Managing Diverse Virtual Teams

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Upcoming Need to Work Virtually

The changes in how organizations operate within the globalenvironment have resulted in the developing and widespread use ofvirtual teams. Unlike traditional teams, where employees work onprojects within the same space, location and time, a virtual teamrefers to people who work together from different geographiclocations, cultures, space in addition to having unique valuesystems. It is important that both, current and future workers areaware of the significance of working virtually.

As the organization expands globally, virtual teams will act as aperfect way of facilitating teamwork in circumstances where,employees work in different physical locations. Pinjani and Palviaexplain that virtual teams make it possible for organizations to“transfer best practice information instantaneously among teammembers” (2013: 144). For example, employees are able to make useof information and communication tools, like the internet, to discussprojects with fellow workmates from other countries.

These teams will become important to the organization in the longrun as they will ensure business expenses are reduced. The companyincurs a lot of expenses in travel, relocating employees andoutsourcing. Employees will not be required to travel frequently tosubsidiary companies as they can hold online meetings, use electronicmails or Skype with teams from different locations. Also, skillsneeded from individuals in different countries or regions may becostly as the organization is compelled to meet all relocationexpenses. However, virtue needs make it unnecessary for such workersto relocate as they can communicate as well as manage their teammembers virtually.

How to Work Effectively in Virtual Teams

Although it may appear as a clear-cut way of working in teams,virtual teams are associated with many challenges. Unlike traditionalteams, virtual team members are not physically present whencommunicating. Hence, how an individual communicates virtually has ahigh possibility of influencing the effectiveness of the team. AsWatkins notes “communication on virtual teams is often lessfrequent, and always is less rich than face-to-face interaction,which provides more contextual cues” (2013: 1). As a result, teammembers should be extremely clear in their communication, talk at areasonable speed, and listen carefully.

Communication is fundamental to the success of any team. Employeesworking together must be able to understand each other. Apart fromlistening and communicating clearly, it is also necessary to considerthe communication modes utilized, which relies on the circumstance(Watkins 2013: 1). For instance, when an urgent response is needed bya team member, it is wiser to communicate through a phone callinstead of sending an electronic mail. By call, the team memberreceives the information instantly and is able to seek clarificationinstantly. This reduces time that may be wasted sending emails to andfrom.

Another strategy for working effectively virtually is being selfdisciplined (Morley, Cormican and Folan 2015: 191). Since it is notpossible for the team leader to frequently supervise team members invirtual teams, employees working virtually are expected to beself-disciplined. This means that they are not reminded to completeassigned tasks in time, attend online meetings as expected orcommunicate appropriately. Self-discipline also enhances anindividual’s acceptance into a virtual team, regardless ofdifferences in culture or belief systems. This is because othermembers feel that the individual is committed to their work and thusfocuses more on team projects than on their differences.

Managing Virtue Teams

Building Trust

One strategy involves building the trust of team members, whichensures that managers are able to develop virtual teams that compriseof workers from different cultures. According to Lillian (2014:1256), trust plays a crucial role in ensuring that internationalalliances are successful. In addition, it is very important forvirtual teams to be based on trust, because employees are notconversant with their group members. It is a major motivationalfactor, which derives from the fact that team members expect everyindividual will complete their tasks in a timely manner, and act withthe intention of fulfilling the team’s objectives (Lillian 2014:1257).

However, since virtual teams comprise of individuals from differentcultures, it is challenging for trust to develop. Hence, team leadersought to devise manners of building trusting relationship among teammembers. The cognition-based as well as affect-based trust theoriesinform on how leaders can build trust in a virtual team, which inturn enhances the effective management of virtual teams. Thecognition-based trust theory notes that leaders should focus onimproving team members’ perceptions about each other (Owonikoko2016: 26). For instance, employees accepting that despite coming fromdifferent cultures, they are equally competent. As a result, itbecomes possible for employees to exchange personal information abouteach other, facilitating the process of learning about thedifferences among team members. In the process trusting interpersonalrelationships are formed.

Affect-based trust theory derives from concern, emotions, sympathyand care depicted by team members as they work together. The theoryexplains that such trust level ensures employees are free to sharepersonal as well as task-related information, regardless of“nationality, geographical disparity, communication level or means,and time differential” (Owonikoko 2016: 27). Hence, leaders shouldwork towards improving the level of affection among team members.Once employees are affectionate to the needs of each other, they areable to trust each other. This enhances how they work as a team,which in turn results in an effective virtual team.

Proper Communication

Another strategy to ensure effective management of virtual teams isproper communication. According to Evans, communication in virtualteams is frequently restricted by the absence of “nonverbal visualcues, which are integral in developing clear messaging” (2011: 1).This means that team members depend solely on the means ofcommunication used by fellow employees to prioritize or respond toissues. Thus, team leaders must clarify what channels to use duringregular communication by team members, the amount of time taken torespond, and how information communicated is prioritized (Evans 2011:1). The leaders should be actively involved in scheduling when groupmembers meet, and how they deliver reports.

The situational leadership theory notes that “virtual team leadersshould find appropriate methods of contact with members to becomemore effective” (Mogale and Sutherland 2010: 10). The theoryfurther explains that leaders must have clear schedules relating tohow teams exchange information. Further, situational leadershiptheory notes that virtual team leaders must depict an ability toprovide regular and punctual communication with team members. Thepresumption is that when communication is properly managed, itbecomes possible for virtual teams to work effectively, because theyare able to discuss issues when need arises in a timely manner andusing appropriate communication channels.

References

Evans, J. (2011) ‘8 tips for effective virtual teams.’ PsychologyToday [online]. Available from&lthttps://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/smartwork/201104/8-tips-effective-virtual-teams&gt[31 August 2016]

Lilian, S. C. (2014) ‘Virtual teams: Opportunities and challengesfor e-leaders.’ Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences(110) 1251-1261

Mogale, L., and Sutherland, M. (2010) ‘Managing virtual teams inmultinational companies.’ Journal of Labour Relations 34,(2) 7-24

Morley, S., Cormican, K., and Folan, P. (2015) ‘An analysis ofvirtual team characteristics: A model for virtual project managers.’Journal of Technology Management and Innovation 10, (1)188-203

Owonikoko, E. A. (2016) ‘Building and maintaining trust in virtualteams as a competitive strategy.’ Walden University ScholarWorks [online]. Available from&lthttp://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3113&ampcontext=dissertations&gt[31 August 2016]

Pinjani, P., and Palvia, P. (2013) ‘Trust and knowledge sharing indiverse global virtual teams.’ Information and Management50, (4) 144-153

Watkins, M. D. (2013) ‘Making virtual teams work: Ten basicprinciples.’ Harvard Business Review [online]. Availablefrom &lthttps://hbr.org/2013/06/making-virtual-teams-work-ten&gt[31 August 2016]

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