How to ensure successful virtual teams (6 top tips from talentsmoothie)

successful virtual teams concept talentsmoothie

Organisations are increasingly adopting or enforcing ‘flexible working’ strategies in the hope of reducing the spread of coronavirus. It will be vital to make the best of working remotely, so we can remain as productive and engaged as possible during this uncertain and unsettling time. 

From our work helping a wide range of organisations to deliver great employee experience across the globe, here are

6 top tips for successful virtual teams:

  1. Clarify the WHAT – what are the goals, roles and responsibilities of the virtual team?  Given you are working in isolation, it’s even more important to be crystal clear on what you need to do by when, what your interdependencies are, and what you need to prioritise to ensure good progress is made.  Keep things simple and ensure everyone knows what they are expected to achieve.
  2. Clarify the HOW – we often talk about leaders needing to trust and empower their workers, and manage the output, not the process, but with virtual teams there is real merit in managing and coordinating the details of the process you’ll use to complete your work, to ensure alignment across virtual workers.
  3. Build a team spirit – when you are working remotely it’s very easy to feel disconnected to the day-to-day hustle and bustle of office life. To counterbalance this, build in set catch up times – ideally on a regular day and time so that everyone knows to keep the slot clear and can look forward to it. Start meetings by focusing on the team members first. It might not be possible for everyone to give a personal update if the team is large – but rotate updates so that everyone has the opportunity to share something about them unrelated to work, as well as something they are working on.
  4. Develop shared responsibility – for achieving goals, so that everyone feels equally responsible for the success of the group. This could be role related, or via coaching and sharing knowledge within the team. 
  5. Choose reliable technology – that everyone has access to, otherwise you risk alienating members of the team. Reliability of the technology is essential too, so that it’s easy for people to connect without wasting lots of time. It might be that you also need ‘shared drives’ to mitigate against data breaches and to help with file management. Be clear about what you need to manage your virtual teams and choose a system with a proven track record. There are many options!
  6. Keep on track – with virtual teams you can’t see how engaged they are feeling or how productive a day they’ve had. Checking in on scheduled catch-up calls, as well as occasional one-to-ones, is essential to gauge how things are going. It’s also a good idea to have some form of milestone tracking. This can be done through simple status updates each week along with a commitment to what will be achieved in the following week, or more visually through a project dashboard. Whatever you decide on, you don’t want it to be too onerous a task for people to keep on top of, or anything that demoralises team members when the main objective is to keep momentum and focus.

Under any other circumstances we’d also include a seventh point, to build in a face-to-face element. All of our research across the generations shows that the preferred method of communication is still face-to-face. Even the newest generation to enter the workforce, our Gen Zs, have indicated in the latest talentsmoothie Generational Survey that face-to-face is their most preferred method of communication. It helps us to build connections, build relationships and develop trust. All essential for effective team work. We know that having an occasional opportunity to meet is helpful, even for virtual teams. How do you think your teams will fare with enforced virtual working?

At talentsmoothie, we are always future-focused and curious, so we’re also thinking about how we’ll choose to work once things return to normal. Will we return to our previous ways, or will we retain our move to virtual teams or develop some sort of hybrid?

We’d love to hear your experiences and learnings. 

Wherever we go from here, let’s remember to make the most of the time we are able to spend together – something tells us that’s going to be more of a luxury in the future.

Make even better connections with your people. We are talentsmoothie, organisational development consultants and the employee experience experts. We can help.

+44 (0)20 7127 4741