Author Archives Michal Spiar

The New Reality: Your Team is Probably Virtual

The New Reality: Your Team is Probably VirtualWould it shock you to know that you have a virtual team? This may seem like a ridiculous question, but after learning a bit about the evolving nature of today’s workplace, more and more managers are answering, “Yes!”

It helps to understand just what makes a team virtual in the first place, starting with some of the following characteristics:

  • Do colleagues work more than 90 feet away from one another?
  • Does your team rely on communication technologies to accomplish specific goals?
  • Do you have frequent web or tele-conferences?
  • Does one or more colleague work remotely, with limited or even zero face time with the rest of the team?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then there is no doubt about it: 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, which is usually a function of distance – 50 feet or more. That distance (or even located in the same office but on distance floor) acts as a psychological barrier for many people, causing them to avoid walking to a team member’s desk and rely on technology instead.

Thanks to a study by Tom Allen, we have an exact number for when that shift happens. Allen studied a team of engineers and 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 50 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.

Virtual teams are much more common than we think, existing in offices across the country and presenting 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.

Virtual Team Builders offers a variety of solutions to support your virtual team in achieving its goals, from comprehensive team assessments and training to one-on-one mentoring for managers. Contact us today to learn more.

By : Michal Spiar /September 12, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Managing Stress in a Virtual Environment, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Telecommuting Rises 115% in Past Decade

Telecommuting Rises 115% in Last Decade

If it seems that telecommuting, or virtual work, is more popular than ever, it’s not hard to see why: a new report from Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) and FlexJobs shows that it has grown by 115% in the past decade.

And it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, GWA also reports that 50% of the US workforce holds a job compatible with at least partial teleworking, and that 80 to 90% of the workforce would like to work remotely at least part-time.

Part of the reason stems from the fact that 80% of married millennials have a dual-income household that leaves little time for recreation – so any time gained by working from home is attractive. In fact, as millennials make up more of the workforce, employers are using flex work to attract top talent that might balk at the idea of having to go to an office every day of the week.

As more companies embrace virtual work, however, they discover that many of the benefits outlined by GWA fail to materialize, and that their teams exhibit a number of negative characteristics outlined in a Forbes report:

GWA Benefits of Virtual Teams

  • Employers can save $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year
  • Half-time telecommuters gain 11 days back per year – time they would have spent commuting
  • Absenteeism decrease of 31% with half-time telecommuting
  • Increase in productivity and morale
  • Increase in loyalty to employer
  • Organizational agility
  • Improved work-life balance

Forbes Challenges of Virtual Teams

  • Feelings of isolation
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Low levels of trust
  • Miscommunication and cultural clashes
  • Loss of team spirit

As GWA notes, it is only “well-executed programs” that can help employers achieve the desired benefits.

The question for today’s employers is this: Are you ready to transition from a face-to-face model to a virtual one? To help answer that question, consider the following:

  1. Working virtually means more than taking a laptop home – it requires a culture change that embraces digital workflow and communications tools that maximize productivity and teamwork across distances.
  2. Well-executed virtual teams take the time to learn communications strategies and techniques that build trust and camaraderie without ever being in the same room.
  3. Effective virtual teams have well-defined processes, accountabilities and methodologies that streamline and simplify workflow.

In short, simply offering flex work may get the employees you want in the door, but without investing in the skills and processes that make virtual teams perform, those same employees may not deliver the results you expect or stick around for long.

A great way to set your virtual teams up for success start is with an assessment from Virtual Team Builders. Your business can thrive in a virtual, telecommuting world – and we can help.

By : Michal Spiar /July 10, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, CEO concerns, Hiring Virtual Employees, Motivating Your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Press Release: New Webinar Series to Enhance Performance of Virtual Teams

(Toronto – June 7, 2017) Virtual Team Builders is pleased to announce its new Lightning Pro webinars. Each Lightning Pro webinar specifically targets a specific obstacle to productivity experienced by teams where one or more members work remotely.

