For the past two years, “remote work” has become a household phrase. As companies are becoming more accustomed to the idea of remote and location independent working models, their hiring practices have also changed. Now, many teams in all sizes of organizations include diverse talents; some of them freelancers or contractors, some full-time employees.
For managers, team leads, department directors; for everyone that needs to manage communications for a virtual team, there are a few aspects to watch out for and strategies to implement if they want to continue their success in the virtual work reality.
Differences between traditional and virtual team dynamics
The biggest factor in the difference between traditional and virtual team dynamics is the working space. For traditional teams (teams working at an office full-time), this working space is shared, and its only purpose is to work. For virtual teams, however, a working space can take many shapes according to each talent. This difference, consequently, has a massive impact on communication.
The form and style of communication directly affects how a team does their work, and it plays a crucial role in the quality of the end product. Superficially, the main difference in communication for virtual teams might be not being able to walk over to a coworker’s desk and ask a question. However, there are many other details to consider if the aim is to establish a healthy communication among a remote team and achieve success in productivity and efficiency.
How do successful teams communicate?
Whether it is a traditional or a virtual one, in order to create a successful team, the aim must be to create an environment of trust and encouragement. To achieve success in a project, a team must be able to communicate openly, comfortably; the lead must create project plans and schedules considering the input of their team in order to maximize efficiency.
While these are the basic tenets of a productive team, managing a remote team virtually requires some other skills; like time management for a team that has members in different time zones, a firm grasp on digital tools, and most importantly, an understanding of how communication changes in the virtual work space and what needs to be done in order to perfect it.
How to perfectly communicate in and manage remote teams
For managers who are tasked with leading a virtual team for the first time, changes in logistics might be difficult to get used to. One mistake would be to apply the same management techniques used for traditional teams to virtual teams, which might lead to disappointing results. However, building on the basis of respect and encouragement, it is very much possible to create and sustain a productive virtual team.
Agree with and onboard talents to your teams in a planned manner
One of the challenges in managing a remote team is lack of in-person supervision and direction. This becomes more critical during the onboarding process for new hires, which is important as studies show that a planned, organized onboarding process leads to 62% greater productivity and 50% greater retention for new hires.
Onboarding remotely might feel overwhelming for both talents and managers, if they don’t have the correct tools and strategy. Regarding attitude, team leads should approach this process and the new talent emphatically and create a safe space where any question can be asked without hesitation.
When it comes to tools, you can benefit from all-in-one talent management platforms such as Ruul with which you can onboard your remote talents from anywhere with ease and manage international work payments in any currency flexibly.
Along with universal finance management features, Ruul offers talents and organizations legal and compliant agreement templates where both parties can mutually acknowledge terms, obligations and responsibilities, which is essential for seamless communication.
Establish communication norms
One other challenge for remote workers is when and on which platform to communicate on a work day. If you set up clear “rules of engagement” for your talents, their doubts on whether to send an email or an IM will disappear, leaving them to conduct their work as efficiently as possible, without distractions. You can introduce these rules during the onboarding process for new hires and clearly explain which channels to use for what kind of correspondence. Make sure to also teach how you use these communication platforms if they’re not familiar with them.
Tailor meetings according to needs
Online meetings can be hard to focus on with everyone’s cameras turned off and mics muted. The solution to overcome this and keep everyone engaged is customizing each meeting according to the agenda or project at hand. This way, you can maximize communication and efficiency.
This is where having rich digital tools comes in handy. Instead of having all virtual meetings in the same form, consider shaping the virtual meeting space to suit your goals. With Kosy, you can choose among many templates for virtual meeting spaces such as Brainstorm, Sprint or Strategic Review meetings. For example, for a meeting where your team can share ideas about an upcoming project, you can use the Ideation meeting template; which allows third-party software integration (like Google Docs, Google Sheets or Miro) to pull up relevant documents with a simple click.
Again, this point emphasizes the importance of being familiar with recent technological tools as a manager. Even the simplest difference can make your job, and your talents’ job much easier and even more enjoyable.
Respect workers’ own agendas while making schedules
Even in traditional teams, a good manager respects the autonomy of their workers and avoids micromanaging. After delegating tasks, you should always keep in mind how and when your talents work on those tasks and try not to interrupt their workflow. Pulling them from the task they’re working on into an all-hands meeting where they won’t have anything to contribute would be a waste of precious time for them.
For better time management and planning, embrace working asynchronously. Keep in touch with their schedules, ask when they’re available for meetings and be sure to invite them only if they play an active role in the task at hand. You can also share your own calendar with them, that way they can see when you’re available for a quick chat.
Try virtual team-building activities
We are a long way away from underestimating the importance of socializing at work; all research points to an increase in happiness and productivity for workers who form friendships at work. This, however, might be tricker to achieve for virtual and remote teams. Working remotely removes the chance to have natural, on-the-spot conversations with coworkers, that’s why it falls upon leaders to dedicate time to encourage fellowship.
You can do this by using Kosy’s customizable templates for social events. With the Ice Breakers template, you can customize the visuals to fit your company’s image and personality, host quizzes or team-building events and create a warm, inviting space for coworkers to get to know one another.
Value and nurture employee feedback
Healthy communication is a must for creating and retaining a strong team. Along with daily chats and meetings, healthy communication for virtual teams also includes providing incentives for feedback from your coworkers. Be sure to always keep in touch with your talents, ask them their needs and their opinions on schedules, project planning and operations. If they feel comfortable, they can share what does and doesn’t work for them. Tailoring meeting schedules and your operation style to your team’s strengths will undoubtedly increase the quality of the output.
Best practices for building the best culture & environment
No matter the position in the company, every worker feels happy and eager to do more if their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated. If you want your team to improve further than just getting the job done, recognize their skills, contributions and ideas. Keep inclusion as a priority to make workers feel safe in the work environment. This way, you can make them feel that they’re part of a real team, connected by passion to do the best work possible.
If you can, set up systems for small bonuses for each completed big task. For example, if you’re going through a rebranding process for your company, you can send gift cards, books, even just flowers or physical thank you notes to workers who had a role in the project being completed successfully. This way, your talents will feel seen and appreciated, which in turn will result in them always willing to do their best.
One last thing to remember as a team manager is to stay agile. You never know what’s going to change the next day–new tech might be coming in, management styles might become obsolete, or a pandemic might take over the world and make us completely reexamine work and management models. World is changing fast–the only way to keep up is to be willing to learn, grow and adapt!