Virtual Teams Research Paper Employees no longer need to walk into the same office in the same building, in the same location, in the same city, in the same state, in the same country. The workplace has evolved, times have changed and technology advancement has allowed for the world to connect virtually. Employees can work together and perform as an effective team located in a variety of geographic locations. Rapid advancement of technology advancement has changed the way the world operates. Technology now allows people the opportunity to communicate from any location in the world.
The terms working from home and remote employee have come to be common vocabulary. Using the Job search website Monster, I ran an advanced search and used the keyword virtual and received a result of 247 matching Jobs. Companies such as Compact, Tech data, have remote positions posted on Monster. Walgreen pharmacy has pharmacist positions that review prescriptions from home and approve prescriptions from home. When performing a Job search on the Career builder website 6,603 Jobs related to the keyword remote and 5,093 Jobs related to the keyword virtual.
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The concept of working virtually has grown and is pretty common and the current workforce should equip themselves of best practices and be in the know of how to effectively participate and function as a member of a virtual team. A virtual team is a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. Some organizations may have a single department working from multiple locations, or multiple department project teams working at multiple locations, and others might be working with some vendor teams.
Some of the most moon virtual teams are networked teams, parallel team, project development teams, work, production or functional teams. According to a research study conducted by the Society Human Resource Management, more commonly referred to as SHRIMP, fielded December 8, 2011- January 3, 2012 the findings revealed that nearly one-half of organizations (46%) use virtual teams in their workplace. Roughly one- quarter of the organizations using virtual teams are U. S. -based operations (28%), while organizations with multinational operations are more than twice as likely (66%) to use virtual teams.
Treated notes in the eBook Mastering Virtual Teams: Strategies, Tools, and Techniques That Succeed that Organizations that do not use virtual teams effectively may be fighting an uphill battle in a global, competitive, and rapidly changing environment. Organizations that will succeed in the next millennium have found new ways of working across boundaries through systems, processes, technology, and people. Understanding how to work in or lead a virtual team is becoming a fundamental competence for people in many organizations.
Virtual teams often are formed as a reaction to a business requirement or as a result of programs. It is not uncommon to talk with people who lead or work in virtual teams who do not have a great deal of experience working on teams in a co-located environment. People who lead and work in virtual teams need to have special skills, including an understanding of human dynamics, knowledge of how to manage across functional areas and national cultures, and the ability to use communication technologies as their primary means of communicating and collaborating.
This research paper contains findings from a variety of resources related to virtual teams their value, communication within a virtual team, participating in a virtual team dieting, decision-making within a virtual team and leading a virtual team. Virtual teams are a great way to enable teamwork in situations where the right people for the team cannot be in the same place at the same time. In addition to providing value, using virtual teams can significantly reduce costs.
In a recent SHRIMP survey fielded December 8, 2011- January 3, 2012 the findings revealed that organizations that use virtual teams, approximately one-half use them to include talent in different geographic locations (53%) and to boost collaboration among employees in different geographic locations (49%). Other reasons for using virtual teams include improving productivity (39%), minimizing costs for travel (39%), and collaborating more across global business units because work projects are becoming more global (37%).
The type of organizations that participates in virtual teams range from industries reported publicly owned for profit (50%) and privately owned for profit (46%). Also reported in the recent SHRIMP survey was some of the most successful teamwork behaviors resulting from the use of virtual teams. Nearly three-quarters of organizations (72%) indicated that brainstorming solutions for problems or issues as the most successful behavior for virtual teams, followed by setting goals for team initiatives or projects (68%) and developing plans for team initiatives or projects (63%).
Obstacles that prevent virtual teams from being successful were also reported. About one-half of organizations reported that building team relations (51 %) and time differences (49%) were the top challenges for successful virtual teams. Organizations also indicated that additional challenges to using virtual teams were distribution of work (32%), differences in cultural norms (26%) and leadership of these types of teams (25%). Although virtual teams can provide a cost saving to an organization the challenges must be minimized to ensure an effective team and the team leadership is also a critical ingredient to the virtual recipe.
Communication is critical in any relationship and even more important when working on a virtual team. Imagine the challenge of trying to communicate effectively with people you have never met and whose personalities you don’t know. Add in that some team members have worked together for years and are located at the same site. Then, add in the pressure to participate credibly in team discussions when you can’t see the people o’er working with.
