Managing a team is not easy and when the team is dispersed across the globe one needs to deal with it skillfully because it brings in its own set of challenges. So, when you are asked to work on a project involving individuals who are geographically dispersed, the first thing that you would like to ensure is that all the team members are on the same page. Most often there is no time or opportunity to have a physical face to face interaction. So, how do you ensure that all the team members work in sync with each other despite not being located physically in the same location? How can you make a workforce function remotely?
Well, because they have to work online what better way than to start getting trained remotely. Working online requires a uniform understanding among team members. Thankfully, we do have some online tools and solutions that can be of great help in this regard. You can develop small modules or courses that your team members can complete before starting on a project. These online methods can enable you to bring parity in team functioning so that working together becomes smooth and efficient. Here are some essential skills and knowledge areas in which online modules can be developed as they form a prerequisite to working with remote team members.
Orientation on norms, policies and procedures: Formulate clear-cut policies and procedures so that it serves as a guideline for all team members with respect to the methods of communication, document sharing, acceptable time zones and collaborative working. These can be explained to the team members through short online virtual meeting using tools such as Adobe Connect, Go To Meeting, Citrix Online, and so on to get the ball rolling and explain the workflow process and team expectations. These can also be developed as small videos or modules that can be made available as an easy reference to the team members at all times.
Knowledge about virtual tools: Depending on the methods that you adopt to communicate with your team members, you need to provide orientation on how these tools can be used. Whether it is video conferencing, Adobe Connect, or Citrix Online or document sharing tools such as drop box or box.net, you will need to train team members on how and when to use these methods for communicating and sharing information.
Importance of information security and compliance: You will also need to educate remote team members about information security and privacy policies of the organization that they need to adhere to – particularly in the way information is exchanged and shared among team members. Depending on the set up of your organization, you need to familiarize all team members about the risks involved and the precautions to be taken to ensure there are no inadvertent security breaches.
Cultural and language barriers: Face-to-face communication helps build trust over a period of time. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, communication-be it over emails or through phone calls-need to be carefully worded to ensure that there is no scope of misinterpretation. It is a good idea to orient team members about the acceptable tone of emails and sensitivity toward different cultures and language limitations. Circulating a written agenda prior to the virtual interaction and minutes of the meeting later ensures there is no ambiguity in terms of decisions and action points.
In addition to the above areas that can be dealt with through short eLearning modules, you can set up an online professional learning community, which acts as a virtual forum for exchange of ideas among team members. Social media tools are extensively used by individuals to interact with their peers and friends (both formally and informally). Having an exclusive virtual group within the corporate intranet or learning management portal could be helpful for the team to interact on an informal basis. This could also serve as a virtual water cooler that could facilitate team bonding.
Working with remote teams is no longer an exceptional case but is increasingly becoming the norm in most corporate organizations. Therefore, providing orientation to the team members about their roles and responsibilities though online training solutions expedites the process of onboarding dispersed team members. What do you say? Do let us know your views on this.