While the benefits are many (lower costs, bigger talent pool, happier staff, a healthier culture), remote working does have its challenges.
To manage a virtual team effectively takes skill, and anyone who’s trying to do it will need to invest in the kind of training, processes, and systems that can set them up for success.
Learn from our own experience of building and managing a virtual team. These are our best tips.
1. Hire the right people
Think carefully about the type of team members you’re looking for – not just in terms of skills and experience, but attitude, personality, and company values, too.
Choose attitude over skills
Skills can be taught and practised, but attitudes are in-built. If someone’s not a good fit from the beginning, you’ll end up investing a lot of time and energy trying to mould them. (Probably more than you’d spend teaching the right person a new skill.)
Seek complementary personalities
How will new recruits work with existing team members?
Consider the dynamic you currently have. How do you see someone new fitting in? Do you want more of the same when it comes to character, or are you looking for someone a bit different who’ll bring something new?
Are you missing someone who’s got a good eye for detail, for example? A creative thinker? A problem solver? Someone with a fun, lively personality who’ll help to bring the team together?
Remember that values matter
Beyond attitude and personality, it’s worth considering how new recruits fit with your brand values.
If you’re committed to workplace equality, for example, build a diverse team. If you’re passionate about empowering working mums, look for team members who’ll be able to understand the challenges working mums face.
When your team both reflects and connects with your brand values, you’ll find it easier to act and grow in an authentic and organic way.
Further reading/resources: 16Personalities – Take the quiz to identify your own personality and learn more about the 16 different types and how they work together.
2. Set clear expectations
Give new recruits the best possible start by communicating effectively from the outset. Set the right tone in the early days of a new working relationship and you’ll find it much easier to manage a virtual team.
Prioritise the onboarding process
The first few weeks working with a new team can be a challenging time. The more you can do to ease the transition and prepare your new team members, the more likely they’ll be to succeed.
A team handbook is a great tool for ensuring information is delivered thoroughly and consistently to new hires. Use it to educate them about your company, its background, your aims and values, and let them know where they fit into that and why they matter.
Create a job description
As much as it’s important to paint a bigger picture, you’ll need to drill down into the details of the role, too.
A professional job description will help to make sure you’re both clear on what’s expected and acceptable. Clear up any questions about the role and responsibilities in advance to prevent difficulties in the future.
Further reading/resources: Dubsado is one of our favourite pieces of business software. It could provide you with a great opportunity to streamline and automate your team onboarding process.
3. Communicate clearly and regularly
Communication is key in all aspects of business, but particularly when part of your responsibility is to manage a virtual team.
More and more companies are building teams that work together virtually. While the benefits of hiring from a national or even global talent pool are obvious, the risks must be carefully managed.
Follow the steps below to ensure your team stays motivated and committed whilst working towards shared goals.
Find the right communication tools
Slack is a cloud-based messaging and file sharing platform that makes it easy for teams to stay in touch and work collaboratively.
Slack (which is an acronym for Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge) puts an end to long email chains and brings all internal comms together in one place.
Just as video is a marketer’s best tool, those who manage a virtual team can benefit significantly from using it.
As well as saving you the cost and time that face-to-face meetings would incur, it’ll also prove far more effective than written communications.
Have regular team meetings
Whether in-person meetings are possible or you make use of video conferencing, regular meetings will help unite your team and keep everyone on the same page.
To ensure team members stay engaged and get the maximum benefit from your meetings:
- Send out an agenda beforehand so everyone knows what to expect and can prepare
- Stick to a schedule but make sure everyone has an opportunity to contribute
- Balance out constructive criticism with praise and recognition
- Compile and distribute a summary afterwards, including any agreed action points
You might also find it useful to follow the format of standup meetings – a quick, efficient method for sharing status updates and reporting obstacles.
Use project management tools
To run a virtual team efficiently, you’ll need to make use of some smart apps and tools. When you’re not all in the same place physically, you can at least make sure your work is digitally.
We’re big fans of Asana here at The Assistant Quarters; we use it every day.
Asana can be used to manage projects, delegate tasks, share files and ideas, and keep track of timelines. It makes it easy to organise and plan, and it’s the perfect tool for keeping everything in one place.