Virtual team communications can be a big challenge, so it’s a key hurdle to overcome to ensure team success. Since verbal communication is about 7 to 15% of a verbal message and the rest is mostly body language and tone, when working virtually some of the message could be misunderstood or even worse lost. As a team leader it’s important to understand that communication in a virtual team setting has different requirements than in a co-located team. With virtual teams, communication must be more complete, more structured and clearly defined.
Looking at a virtual team member via a screen image across a room, makes them seem distant rather than an integral part of the team when the rest of the group is together in the same room. This inhibits new team members from integrating easily into a team where members already have relationships. The virtual team member sees only one view of the team and can’t clearly see what is taking place around the room. Co-located team members sit closely together or directly across a table. They can see others using peripheral vision, or can turn toward other speakers, making body language easy to see and interpret.
Joining a meeting in a typical conference room enables individual team members to pre-view their ideas with others on the way to the meeting, or have a private conversation with a team member before the meeting officially begins. This helps the team member gain agreement or get a feel for potential issues, prior to presenting their ideas within the entire team. Sitting in the same room enables team members to make direct eye contact with others. Non- verbal signals are used to alert others who can be counted upon to reinforce or support a point of view, or to smile an apology to those we may have inadvertently interrupted or criticized.
Co-located team members have the benefit of clarifying comments or ideas immediately after a meeting closes. They are able to address individual members personally without scheduling a specific appointment or making an additional call. These interactions seem natural and spontaneous. Conversely a virtual team member must call to schedule an appointment or make a specific call to influence others individually with their ideas. These interactions seem planned and deliberate. These differences often lead to mistrust among virtual and co- located team members.
The distance and space also causes extra effort on all virtual team members to be in contact unlike the casual meeting in the hallway or the water cooler. Having a discussion around a conference table often has a casual feel. Team members can complete each other’s sentences or interject in a discussion when they see another team member is about to pause. This is more difficult and uncomfortable to do virtually. Especially via phone, the virtual team member can’t see when a natural pause is occurring and is left waiting for a clear silence or the obvious conclusion of an idea.
Awaiting for someone to complete their thought and eating for your turn to speak on the phone with several team members is like double Dutch and having to figure out the right time to Jump into a conversation. Virtual teams meet most frequently using technology, including teleconference, videoconferencing, chat and web meetings. If the technology fails it causes stresses to the entire team and makes meeting times even more eventful with a negative notion. So when participating in a virtual meeting, roles should be established to ensure an effective meeting.
The meeting organizer is responsible for scheduling the meeting and making sure that participants can Join the meeting efficiently. If using technology such as Weber or teleconference the organizer should arrive early to the meeting. Tasks for meeting organizers include reserving the meeting room and any needed equipment such as LCD or any video setup if needed. Providing all attendees with the meeting information that is related such as a conference call number or other meeting tools such as Got Meeting, Weber or Lynn Meeting.
Having a backup plan if the first method of technology fails for whatever reason should be planned out. Also, the organizer should provide relevant information and instructions for using the specific meeting tools. An agenda should be drafted and provided to all attendees pre-meeting to ensure a steady flowing meeting. A meeting leader should be identified; the leader manages meeting activities and ensures that all participants have an opportunity to effectively participate in the meeting. The leader should keep an eye on the time and limit side bar conversations to those participants that get the meeting off topic.
The leader facilitates and directs the group towards desired outcomes or leads them through problem solving and decision-making. Perhaps using the polling feature and posing questions to all the attendees on a Weber can id to quickly gauge, survey or question all attendees and allows for minimal response collection and a steady transition to the next topic. Before the meeting, the leader would draw up the agenda and identify participants. The leader and the organizer can be the same person. In Weber, a question and answer panel is available for a designed to be assigned to answer questions posed in the chat feature.
This feature will help ensure the meeting stays on topic and within scheduled time. During the meeting the leader would take notes for the meeting minutes or assign the task to another attendee. A virtual meeting should have a presenter; this person will have an active role in conveying the information to the other meeting participants. The presenter is responsible for knowing how to effectively use the meetings tools such as video conferencing, Weber, Lynn or Got Meeting. Using online tools such as Weber can be easily installed onto a PC and provides an array of tools too virtual team.
Collaboration can take place using functions such as the whiteboard, presentations, or sharing a desktop. Their purpose is to make sure all participants can clearly see presented information. They would engage with the participants and actively verify participants understand the information being presented and understand the reactions of other meeting members. The meeting organizer is responsible for scheduling the meeting and making sure that participants can Join the meeting efficiently. Tasks for meeting organizers include explanation behind their comments so that other participants can interpret their messages correctly.
