One of today’s most prevalent trends in the workplace is the emergence of the virtual team. More and more people are working outside the office, while still being held accountable for the same responsibilities, workloads, and deliverables as before. These teams of teleworkers often face much more complexity than traditional teams due to the differences in schedules, time zones, and collaboration tools.
Virtual employees require dedicated personal attention, understanding, and consistent, clear communication to keep them motivated to be productive, successful team members. Inspiring these workers can be difficult, but there a few ways to overcome the challenges faced by leaders of virtual teams.
Here are 6 ways to inspire and motivate your virtual teams:
1) Hire quality talent from the start: It is extremely important that virtual workers actually fit in with the virtual team. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of handling working in a virtual environment. During the interview phase, ask potential candidates about their preferred work style and how receptive they may be to working within a virtual team. Once on board, you should also work with them to understand their communications preferences and needs. With a solid insight into these, you can be far more effective in reading, managing, and motivating each individual.
2) Empower your team members: Let your employees know that you trust them get the job done (which you should). Be sure to give them the right tools they need to perform the tasks that you ask of them. Create a development plan that puts them on a path to success; by investing in them, you get back an employee that is committed and loyal to the cause. A well rounded development plan will support this path to success, and when appropriate, will allow you to promote those people internally. This can lead to culture everyone wants to be a part of.
3) Provide opportunities for professional development and education: It has been repeatedly proven that providing professional development not only empowers employees; they are far more likely to stick around when they feel that they are valued and being given something of value that they can leverage to further their career and opportunities. Be sure to schedule regular training and education for your team members. It serves to develop them as both employees and contributors, as well as individuals.
4) Encourage casual communication: Set aside some time for casual conversation with your team members. Catching up on personal details or indulging in non-work related chat can offer a vastly refreshing change from the daily grind. Don’t be afraid to share some tidbits of personal information with your employees as well as allowing them the opportunity do the same.
5) Spend time together as a team: Team building exercises are a fantastic way to get everyone together that is typically only connected virtually. When you regularly only see someone through a screen, actual face time becomes even critical to the health and strength of a team than it would be in a normal office environment. Consider a quarterly or yearly team-building weekend. The purpose of these type of activities is intended to forge stronger relationships in a fun and engaging environment.
6) Rewards are key: Employees want recognition, plain and simple. In today’s workplace rewards are a big deal, with some companies attracting younger talent based largely on how hip the workplace or culture is and the unique perks that follow. Free yoga classes, vinyl Fridays, or artisanal cold press fair trade coffee stations may be trendy, the best rewards are those that are more meaningful and permanent. Small gestures such as praising them publicly, writing a LinkedIn recommendation, or even a company-wide recognition email can go a long way to inspire your employees.
Even though working with a virtual team has its own unique challenges, there are plenty of ways to make sure each of your team members stays inspired and motivated to do their best work. Consider the tips above to help your team reach its fullest potential.