Published by Peggy on 14 Mar 2012 at 09:41 am
83 percent of small businesses said they plan to hire up to half of their workers as virtual workers in the next year (source).
Did you know that half our team at WiserEarth lives outside the U.S.? While Camilla is working on communication strategy from France, Celeste is welcoming WiserEarth members from Australia and Bowo in Indonesia is on vacation. Doudou is bringing WiserEarth members from Senegal together. Yatin is getting ready to launch three new WiserLocals based in India. Meanwhile, Katherine is working from Minnesota and Peggy, Angus, Antoinette and Matthias are working together from the Sausalito office back in California.
1. Establish regular communication
Tip 1: Set up a regular weekly call and an Annual Retreat
In an office, each day employees greet themselves and offer support to each other. They may talk about their evening with their friends and share that they did on the weekends. This fosters a connected, productive work force. When you have a virtual team, it is harder to create this friendly environment. The WiserEarth team has weekly calls. We acknowledge that it is harder to “brainstorm” over email so these weekly Skype calls are important: we get to ask questions about each other work, talk about emerging partnerships, share challenges and talk about the agenda. The topics for the agenda are co-created by the whole team.
In the last 3 years, we also started having staff retreats once a year. This allows us to meet physically for the first time sometimes! For example, this past October, we met Celeste for the first time although she had been a WiserEarth Editor since April 2009 and had worked for WiserEarth for most of the year. The staff retreat is an opportunity to reflect on the yearly work, involve the whole team in the strategic planning and dream together about what we want to see. It is also an opportunity to work together face to face, which is very precious.
2. Clear Objectives
Tip 2: Set up Achievable goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely (SMART)
Once you’ve defined your strategic goals, it’s important to set up achievable goals for each staff member. As we all know, ensuring people are working efficiently together is the largest challenge for any virtual team. For WiserEarth, we set up SMART goals for each staff member for the whole year.
Tip 3: Be transparent so everyone stays in the loop
Management practices have to be much more conscious and explicit than when people are close by. At WiserEarth, transparency is in our core value and we ensure that this applies to the way we work as a team. I recommend developing explicit, transparent processes and outputs. This can easily be achieved through SMART goals.
Tip 4: Everyone should be accountable.
For a virtual team, building accountability and mutual trust amongst its members takes substantially more time than collocated teams and, thus, can pose a challenge. However, it is key to the success of a team. There are great tips on the web on how to build accountability.
In the future, we are planning to write more blog posts on these topics. If you have some tips you would like to share, please do let us know or share them in the comments below. What works for you and your team?
A few resources that you may be interested in:
- Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology by Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps
- The Handbook of High Performance Virtual Teams: A Toolkit for Collaborating Across Boundaries by Jill Nemiro (Editor), Michael M. Beyerlein (Editor), Lori Bradley (Editor), Susan Beyerlein (Editor)
- Mastering virtual teams: strategies, tools, and techniques that succeed by Deborah L. Duarte, Nancy Tennant Snyder
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