Attendees should prepare before a meeting and review the agenda, arrive on time, and participate by actively listening and waiting to speak until others have completed their thoughts. Attendees should always share lessons learned, best practices and provide positive and constructive feedback. Everyone in attendance should be prepared for any questions posed to them. Stronger communications within the team will build a more cohesive team. Carla Johnson working for HRS magazine quotes, Karen Davidson, president of KID Software in Centralia, Ill. Karen sends her team members a virtual kickoff document that explains procedures. “For instance, I tell team members that if the client communicates with you, send the answer to everyone so another member doesn’t ask the client the same question,” Davidson says. Her document also covers schedules for teleconferencing and status reports, gives suggestions for problem resolution and reminds members to get enough sleep and remain sensitive to their families. Because employees operate independently on virtual teams, managers also need to work at keeping a team focused. Rotate the hosting of conference calls,” says Worthy. “Usually the person hosting does the most talking, so it stimulates the attention of all members when they realize they may be the next host. ” He suggests that any conference call begin with informal chitchat, Just as regular meetings do. “Otherwise, lull miss the informality and the comfort it creates to help team members work together well. ” These are some examples of how the business world has made adjustments to ways of doing business for the new virtual team environment.
Along with communication, trust must be built within a team. In the eBook titled Trust in Virtual Teams: Organization, Strategies and Assurance for Successful Projects written by Thomas Wise, he writes that trust grows in layers, beginning in our early years. As our personality develops we develop a sense of what trust means through our experiences with trustworthiness. When expectations are met we learn to expect that those same expectations may be met in the future, and as we watched the world around us we built within us a sense of how it all works; of equity, or fairness.
Each of these layers provides the basis on which we trust one another. This holds true for the trust between employees, teams, departments, and organizations. We carry to the work place our trustworthiness and an expectation of the trustworthiness of others, as well as an intuitive ability to measure and prescribe trust upon each other, and assess the balance of equity. Virtual teams have the advantage of bringing averse talents to the table. To build trust within a virtual team, start immediately by building solid relationships with colleagues.
Asking other team members for their input and perspectives, and encouraging healthy debate when your ideas are challenged a ways to build the team and trust. Taking responsibility with projects and assignments and staying in contact with team partners regularly will build the team dependability and trust. Team members should participate in meetings and interactions positively by speaking in a positive tone and words to support others good ideas and thoughts will build team strength. Offering assistance and offering to teach others or mentor others when knowledge and experience can be shared will convey commitment to the team relationship.
All team members should deliver on promises; creditability and trust will grow from continually delivering on promises or assigned tasks and projects. Decision making in a virtual team enables success by bringing the best tale together to perform various components of a Job or project. Decisions will be made individually or by several virtual team members. The authority is typically dispersed by the role the decision makers play on the team. Roles within team members can vary project to project similar to a co-located team. Usually team members are assigned to teams because of the technical and business expertise they provide.
They are often highly skilled individual contributors or managers who’s contribution is important to team success. Team Members have decision-making authority over tasks and activities, which are assigned to them. They will often gain support from others who will assist in performing this work. If in a virtual team and assigned the role of the project managers, the duties will include establishment and maintenance f the project plan, coordination of team meeting dates, times, structure and agendas, assigning of work activities, Identify key stake holders and including them for input and appropriate decision making.
The project manager will also decide methods for storing the team’s work and reporting progress, lead all team communication, and how the team will share information and problem solving processes, identify and resolve any team issues. Informing team members and others of issues encountered by the team is also the responsibility of a project manager. When a virtual team needs to make decision the roles established will low for one off few approaches be taken. A directive decision-making can take place where the virtual team members do not participate in the decision making process.
The leader can make an executive decision based on his/ her view and announce it to the team. This is best when members are unseasoned, there is a time -limitation or when there is a crisis. The next type of decision-making is consultative decision making. In consultative decision-making, the leader may ask for opinions from all members of the virtual team. The leader acknowledges and confirms the opinions leading to a decision. The leader then explains the rationale for the decision, referencing the input from team members.
Consultative Decision Making is best used when there is more time to make a decision on important issues and requires input from people who can be directly impacted by the decisions. The third approach for decision making within a virtual team is consensus decision making. Consensus decision-making is best used when there is a group seeking to generate widespread levels of participation and agreement. In consensus decision-making, the leader guides the discussion and periodically summarizes the points and status. Disagreements need to be resolved prior to making a decision.
