When asked about the future of the workforce, Ellyn Shook, the Chief HR Officer of Accenture said: “We are in an era of relentless focus on technology,but true leaders will, in fact, place people first.”
Truth to be told, I did not fully comprehend its practical implication back then. After a year of being part of a virtual team that uses collaborative tools for communication and documents sharing on daily basis I understood the true meaning of that sentence.
Research shows that despite the increasing number of company examples which have benefited from such collaboration, many opt out to use the services of virtual teams.
The two biggest reasons: fear of losing control and lack of trust.
“It is not really about fear of losing control, nor lack of trust, but it is more about the fear of the unknown.”
So, what can we do about it?
Make the effort to meet the people from your virtual team, shake hands, ask them about their experience, share yours.
Taking the time to visit them shows that you care, that you are interested in their well being and value them as part of your team. Invite them at the central office, let them see the big picture. They may be responsible for partial tasks, but it is important for them to understand the process as a whole. This way you can work together on optimizing processes and bringing efficiency at higher levels.
Travelling may seem as unnecessary cost, but it pays off on the long-run. It helps better understand cultural differences and helps virtual teams to identify themselves with the company’s brand. Finally, it helps eliminate that fear of the unknown.
Annual Husse Master meeting
Show some personality
Its our natural instinct to trust more people who are similar to us. We fear the different and unfamiliar.
So how do you build trust “from a distance”?
Be open, share information about your services, your success and even your challenges. Most importantly, share information about your people, show some personality.
Make the most of social media. Share photos from the office, from team building activities and other important moments. Let your customers know WHO is doing the work, WHO does all those calculations, WHO answers the phone, WHO creates those adverts.
Put a face next to the name. Moreover, add some character.
Share something interesting about your people, put the spotlight on them. These small things will make potential clients realize that people regardless of location share similar interests and views. These similarities create bonds which empower communication. Moreover, revealing things about character makes virtual team members more trustworthy.
Our company uses hash-tags like #CoordeaLife #CoordeaTeam #CoordeaTraveling and #gettoknowus to share updates about our people and company events on Instagram or FB where we tell our story.
Part of the accounting team visiting Sweden for training and team building.
Ensure open and frequent communication
You may have started with only one virtual assistant and communication was easy and ad-hoc. However, as your business grows, the number of your virtual team members will probably grow as well. This increases complexity and if not managed accordingly the virtual team can become a burden of the company, instead of business support.
Organize communication channels and frequency, have Monday morning meetings or end of the week wrap up meetings. Decide on the channels for communication…Skype, IM, mail… During our talk, Vera pointed out one more thing about making communication more efficient:
“It has been really beneficial for me dividing them into groups and than having team leaders on site to communicate with them and they communicate further down the line.”
Place team leaders on site which have most knowledge about the present project or department.
Vera’s team, the Husse team, provides business support across several areas: accounting, logistics, graphic design and IT. Each department has a team leader which has in-depth conversation with Vera about management and organization of tasks.
Bottom line, more transparent models have emerged where communication is frequent and open; tasks are not divided, but co-dependent; relationships are based on trust and virtual teams identify with the brand of the client.