For small businesses, there are tremendous benefits of setting up a virtual team instead of the traditional on-site one. Some of these benefits may include:
- The need for premises from which employees would work, becomes unnecessary, which reduces expenses.
- Small business owners only need to pay for work submitted instead of paying a set salary to a host of on-site employees.
- Remote workers from certain geographical locations are much more affordable than in other parts of the world. This could eliminate huge salaries.
- A greater variety of workers and talents are available, because you are not forced to choose employees from one specific geographical location.
- Your business may not need to pay for the upkeep of certain equipment.
- For multiple reasons, workforce productivity increases.
However, to create an exceptional virtual team, it is important to be aware of the challenges, and put strategies in place to deal with them:
- Time zone coordination.
- Getting everyone on the same page.
- Communicating with people from different cultures.
- Developing team spirit and company loyalty.
So, in light of the challenges of creating a virtual team that works well in order to meet business objectives, consider these 7 strategies:
#1: Plan around overlapping time zones
There will be certain times in a day when time zones overlap. Plan around those times to do the tasks that require input from staff who are situated in overlapping time zones. Another idea is to only select people from certain areas, or before hiring, making it a prerequisite that candidates are available at certain times.
#2: Enforce standards
For people to deliver what you need, and how you need it, it is the company’s responsibility to provide guidelines as to what they expect and how they expect work to be delivered.
For example, if you hire someone to design your website, you have to give them an idea of what you expect – this would include providing them with the colours they should use, logos, UVP, and so on. Compile documents like branding guidelines.
#3: Find the right communication tools
It can’t be stressed enough: if you plan to create a virtual team, you’re going to need to set up strong channels of communication. The key is using the right tools. Here’s a guide:
- Email can be replaced with project management software like Trello or Asana, so that team members are all kept in the loop. However, email can be used for quick interactions when necessary.
- Try using a webinar software like ClickMeeting for ideal virtual meetings or seminars because it is the closest thing resembling a face-to-face meeting interaction. Share screens, host a presentation, interact with the team, create polls and more.
Webinar software is handy to use as a communication medium for remote workers, and has many functions, like this whiteboard example by Clickmeeting.
- Chat software like Skype or Google Hangouts are good for quick messaging and can be used by two people, or as a team.
- When you need to see the other person in order to get visual cues (perhaps something sensitive needs to be discussed), it’s a good idea to use video chat.
- Skype can be used in place of a telephone.
- Share screenshots with a tool like Jing.
#4: Implement a great virtual on boarding program
The better the relationship between boss/client and employee/worker, the better the delivery of consistently high-quality work. This is because when the relationship is good, the worker is more motivated to do better.
In addition, the sooner new hires understand what’s required of them, and the sooner their expectations are in line with the employer, the faster maximum productivity will ensue.
And this is the role of virtual onboarding programs, which should consist of empowering the employee with knowledge about the company, its vision and objectives, culture, as well as provide a set of guidelines that are relevant to the position.
#5: Use the right project management software
There is no shortage of project management tools; the trick is finding the ones that work well for your team.
For example, Asana is more representative of the old Microsoft Project software, whereas Trello consists of boards that can be viewed and moved on one screen to give an overall view of a project. There are many different types available, but you need to invest time to find out which one works best.
You may end up using a few, all for different projects and different teams.
#6: Create project and task systems
Creating systems is what’s going to make your virtual team pop, because automated systems for employee tasks is what makes your business run on autopilot, saving you time, money, mistakes and effort. To boot, it maintains the quality of work because everybody has to follow the process.
Image Credit: Redwallmarketing
Example by Redwallmarketing of an automated employee tasks process flow.
Create systems for remote workers by:
- Mapping out the process flow of each project.
- Brainstorming the process to see if it can be improved, and allowing your imagination to run wild, think of repetitive tasks that can be automated, or how to eliminate mistakes in each step of the project.
- Using as much detail as possible, including files and screenshots and so on, document how processes get done.
- Housing the documented process flows in a web-based collaboration tool, like Dropbox or Google Drive, so that all relevant parties have access when necessary.
#7: Hire the right people
Employees have the power to make or break your organization, so its vital that they are selected with care, and hiring people for a remote team is even more so.
If you have the right people on your team, remote work soars productivity, but if you choose the wrong people, you could sit with endless headaches.
It’s recommended that remote employees start on a trial period, so that you can use this time to test them.
How to recognize the kind of people your business would want?
- Generally speaking, the more you pay, the better the quality of work. For example, you could hire a writer that produces an 800 word piece of content for $10. But the content will not bring more traffic to your website, and effectively, would be a waste of money as it won’t achieve any purpose. However, paying another writer $50 for the same piece will achieve your goals because the writer understands the way search engines work regarding content, and uses techniques to get as much traffic as possible to your site via the written content.
- When people work remotely, they need to have tremendous self-discipline, so that they actually get the work done. Ask them questions to ascertain their level of self-discipline. Once they’ve been hired, check how they manage organizational apps and whether they fulfil their promises regarding delivery deadlines.
- Your remote team need to be made up of strong communicators – not only must they communicate regularly, but also succinctly. You should get an idea of this pre-interview phase, but if not, you’ll soon find out once they are hired.
- There must be a culture fit between new employee and company. Watch for enthusiasm when they are told about the vision and mission of the company in the interview phase.
- Look for people who use their initiative and make it easy to be part of the team.
- Virtual employees need to be flexible with their time if they are in a different time zone. Be sure they are comfortable with the times you need them to be available.
There are huge benefits of using remote employees or freelancers, but to create a team that is productive and effective, follow these principles:
- Plan certain work around time zones.
- Be sure to provide guidelines as to what’s expected, so that standards are maintained.
- Use the right communication channels.
- Make new hires go through a good onboarding experience.
- Find the project management tools that suit your team.
- Set up employee task systems.
- Be careful to choose the right people.