A similar tool is Trello. Both provide most of the same features, though visual thinkers tend to prefer Trello for its simpler layout and colour-coding options.
Both Trello and Asana come with free plans that include plenty of useful features. If you’re ready to take your project management to the next level, you can pay to upgrade.
Dubsado is an all-in-one business management tool. It allows you to send emails, forms, proposals, and contracts, manage leads and jobs, send invoices, take payments, and manage your accounts. Beyond that, it has plenty of options for integration and automation, meaning it can save you heaps of time and make your business run more smoothly.
Need help to figure out which systems to use? Want support to implement them quickly and effectively?
We’ll set-up an online system for you. We’ll create training videos to help you transition, provide guides and further reading to set you up for success, and check in with you later down the line to make sure everything’s running smoothly.
Train/support with video
Where you can’t be in the same room to train and give demonstrations, screen sharing or recording with Loom is the next best thing.
After you’ve created a video in Loom you can drop a link right onto your project management board or into your onboarding documents.
Be strategic when you’re creating training content and don’t use your trainees name. That way you can reuse the same material in the future.
Forget endless wordy emails or training manuals. Make it easier and quicker for everyone by utilising video.
4. Make collaboration easy
Look for opportunities to encourage teamwork and support collaborative efforts and you’ll be empowering your team members to do better work.
Use the right tools/software
Saving your files in this way also means team members can work together on one document, removing the need for multiple versions and ensuring information is always up to date.
We’ve mentioned Asana already, but it deserves another nod here. With project boards, timeline features, the option to assign tasks, and an easy-to-follow commenting system, Asana helps teams work together online.
Where Asana is our go-to tool for managing projects and client work, Slack is our hub for all things communication. Use it to seek feedback, ask questions, make announcements, give encouragement, share ideas, and arrange calls or meetings. It’s the simplest and quickest way to stay in touch.
Unite international team members
Where you’re managing an international team, consider time zones and working hours. A team member might struggle to feel connected if they’re the only one working during their shift.
Try to make working hours overlap and provide opportunities for the whole team to come together, either in person or via video conferencing.
5. Build and maintain a team culture
If staying organised and keeping everyone on the same page are your two biggest practical concerns, team culture is your biggest psychological one.
Let’s explore what you can do to build and maintain a strong company culture when you manage a virtual team.
Meet in person
As much as technology has come along way in helping us communicate and collaborate, nothing can replace those face-to-face interactions.
Even if it’s only once a year, your team will benefit from meeting in person – be it for a social event or to work side-by-side on a project or plan.
Working alone can be lonely. When a new recruit joins you, what’s driving them might be the opportunity to feel part of a team again.
In-person social events will help to solidify relationships.
And it’s good news all round – a happy, harmonious team will produce better results.
Seek input and advice from your team
We feel more invested in something when we’re invited to contribute – it’s human nature.
If you want to get the most from your team, empower them to share ideas, give feedback, and help make decisions.
Create fun and boost morale
Beyond the work, have some fun with your virtual team. Run sweepstakes, hold competitions, and celebrate birthdays.
A team that has fun together will feel more connected and committed.
Share news and updates about the company
Finally, include your team when you’re reviewing the company’s progress, announcing news and updates, and planning for the future.
Sharing these things will remind your people of the company’s values, your shared goals, and their place within the team.
Recognise their efforts and contributions and you’ll boost their morale and incentivise them to work harder.
There are so many advantages to building a virtual team, but it takes effort and commitment to manage one successfully.
Getting the best out of people takes patience, empathy, strong communication skills, creativity, and the ability to motivate.
Give yourself a headstart by implementing the kind of processes that’ll bring out the best in you and your people.
Need help to build and manage a virtual team effectively?
Our founder Claire is an Online Business Manager. Whether you’re working on getting a new team, system, or project up and running, or you’re busy with the day-to-day management of your online business, let Claire ease some of the pressures you’re facing.
Call us on 0208 064 1969 or book in for a discovery call to chat about your options.
Prefer email? Ours is firstname.lastname@example.org