As companies of all sizes discover the benefits of a remote or virtual workforce, more businesses have employees and contractors who work on job sites, travel to meet with clients, or that work at home. What do business owners and their management staff need to know and what technology is required to manage a remote workforce effectively?
One of the changes associated with the introduction of web-based collaboration tools and high-speed Internet connections is the exponential growth of the remote workforce and virtual teams. According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, a recent survey conducted by Ferrazzi Greenlight that queried 1,700 knowledge workers found 79 percent reported they worked in virtual teams. In addition, Global Workforce Analytics report the number of people who work at home or remotely increased 79.7 percent from 2005 to 2012. In fact, the same report indicates the remote workforce actually grew 3.8 percent during the Great Recession. What is driving the transition to a remote workforce and adaption to virtual teams?
The Advantages of Virtual Teams and Remote Staffing Arrangements
Once business owners and managers discovered how to create the environment for effective and productive telecommuting and virtual teams, the benefits of the remote workforce started to become evident. Some of the advantages associated with virtual teams according to Keith Ferrazzi in his article in the Harvard Business Review include:
- Flexibility as far as scheduling and other work arrangements for both management and employees, which improves employee engagement and productively while reducing costs.
- Decreased need for office space and equipment is a cost saver. Global Workforce Analytics reports businesses save $11,000 per remote worker they have within their company.
- The ability for employees in one location to work collaboratively with others across the country or the globe, enhancing problem-solving and innovation by tapping into an organization’s diverse talent base.
- The use of virtual teams allows companies to tap into a global talent pool, providing businesses the ability to find the best people with the skills and right fit for their organization.
An Aon Consulting report indicates the employers they surveyed found their organizational efficiency improved by 43 percent when they implemented virtual teams and remote working arrangements.
A MIT Sloan Institute study, investigating the effectiveness of global teams, found that establishing and managing effective and productive virtual teams requires a different management style and environment than what is used in traditional office-based settings. What are the elements required for successfully developing and managing effective, efficient, and productive virtual teams?
The Four Factors Required for Success Remote Workforce Management
In his HBR article, Ferrazzi asserts the four factors that determine the success of a virtual team include the type and number of people on a team, the management’s leadership style, the structure and culture established within a group, and the technology used by the team to collaborate and communicate.
Some of the specific elements of each of these factors associated with effective remote work teams are as follows:
- People: When working remotely, effective written and oral communication skills are essential as well as keen “listening” skills and the ability to work independently. Additionally, virtual workers need to have a high level of emotional intelligence because they need to be able to empathize and develop a sense of understanding with others. For international workgroups, awareness and sensitivity to different cultural norms and communication style is essential. According to Ferrazzi, teams with ten or fewer members are the most effective because people in larger groups tend to assume “someone else” did a task, so personal responsibility decreases as group size increases.
- Management Leadership Style: While experience with leading virtual groups is helpful, the most important leadership skills required by mangers working with remote workers is the ability to establish and maintain open and trusting relationships. In addition, the manager needs to communicate a common vision for the team and establish clear goals and guidelines for the group.
- Establishing the Structure and Expectations for the Group: Depending on the distance a business’s virtual workforce is from a company’s physical operations center, an initial face-to-face meeting is essential when starting a team or onboarding new staff. If distance prohibits a “real life” meeting, then meeting via videoconferencing is an effective alternative. In either circumstance, the objective of the initial meeting is to establish the goals of the team, the guidelines for interacting with then team, and the expectations for the individual staff member or contractor.
- Technology: A reliable and dependable high-speed Internet connection is the heart of a virtual team, especially if the collaboration software is hosted on private company servers. Even if a business uses cloud-based tools, an Internet outage breaks down your lines of communication with your team, decreasing its productivity and engagement. In addition, if your company’s Internet connection lags, tasks such as uploading and retrieving files becomes impossibly time consuming.
Ultimately, the success of a virtual team requires robust communication tools, such as video calls, instant messaging, and real time discussions, The optimal performance of your collaboration and communication applications, such as Skype, depends on having ultra-low latency Internet connectivity so information flows smoothly.
The Success of Your Business’s Remote Workforce
With the rapid growth of remote teams, businesses of all sizes are finding the need to adopt some type of virtual workforce. While hiring the right people and management is up to you, Natural Wireless can provide you with fiber-speed Internet service with service level agreements guaranteeing 99.99% uptime.
About Natural Wireless
Natural Wireless owns and operates its broadband network to provide businesses dedicated, secured, and symmetrical Internet connection with guaranteed reliability and speed. Contact us to learn more about Better Internet…Naturally!