“Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” –Mattie Stepanek
The difference between business success and failure is the team you have behind you. Building a well-oiled team is easier said than done, and can be rewarding and challenging if you are trying to do it solely online.
It’s pretty common to have a virtual team spread out in various parts of the world, thus making time and cultural differences an issue. However, people who work online do so in order to enjoy a higher level of flexibility, and a space they find engaging.
Yes, there are challenges, but there are also numerous benefits, which is the reason many companies are shifting from the traditional offices to virtual teams. After all, you have more talent at your disposal since you are not fixed by a geographic area, and the costs of employing an online team can be far less since you are reducing overhead, such as office space, equipment, taxes and supplies. Another upside to hiring online workers is they are able to deliver your services 24/7.
Find and Hire Great Workers
In today’s economy, hiring the best people is more critical than ever. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to lose time, money and results from a bad hiring choice.
As we know, a team typically includes people with different work styles, personalities and goals. The cost of finding, interviewing, engaging and training new employees is high. Although finding the perfect mix of diversity can be challenging, doing so can mean long term success for your company.
I have identified a three key areas that is essential before taking the plunge with a virtual worker.
- Competence. Does the likely worker have the necessary skills, experiences, education and self-discipline to successfully manage and complete tasks?
- Compatibility. Can this person get along with the team, and more importantly, can he or she get along with existing and potential clients, partners and stakeholders?
- Commitment. Will this person complete not only the easy tasks but will he or she also find ways to deliver on tasks that require more effort and creativity? And is this person available to deliver work within the agreed deadlines?
Just be sure when selecting the right workers, that they are able to perform the work and with low expectation of management input. If you have to constantly check up on their progress or reminding them what needs to be done, they most likely are not the best person for an online position. Self-motivation is one of the most essential traits to look for in an online employee.
Be a Leader-Centered Entrepreneur
Since you will be shifting to online team meetings or conference calls, rather than face to face meetings, it is important to give each worker clear instructions and clear expectations of their role. For example, traditional employees typically work in the same building and are spending lots of time together which allows each other to over communicate and pick up on body language and subtle verbal cues. However, online workers are restricted to verbal or written communications. Therefore, if verbal or written communications are not crystal clear, this can lead to a dip in work quality and productivity.
It’s a good idea to clearly define each workers role to reduce confusion and to increase work flow. A single team member going off script can hinder the work being done by the rest of the work group – and more so with virtual teams since catching the problem may not be quickly discernable. Also, be sure to share the workers roles and contact information with the rest of the team so everyone is aware of who is doing what and who to get in touch with.
Let’s be real. Distance is not an excuse for lack of communication, especially with technology being so easily accessible. Use technology to your advantage. A few tools I use to communicate with my team are: Free Conference Call, Skype, Gmail, Slack, and Asana.
Set your intentions to hire leaders and not just worker bees or followers. After all, you cannot lead your online team solo –that is, if you want to scale your business. Therefore, find ways to mentor your leaders and strengthen them to think and lead your ship. In return you create an environment for online workers to feel connected and vested in the team.
Be a Connected Leader
Fostering a strong working relationship with each team member is essential to group connectedness and growth. Be up front and honest with your team, so that you can establish trust. Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. So true! Think about it, when was the last time you bent over backwards for someone who didn’t care about you?
Let’s face it, most entrepreneurs can be all work and no praise. We have a gazillion things on our minds to get done on the daily and quite frankly we can miss the gold that is right under our nose. If your virtual workers are growing your company then, do take time out and let them know they are appreciated. This simple principle is often missed in the hustle and bustle of business. More often than not, encouragement may be the secret sauce to keep your online team engaged.
Empathy is a great trait for being a connected leader. Workers will be more inclined to talk about issues they have if they know you are there to listen. Affirming your open door policy is should be communicated to your online team. Home-based workers can often feel isolated, so knowing there is someone they can talk to will help keep them motivated and morale high.
If you take the time to follow the tips outlined above, you will build an online team that is both productive and successful.
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