A decade ago there were few global virtual teams. Today it is rare for organizations not to have teams dispersed across countries, time zones and cultures. Colleagues are expected to work together, while at the same time working apart.
The United States Office of Personnel Management reports that remote work has increased job satisfaction, reduced employee turnover, and cut costs on several fronts. (Source: Harvard Business Review – Why Remote Work Thrives in Some Companies and Fails in Other,March 20, 2015).
The number of remote workers in the U.S. grew by nearly 80% between 2005 and 2012. Advances in technology are keeping pace. About 94% of U.S. households have access to broadband Internet, which is one of the most important enablers of remote work. Workers also have access to an array of tools that allow them to videoconference, collaborate on shared documents, and manage complex workflows with colleagues around the world.
Success of a global team is dependent on building a strong foundation. This includes:
(Source: Managing Groups and Teams/How do you Manage Global Virtual Teams, September 28, 2105)
- Creating a mission, goals, and ground rules
- Identifying stakeholders and their expectations
- Defining complimentary roles and responsibilities
- Building relationships, trust, and rewarding experiences
While some organizations are reaping the benefits of global teams, others are not. The problem is that too many organizations focus too much on technology and not enough on process. Successful remote work is based on communication, coordination, and culture.
In order for remote work to be successful, organizations must create clear processes that support each of these principles.
To effectively communicate information that is complex or personal, you need to observe body language, be able to see what you are talking about, and hear inflection and tone. Video conferencing is the best tool when face-to-face, in-person meetings are not possible.
It is important for people working together at a distance to know what others are doing and how it fits together as a whole.
Documenting work and placing it in a repository for access by others makes coordination easier. In addition to maintaining a repository of information, teams must know how and when individuals will provide updates, review deliverables and make decisions. Texting, emailing and instant messaging are useful tools, but can often be enhanced by periodic meetings using video conferencing.
Cloud video conferencing, or video conferencing as a service, lets users enjoy high quality video conferencing from the device and network of their choice. Cloud video offers a way to strengthen relationships with remote colleagues.
To sustain performance over the long term, and foster engagement, you must develop a culture that helps build trust. Bring team members together for short periods of time, either face-to-face or over video, to help enhance the working relationship of the team.
There are many benefits to having a global team:
- Employ the best people regardless of where they are located
- Increase the talent pool by allowing people to work flexible hours or from home
- Increase job satisfaction
- Have access to local insight from team members located in strategic locations
Tips for managing a global team:
1. Organize regular meetings with individuals and the entire team
2. Encourage informal conversations
3. Treat time zone fairly
4. Prioritize cultural sensitivity
5. Invest in socializing teams
6. Look for shared understanding
7. Manage expectations
Managing global teams, who work remotely, requires the right technology, thoughtful strategy, and reliable execution. When done properly the reward can be high: increased productivity, shortened product and service time to market, cost savings, and happier employees.