Sage Advice

How to Keep Your Virtual Team Connected

Hiring a virtual, independently contracted team for your small business is a smart move. Not only will you save money on office space, benefits, and insurance—you also get the opportunity to pick and choose from the best talent. In a recent study, it was found that virtual teams typically outperform traditional teams.

Do I have your attention now?

So, here’s the problem—finding the balance to achieve unity and focus for a virtual team isn’t easy. To set the tone, you’ll need to have some ground rules. A non-traditional team needs your best management skills. Here are three key areas you need to worry about and plan for:

  1. Communication is key.
    Communication is important–that’s a no brainer. But it’s also one of those things that can get out of hand quickly. Get off to a good start by creating a standard communication policy to share with your virtual workers. It should lay out clear expectations about how you will communicate online.Do you prefer Skype for quick questions but want to document everything else in a project management system? Do you assign via email? How do team members get in contact each other? Set these ground rules first and clear up potential confusion.
  2. Check in with the team.

    Don’t be distant. When you’re present and passionate, you can expect incredible results from their team. If you are cold and distant, you’ll get that back – no one going the extra mile or checking in regularly.

  3. Establish guidelines for tracking progress. What exact steps should your team take to consider their project complete and for a job well done? Some founders require weekly meetings with virtual team members a day or two before staff meetings so they can present their progress to the group. You can also require that virtual members monitor and self-evaluate their work on a regular basis. Using a project management tool with alerts makes it easy for all workers--and you—to manage workflow and stay engaged with the team.

  4. Be aware of time zones.
    Your team member has committed to having an assignment turned in to you by EOD. Unfortunately, you’re stepping out for dinner at 6 pm and see nothing in your inbox. The reason? Maybe your contractor’s EOD doesn’t come for another three hours! Avoid this confusion by picking one clock and sticking to it. If you’re all on the same time zone schedule, you’ll be on the same page. This is especially important for time-sensitive projects.

When you set ground rules for virtual employees, be sure to invite their feedback. They are the ones who understand what helps them perform to their highest potential. With their input and these three points, you’ll have a killer virtual team plan in no time.

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