hiring somebody that is self-motivated is important in today’s fast changing world, especially in a virtual workspace. Sure, you want to hire smart people, but it’s important to recruit independent, motivated self-starters. In a virtual environment there’s simply no manager available for feedback or orders on what to do next. Virtual employees are often left to their own devices, and they need to direct and prompt themselves to stay on top of tasks.

“You want your employees to be extroverted,” Mike explained. “They need to be confident in reaching out to clients, prospects or other team members.”

Mike added that, when looking to hire independent, motivated self-starters, he would ask questions like the following:

1. How do you update yourself on current news? Do you read the newspaper, books, or blogs? If so, which sources are you interested in, and why? (Self-motivated people are hungry for information and insights on their marketplace.)

2. What time do you start your day? What does a typical workday look like? How do you prioritize your daily tasks? (Self-starters are usually early risers and they know how to organize and schedule their assignments).

2. Take your time; don’t rush the process. It’s understandable thatyou have holes to fill and duties to be completed—and you need employees immediately. But rushing the interview process because you’re desperate to hire somebody can make you overlook and ignore flaws in an applicant. And if you hire the wrong person for the job, you’re wasting more time and energy in the long run. You’ll just have to repeat it all over again. It’s better to take your time and make sure the applicant qualifies for all of the duties in the job description. Mike stressed how deflating it can be for managers to keep hiring employees that don’t fit their job descriptions.

“If they haven’t hired remote individuals on a regular basis, they get frustrated and down on themselves. They start to lose trust in their judgement and hiring process.”

Don’t make that same mistake!

3. Focus on an employee’s portfolio, not just their resume. Aside from being self-motivated, another important characteristic to look for is experience. You want an accomplished, experienced, and adaptable virtual worker. Look at their actual accomplishments, not just the companies they have worked for. Think about it—the last person you want to hire is someone with a high GPA and a polished resume, but has never done anything!

So, when you interview people, ask them to show you projects they’ve worked on, teams they were apart of, instead of just making sure they have relative work experience and a high GPA. Mike suggested that you get granular in the work they actually did themselves. This is to ensure that you find out exactly what they did, not what the team accomplished! Here are two sample questions that you can ask to gauge an applicant’s level of experience.

1. What specific tasks and projects were you responsible for in previous jobs? Tell me more. What else did you do. What else, etc. What skills did you have to develop?(Look for a proven track record.)

2. What professional accomplishment are you most proud of? What did you learn from that success? What was your biggest failure and what did you learn from it? (Do they care enough to learn and grow from each experience, good or bad?)

Remember that hiring virtual employees that fit the bill is not always easy; it’s a process. If you follow the advice in this article, you will move closer to putting together a diligent, hardworking team.

Have you ever had any harrowing experiences of hiring the wrong employee?  If so, how did you adjust your approach the next time? What other strategies do you use to hire effective virtual employees? Tell us about it in the comments!

By : Amir Ahmed /May 07, 2014 /Blog, Hiring Virtual Employees /0 Comment Read More
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