The Gartner Group has shown that 50% of virtual teams fail because they do not understand the challenges of working virtually. Virtual teams experience unique challenges that co-located teams do not, resulting in poor collaboration, difficulty achieving and maintaining trust, and role ambiguity – all counter-productive to business goals and success. In fact, teams begin to experience these obstacles when separated by as little as 90 feet.

Virtual Team Builders’ Lightning Pro webinars provide easily accessible, instantly applicable skills and knowledge that your team can use immediately to drive sustainable team performance and productivity. There are currently four Lightning Pro webinars:

  • Tips, Tricks & Troubleshooting for Skype for Business
    • Skype is more than a chat tool – in this session, learn how to use the most common features of Skype to promote interactivity and collaboration in your team’s Skype sessions
  • Advanced Skype for Business
    • Learn the advanced functionality of Skype to take your team’s productivity to the next level
  • SharePoint for Virtual Teams
    • Realize the full potential of SharePoint in your virtual team to slash email volume, streamline team discussions, increase collaboration, maintain file security, and organize projects from end to end
  • Jumpstart Your Online Training
    • Change the way you train – virtual training presents very different challenges than traditional classrooms, and this course will teach you high-impact online exercises that will help build engagement and sustainable learning outcomes

“These Lightning Pro webinars address a critical need for modern businesses:  providing their dispersed workforce with the skills and knowledge that virtual teams need to succeed,” says Claire Sookman, Founder and President of Virtual Team Builders. “These webinars set virtual teams up for success, driving sustainable team performance and productivity, and we look forward to supporting virtual teams in achieving their goals.”

Lighting Pro webinars are 45 minutes in duration, and cost $79.99 USD per attendee. For details visit: http://virtualteambuilders.com/lightning_pro_webinars

About Virtual Team Builders

Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.

For further information, contact Claire Sookman, Founder & President

csookman@virtualteambuilders.com | 1.866.497.7749

By : Michal Spiar /June 07, 2017 /Blog, your Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Virtual Case Study: The Importance of Awareness in Virtual Teams

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vitualteampicMany companies start working virtually almost by accident. They grow larger, and employees begin to work farther apart – even as little as 50 feet between colleagues can change the way they communicate, and the skills they need to do so effectively. This skill gap is even more pronounced when colleagues are separated by entire floors,  cities, or continents.

In this case study, we will look at one multinational company’s  journey from inefficiency and frustration to productivity and success and it all starts with one word: awareness.

Client Background: Professional Learning Strategist

While developing an online educational platform for a multinational corporation, this Virtual Team Builders client (a professional learning strategist with extensive experience in the development of corporate training programs) recognized a pattern: colleagues who worked virtually had a consistent, pervading sense that they simply weren’t working effectively.

“They had started working virtually, but never really articulated the skills required to do so effectively. They just sort of assumed that people would start doing it, but all they had done was adopt inefficient technologies and implement them in inefficient ways. And nobody really knew.”

The Challenge: Lack of Virtual Awareness

Virtual meetings,  held via Teleconference or Web Conference platforms such as WebEx and Skype For Business were particular struggles, featuring characteristics such as:

  • miscommunication
  • inefficiency
  • poor engagement
  • lack of participation

The strategist found that the most effective way to demonstrate the necessity of developing virtual teamwork and communication skills was simply to expose her client to them.

“We brought in Virtual Team Builders to assist on this project and you could see the ‘aha’ moment. It’s when people experienced a really good, really effective virtual meeting and improved communication between meetings. For the first time, they began to realize just how effective their team could be with the right skills in place.”

The Solution: Virtual Teamwork, Not Virtual Training

What this client recognized was that training in the virtual environment is quite different from working in it – and yet there are far more resources on the former than the latter. Communication tools that we take for granted in co-located teams such as face time and body language simply aren’t there in the virtual space, and few people know how to use the resources available to them to drive engagement.

“I’ve seen people who use WebEx but actively disable all but the bare minimum features. You can’t even use your webcam, the white board, annotation tools or use VoIP. All of these wonderful tools to provide face time and encourage participation and engagement, and people are too overwhelmed to explore them.”

