Apple, US multinational giant in electronics and mobile devices. We all know Apple, have used their iPhones, iPads, iPods etc and are even in love with them.
But what many of us do not know is even though Apple’s products are designed in US, but its manufacturing is done in countries like China, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong etc.
What does that mean? It simply means that those techie engineers design the software etc in the US and then pass them over to their teams across geographies for manufacturing. This is a typical example of working with remote teams.
Not just Apple but many multinational corporations outsource some of their functions to other countries because it helps them not only a lot of money but also gives them access to a greater cross-cultural talent pool of skilled people.
Now you’re probably wondering – “It must be really difficult to manage a remote team and ensure that you meet business expectations”
A professional journey with a remote team is never smooth.
On your way, you will meet many surprises and challenges that may give you a bumpy ride sometimes.
You’ll probably even come across situations which will make you want to tear you hair out!
But the good news is it can be managed.
Well…that’s something we are going to cover in this blog post.
What is a virtual team?
The Academy of Management Executive described a virtual team as,
“A group of people who work independently with shared purpose across space, time, and organization boundaries, using technology to communicate and collaborate.”
By hiring virtual assistants, entrepreneurs are able to employ highly skilled professionals without breaking the bank. And skilled professionals can get employment without leaving their doorsteps.
However, working with a virtual team is not always fulfilling for both organizations and employees.
Here are common challenges that most people face when working with a virtual team:
- Misunderstanding from poor communication
In his beautiful post on The Effects of Poor Communication Alexis Writing, said,
“To establish a strong business relationship, effective communication practices must be established. Many opportunities for poor communication take place in any work environment.”
This is especially true in case of virtual teams where different team members are from different cultures, country, and background or speak different languages.
As there is no physical clue, communicating by emails, IM, or telephone can be really difficult.
In order to manage the productivity of your virtual team, it is important for you to overcome this hurdle.
How to deal with it
The best way to avoid any misunderstanding is to communicate in clear, plain language.
Avoid using idiomatic expressions etc. Not every person may be able to get it. Communicate in plain, simple language. Communicate daily and at regular intervals either through emails, chat or video conferencing.
Always ask for explanations where there is confusion. Don’t guess or assume anything.
This can ease communication barriers to a great extent.
- Difficulty in establishing rapport & trust
In-person interaction or a face-to-face meeting may not be possible while working with a remote team.
So it becomes sometimes difficult to establish rapport & trust. This affects the productivity of a virtual team. Also establishing rapport and trust is a challenge especially when communication is limited to virtual means.
The lack of rapport & trust can hamper the productivity of your virtual team so it is absolutely essential to build rapport and establish trust amongst virtual team.
How to fix it
The secret to building rapport and trust lies in being more proactive.
You can share your success with the team members, help other members in solving their issues, suggest ways to complete projects efficiently.
These simple acts will help you build rapport among team members.
Remember that your team members judge you by simple acts such as how promptly you respond to emails, how you follow up on what you say, and how you interact with other team members.
- Sense of isolation
People who work in remote teams are connected with other people only through email, chats, and Skype.
So, needless to say, it is quite usual for people who work in virtual teams to feel isolated.
Your team might feel that you have forgotten them after assigning them tasks.
Isolation is a big productivity killer.
If you want to catapult the productivity of your remote team, you need to break the barriers and make each and every member of the team regardless of their physical location feel connected.
How to bust it
The best way to combat isolation is to take active steps.
You can create a support group for the members of your virtual team, where all the members can share their problems.
If used creatively, a support group for a virtual team can bust the sense of isolation completely.
Encourage your remote workers to meet their friends and relatives, spend quality time with their families, go for vacations, take the memberships of hobby groups.
This way, you will be able to keep the sense of isolation at bay.
As pointed out by Sebastian Bailey in Forbes,
“Building specific ‘social time’ into the team calendar helps, as does starting every meeting with a quick update on everyone’s lives – weekend plans, upcoming holidays.”
- Lack of training
While hiring remote workers it is not always possible to hire experts who are good at what they do. They may require some amount of training or supervision before being able to function independently.
This can hamper the productivity of the team.
How to tackle this situation
The best way to tackle this situation is to choose a company that offers a free trial of its virtual assistant services.
Leading companies, such as Ninja VA, offer a free trial and a 100% money-back guarantee of its virtual assistant services.
Take a free trial of virtual assistant services before you hire. This will help you in hiring a skilled remote team.
Read my previous post ‘Top 5 Things You Must Know Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant’
You should understand the fact you will have to provide your remote team with a brief information about your business, even if you hire experienced virtual assistants.
Say for instance, you hire a virtual team for social media promotion of lifestyle products.
And your virtual assistants promoted electronic items in the past. A little bit training, especially what works well and what doesn’t in your industry, can bring better results.
- Difficulty with delegation
If you are managing a big team of remote workers, you might face problems in delegating the right tasks to the team members.
If remote team members don’t get tasks as per their expertise, the productivity is certain to suffer.
So, to hack the optimum growth for your business, you should delegate your remote tasks as per their expertise and past experience.
As rightly said by Laura Woods in her article,
“A good manager takes notes on her employee’s’ strengths and career aspirations and finds relevant tasks to delegate to them.”
How to overcome this hurdle
The best way to delegate the right tasks to the right remote workers is to understand their expertise and consider their past experiences.
There is no rocket science in it. It’s plain and simple. This simple exercise before starting a project can increase the productivity of your virtual team dramatically.
As rightly said by Carter McNamara in his article,
“Assess the skills and capabilities of the person to be sure that individual can actually accomplish the task. Does he/she have the knowledge, skills and abilities to do the task? If not, the person might need training. Or, perhaps the task should be delegated to someone else.”
Virtual teams are on the rise. So, without any doubt, you can easily scale up your business operations with the help of a virtual assistant team.
Misunderstanding from poor communication, difficulty in establishing rapport & trust, sense of isolation, lack of training, and difficulty with delegation are some common challenges you can face working with a remote team.
Keep these pointers in check and you will certainly increase the productivity of your virtual team.
Ever worked on a Virtual assistant team?
What more do you want to add to this post?
I’d love to hear about it. Do leave a comment!