Virtual teams are becoming exceedingly popular because they offer a much more flexible way of doing business. There are many definitions of what a virtual team is, but for the sake of this discussion, we are referring to those that primarily work from a home, or other office location that does not require commuting as a part of their respective positions. These professionals may only put in a few hours per week, but they are able to communicate through alternative media such as video technology in order to solve the issue of being geographically separated. This doesn’t mean that virtual team members never meet face-to-face, but it does indicate that being physically separated can pose some limitations such as time and getting to know other team members on a personal level. In order to manage virtual team members effectively, a clear understanding of the manager’s role must be defined. They begin with managing goals, maintaining communication, motivating team members, assessing the communications process, and using tools to facilitate efficient collaboration (Hamilton, Hodgkinson, & Byatt, 2010).
Keeping out of sight team members motivated can pose a challenge, but through consistent phone calls and on-line meetings, these groups could prove to be very beneficial (Hamilton, Hodgkinson, & Byatt, 2010). Virtual technology can assist in keeping the team motivated through the following options: Through the use of video technology (as often as possible) to keep members up to date and on track, through team collaboration to facilitate sharing ideas, and through opportunity potential as well as a catalyst for team camaraderie. One common issues with virtual project teams come when team members remain disconnected. Having a scheduled team meeting through an established venue will make certain this issue does not happen. Establishing guidelines for conduct is another way to keep virtual members on track. This can be accomplished through a common agreement among team members on how, when and where messages will be made along with the length of the message and an acceptable response time. Through an open and clear communication channel, team members will understand the roles they play in the grand scheme of the project. Lastly, setting rules for expressing suitable feelings and reactions about other team members and the project should be established to assist in conducting productive meetings (Pinto, 2013)
This style of conducting a project brings much potential for connecting talent at different locations. Managing a virtual team can provide a rewarding experience and involves the same type of competencies as managing a centralized team. The added factor comes with utilizing a very sensitive communication style and making certain appropriate styles are maintained. When effective communication is working up to standard, outstanding teamwork can be achieved (Hamilton, Hodgkinson, & Byatt, 2010).
In today’s society, virtual teams are very common. The teams can work in the same build, across town, across the country, or even in another country. Managing these teams can be difficult unless you are a seasoned project manager who has worked on multi virtual project teams.
Using virtual teams for projects are not for all organization and working on a virtual team is not for all employees. Many people find it very difficult to maintain and have control of what other teams are doing that are located in a different area of the state, country, or the world.
Working on a virtual team worker is more likely to suffer from feelings of isolation from the team if the project is no organized in appropriate manner. Some teams need to be more self-managing so they can focus their efforts on the specific project they are to complete. To effectively manage team members of a virtual project the project manager needs to know the five primary aspects where the manager should focus their attention.
1) Manage the team goals – Set goals for each team and consistently monitor as the project continues.
2) Manage management and team communication – The manager must provide open communication to the teams and to be available for assistance if the need arises. Manager need to be clear and concise with their message so all employees understand what is needed and expected from their team.
3) Keep teams motivated – Teams should not feel isolated from each other. Keeping teams up to date on the project by scheduled virtual meeting, newsletters, phone calls, or emails. Employees need to feel connected in all areas of the project to be motivated to continue.
monitoring of effective remote communications – The manager needs to ensure all teams are receiving their information in their preferred method. Some teams may prefer live meeting, virtual meetings, or emails to keep them up to date on the project. It is up to the project manager to find out what the team’s needs.
5) Proper use of the virtual tools available to all teams will help to build a virtual team atmosphere and for the teams to work more effectively together (Byatt, Hamilton & Hodgekinson, 2010).
Communication is different when doing it virtually. When a conference call, it is best not to sit at a desk and talk into the speaker. The manager should get up, walk around, and speak. It was found that moving around and speaking delivers more emotion than sitting behind a desk and speaking. When you move around you get your blood flowing and your brain functioning faster (Meyer, 2010). On conferences calls, talk slower, clear, and be direct so there are no misunderstandings between the manager and teams. Be patient with the virtual teams when they ask questions. When you are working on a project from a long distance away you want to ensure the information you deliver and the team receives are the same, so the project can continue as planned.