Key Virtual Team Takeaway

By taking the time to develop their virtual team skills and knowledge, the learning strategist’s client experienced:

  • a significant increase in morale
  • productivity boost
  • less attrition
  • increased collaboration

To drive these results, the learning hub developed by the strategist included resources on working virtually, and an opportunity for people to talk about their specific challenges. Virtual Team Builders offered four one-hour sessions to align with the topics in the hub. These courses are now available to the public, and are accredited for Leadership Professional Development Units (PDUs).

Do you have a virtual team? Register for our upcoming courses (accredited for Leadership PDUs) to learn valuable virtual skills, or contact us to inquire about a virtual assessment of your team and it’s unique needs.

By : Michal Spiar /March 11, 2017 /Blog, Building a Virtual Team, Motivating Your Virtual Team, Performance Increase in Homeworkers /0 Comment Read More

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team Needs

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team Needs

5 Icebreaker Tips Every Virtual Team NeedsDid you know that if your team members are separated by as little as 90 feet, you have a virtual team? Physical separation between team members can lead to challenges that teams working in closer proximity simply don’t face.

Before we share some our favorite icebreakers, I am going to get on my soapbox and tell you that icebreakers are only the tip of the iceberg. Icebreakers alone do not build long-term, sustainable relationships. Building relationships is an ongoing process that requires time, attention, authenticity and trust.

That said, icebreakers do play a role in building relationships, but different ones serve different purposes for different teams. Ask yourself, “Exactly what kind of ice needs to be broken?” Here are the top five icebreaker tips you need to know for your virtual team:

1. Sharing is bonding

We’ve all been in a web conference with a group of faceless voices. Who exactly is everyone speaking to? What do they know about each other? If you are bringing people together who are working on a common goal the ice that you are melting may result in creating a bond.

Icebreaker Idea

It’s In The Mail is an activity for groups of up to 25. Before the meeting, team members should email a unique and unknown fact about themselves to the meeting facilitator. At the start of the session or during a lull in the meeting, the facilitator will pick an email to read and have the other attendees guess who the email belongs to.

2. Make time for face time

Even if you are bringing together like-minded people, the “ice” may simply reflect the fact that people have not yet met – and where teams are dispersed across different offices or continents, they may never do so in person.

Icebreaker Idea

Match Box is for groups up to 10 people. Prior to the meeting, create a slide with everyone’s pictures and post the slide onto the whiteboard. Ensure that each picture is numbered.

Then match people’s voices to their faces. Choose one picture at a time and ask the team to guess who they think it is. You can use the raised hand feature, chat or by giving verbal responses.

3. Anticipate culture shock

If you are bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures and outlooks within your virtual team then the “ice” may come from people’s perceptions of each other.

Icebreaker Idea

Metaphor Magic is for groups up to 10 people. Have your team members come up with a list of words or phrases that have different interpretations or meanings. Ask your team members to define what they think that word or phrase means.

4. Know your team

Teams have different needs and preferences. Some teams may gravitate towards “fun” activities while others may be more inclined to link the activity to a purpose such as brainstorming or problem solving. Remember to personalize the activity for the needs of your virtual team.

5. Use the tools available to you

Web conferencing platforms enable your team members to express themselves and collaborate in new and creative ways, but many teams never use anything but the basic conference call functionality. Leverage interactive tools such as white boards, paired chat, the raised hand feature and polling to give everyone a variety of ways to engage with one another.

Interested in learning more about icebreakers for your virtual team? Register for our free webinar Building Relationships at a Distance for detailed advice and best practices, and get the most out of your virtual team. For a deeper dive, purchase the informative book Across the Hall, Around the World: Teambuilding Tips for Distributed Business from the Virtual Team Builders marketplace.

 

By : Michal Spiar /January 27, 2017 /Blog, CEO concerns, Motivating Your Virtual Team, virtual introductions /0 Comment Read More
  • ABOUT US

    Virtual Team Builders is a training and consulting company that caters to corporations and teams who depend on effective virtual collaboration to succeed. Our training is targeted towards the unique challenges faced by teams operating in a virtual environment; challenges that are present whether members work 90 feet apart or 3000 miles apart.