The discussion continues, facilitated by the leader, until all members are in agreement. Whichever the approach that is decided upon, team members need to understand the different ways decisions can be made and how to reach agreements. An established team decision-making process and tools will help the team avoid conflict. Clear communication from the virtual team leader needs to indicate which decisions are collaborative versus leader driven. The team should provide sufficient time and adequate information to enable well-informed decision-making.
Also, Important decisions and their expected impact are communicated to all effected team members at the same time. Virtual managers will be faced with a slightly different life cycle than a face to face team. During a SHRIMP meeting in 2012, the topic was Managing a Virtual team, I was able to locate my archived notes from the session. A virtual team will form as a team a little differently than a co-located team and a manager should be prepared for the differences. During forming, a manager should set clear expectations and ground rules, especially about the appropriate use of ethnology.
During storming, a manager should establish guidelines and model appropriate behavior for resolving interpersonal conflicts. During morning, the manager should monitor virtual team processes and standards and adapt them as needed. During performing, the manager should ensure the team has the tools they need to perform at their best. During adjourning, the manager should archive lessons learned and recognize team accomplishments. CAST publication identified critical leadership skills needed when leading a virtual team environment. One of the roles of the manager is to develop trust within the virtual team.
There are many challenges faced by leaders of virtual teams, Team Members may be working in a variety of time zones, making meeting planning and working sessions more complicated to plan than with a locally based team. Team members need to trust their manager will schedule meetings to accommodate all team members. For team members that are less vocal, the manager needs to find ways to keep them engaged and visible to the other team members. Less visible does not mean less productive, but trust can be lost if team members associate a quiet team member with lack of production. Projects with a limited time span have the need for swift trust.
If this cannot be created, there may be perceptions that professional reputations, reputations of the supervisors of each team member, and existing professional networks are all at risk. It’s the team leader’s responsibility to make sure all team members have an equal opportunity to contribute and stay informed. Taking the time to clarify the work of the team, how people will work together and the responsibilities of each team member will define the boundaries of the team’s work. The Chronic consulting firm inducted a study on virtual teams that recognized four pitfalls associated with virtual teams.
The first pitfall is the lack of clear goals, direction, or priorities. Since it is tougher to communicate with and inform team members who are geographically dispersed, it is often difficult to keep all team members focused on the same goals, especially over time. Lack of clear roles among team members is also a hurdle that should be clearly defined and established. In virtual teams, it is especially important for team members to clearly understand their individual roles and how their work impacts other team members. Second, the lack of cooperation and trust can disrupt the function of a virtual team.
Since there is a lack of face-to-face contact inherent in virtual teamwork, the process of establishing trust and relationships that lead to group cooperation can be very arduous. Over time, this lack of collaboration can lead to a lack of trust amongst team members. According to Academy of Management Executive, managers facilitate performance Managers who are committed to managing remote workers effectively recognize that two of their major responsibilities are to eliminate roadblocks to successful performance and to provide adequate resources to get a Job done right and on time.
Obstacles that can inhibit maximum performance include outdated equipment or technology, delays in receiving critical information, and inefficient design of work processes. Employees are well aware of these, and are usually wiling to identify then when managers ask for their input. Then it is the manager’s Job to eliminate the obstacle. Adequate capital resources, material resources, and human resources are necessary if remote workers or members of virtual teams are to reach the challenging goals they have set.
To encourage performance, especially repeated good performance, it is important to provide sufficient rewards that employees really value, in a timely and fair manner. Managers can begin by asking remote workers what’s most important to them. For example, is it pay, benefits, free time, technology upgrades, or opportunities for professional development? Then the manager can considering tailoring the awards program so that remote workers or teams can choose from a menu of similarly valued options. This research paper has covered findings from a variety of resources related to virtual teams their value, communication within a ritual team, participating in a virtual team meeting, decision-making within a virtual team and leading a virtual team. As most organizations grow geographically, the use of technology to connect teams becomes more prevalent, many teams find they’re working virtually. While some aspects of working in a virtual team are identical to work within any team, some aspects are considerably different. It is important for the current workforce to develop the elements of an effective team.
Two elements are always present in any effective, cohesive team: open communication and trust. Like the strands of a cord, these elements hold the team together and give it strength. Without these elements, team members will not participate fully in team activities and they won’t find true satisfaction in their work. When trust and open communication is present, ideas flow and people find solutions to problems or accomplishing the desired goals of the team, virtually or co-located.