Building a Virtual Team

Challenges for Virtual Employees

workplace 1245776 1920 600x242 - Challenges for Virtual Employees

Many people automatically misconstrue virtual teamwork as a simple process because it uses tools that are commonplace and understood, such as telephones and email. On the contrary, despite the increasing trend in virtual working, the majority of virtual teams suffer some form of performance failure. According to the Gartner Group, 50% of virtual teams fail due to a lack of understanding of how to work virtually. More recent reports suggest that failure rates may actually be as high as 82%.

In the 2012 study Untapped Potential of Virtual Teams, Siemens Enterprise Communications designed and executed a research survey generating responses from nine countries, covering North America, Latin America, and Western Europe. The goal of the survey was to find the real-time problems companies struggle with that involve virtual teams and their effect on operations, efficiency, and the overall bottom line. The results show that:

  • Over 40% of virtual team members always or frequently feel frustrated or overwhelmed by the complexity of communications technologies
  • Only 50% experience success in establishing trust and maintaining fluid dialog among team members using the tools at their disposal
  • 75% find their team members more likely to get distracted during virtual meetings, and 34% perceive remote team members as slacking off

Another survey showed that only 22% of employees receive training on working in the virtual environment, causing and exacerbating many of the above issues. Lack of face-to-face contact for employees without a solid foundation in working virtually experience productivity impacts in the following areas:

  • Understanding the full context of what others communicate to them (51%)
  • Managing conflict (48%)
  • Establishing trust and building relationships (45%)

Further, even employees who work virtually only some of the time feel that their in-office colleagues don’t treat them equally:

  • 67% feel that colleagues don’t fight for their priorities
  • 64% say colleagues make changes to a project without warning them
  • 84% allow these concerns to linger for days before addressing them; 47% did so for weeks or more

Yet globally, 85% of employees report working on virtual teams. At the same time, only 22% have received any training geared toward working in that environment. This disparity suggests that many of the people working virtually do not know how to do so effectively, which can lead to dysfunction including:


image008 - Challenges for Virtual Employees

This is most apparent when it comes to rating virtual team leadership: 58% of employees feel that their team leaders are not adequately prepared to manage their team in the virtual environment.

This leads to virtual employees feeling that their managers are out of touch, exacerbating the difficulties in building trust and rapport that are already more pronounced in the virtual environment.

Communication Strategies for Virtual Colleagues

Virtual managers can set their team up to create successful, trusting relationships in the following ways:


Schedule a Virtual Lunch

You use web conferencing tools for business purposes like team meetings – so use them for informal chats as well! Schedule the occasional team lunch for your team to share unstructured time over a meal, even if they aren’t sitting side by side. These informal interactions are essential ingredients to deep, trusted relationship that help your virtual team members to build trust and support one another.


Run Mindful Team Meetings

On virtual teams, those who are out of sight can’t afford to be out of mind. One great tool for making sure everybody feels included is to circulate a “map” showing who is calling in from where. This visual reference helps your team be mindful of who is on the call, even if some colleagues are quieter than others.


Create Human Moments

When your team can’t simply walk down the hall to say hello or go for an impromptu coffee, it’s up to you to build “human moments” in to the workday. Whether it’s opening team meetings with an opportunity for everyone to share a recent success or conducting a team building activity, great virtual team managers are those who know how to make sure it’s never all work and no play.


Curious to learn more? Read our other posts in this series:

By : Virtual Teambuilders /January 21, 2019 /Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

Challenges for Virtual Team Managers

agreement 2548138 1920 600x242 - Challenges for Virtual Team Managers

Two-thirds of experienced managers fail in their first attempt to run a virtual team – and for new managers, the failure rate is even higher.  In fact, misunderstandings are five times more likely to occur without face-to-face communication.

While in our last post  we focused on the dangers for virtual teams in general, today we look at virtual team managers. For them, it is essential to understand why these issues occur, and how to develop the communication skills that work in the virtual environment.

Virtual managers and their teams can be every bit as effective as their co-located counterparts, if not more so. But without strategies to work in the virtual environment, managers will be at a significant disadvantage and are likely to fail, costing taxpayers far more money than they save in travel.  Key issues:

  • Virtual teams can’t be managed in the same way as co-located teams and are considerably more dependent on the characteristics and interpersonal skills of team members
  • Due to the general lack of understanding of how to work virtually, studies have found that 82% of virtual teams fail
  • Greater team diversity means that team members need to be acutely aware both of themselves and of each other to a far greater extent than co-located teams
  • A manager’s understanding of the impacts of personality traits on behavior is a key performance constraints

These challenges extend even to the hiring process. When composing their team, virtual team managers must work closely with Human Resources to look for specific characteristics, such as:

  • Great self-manager
  • Good communicator, both written and verbally
  • Confident enough to ask for assistance when required
  • Thrives in a low-touch, flexible environment
  • Enjoys working individually, with minimal social interaction


Tips for Virtual Team Managers

There are a number of effective strategies managers can employ to support their virtual staff, drive high levels of performance, and consistently achieve their desired business objectives:


1. Institute a Virtual Open-Door Policy

In co-located teams, managers will often leave their door open to communicate that staff can come in to discuss their work. This is especially useful for matters that team members don’t see as “important enough” to warrant a phone call, email or meeting. But there’s no equivalent tool for virtual teams, right?


Schedule regular office hours in your office’s conference software, where your team can approach you informally to discuss matters that may not fit into more structured touch points such as team meetings. Creating time for informal chats sends a strong signal you are a welcoming trusted manager who values your team’s needs and input.


2. Schedule Regular One-On-One Touch Points

This is one scenario where the same strategy that works in a physical office also works in the virtual environment – in fact, it may be even more valuable! By making time for regular conversations with your employees (such as on a weekly basis), you create many opportunities to directly interact and build trusted relationships may never develop if you rely solely on email and team meetings.

Recent research with 40 global teams showed that when the leader-team member relationship was strong and the leader communicated frequently, the virtual team member was more likely to contribute to team decision making, which increased innovation.


3. Run Better Team Meetings

Meetings in the virtual environment provide organizations with a great deal of flexibility – while at the same time increasing the risk of miscommunication, inefficiency, and even feelings of isolation among virtual participants.

One effective strategy is to share a map with every participant’s location in advance of the meeting. This ensures that everyone on the call is mindful of each other’s presence, combating the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and ensuring you remember to seek input from everyone.


Want to learn more? Read our next post in this series, on the challenges facing virtual employees:

By : Virtual Teambuilders /January 17, 2019 /Building a Virtual Team /0 Comment Read More

    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.  Read More