Nothing is as challenging as managing a virtual team. Only some possess the capability to work with virtual teams and ensure good quality work within deadlines. And if you are one such diligent Project Manager, there are some key areas you need to work on to successfully manage your virtual project team.
These are Communication, Productivity, and Culture. As a project manager, you need to streamline your ways of communication, which in turn will increase productivity. And all these will develop a distinct culture in the team. Here are some useful project management tips you should follow to effectively connect with your virtual team members and keep them on the right track.
1) Avoid Using Emails
Yes you heard it right! Even though emails are preferred in majority organizations as a secure means of communication, it is not always the best means, especially if you are handling a virtual team. A virtual team means the team members are spread here and there, around the world. In such a scenario, not all members of your team are reading their emails or logged into their email accounts, at any given point of time. Thus, sending your business messages through email is a very bad idea. Suppose when you are expecting an immediate response, your recipients might be at a distance away from their emails. Thus in such cases, emails can also become most ineffective and non-professional means of communication, and hence should be avoided.
2) Instead, Use Group Chats
As an alternative to emails, you can take help of tools like Asana, Trello or Basecamp and stay connected on a single platform – from anywhere, anytime. Besides these, group chats through Whatsapp and Skype also help you to maintain consistent communication in real-time. Just ping in the group and everyone’s there. For more engagement and interactivity, go for video chats. See each other, discuss projects, and find the best possible solution for your work.
3) Use ‘Time Zone Friendly’ Tools
The moment when you are active in some important work, it might be the middle-of-the-night for other team members. This calls for a strategic schedule of work, especially those involving the entire team. To address such concerns, take the help of project management software which enables you to eliminate the time difference issue, and effectively communicate among the team.
1) Establish Systematic Task Assignment
While managing a virtual team, you are required to assign different tasks to the team members. To make this job of yours easier, you need to establish a systematic task assignment process wherein you can assign tasks to the members on a single centralized platform. Use Google docs instead of excel sheets to list the tasks and assign a member to it. In this manner, create a consolidated list of all ongoing work and who is responsible for what. Once you’re done, share the document link or the file in your group chat. In this manner, you and your members can remain in the loop about the real-time status of each task being undertaken by the team.
2) Give Clear Instructions
Make instructions short, clear and to-the-point. In the virtual environment, your staff is not going to come to you every second to clarify their doubts. Hence, make things clear and transparent right at the beginning itself. If need be, point-down each of your instructions and highlight the most significant parts. By this, your team members will know about the more important areas of each task or project. As a result, the entire team will be more productive and finish work within or before the stipulated deadlines.
3) Maintain Well-Labelled Documents & Spreadsheets
Being the project manager, you simply can’t do without maintaining well-labelled documents and spreadsheets. Keep up this practice and maintain documents for all projects. Your documents and records serve as ready-reference for your future project-specific activities and also for your team members. Instead of maintaining manual papers which seem boring, switch to google spreadsheets. Keep online records of your past and current projects and sub-tasks, so that you and your team members can refer to them, whenever required.
4) Use Project Management Software System
Define the required fixed standards, set up a procedure and establish your norms – foremost of them being the use of an apt project management software. Without a project management system, things will soon start falling apart, and you will lose track of your team and their activities. Develop suitable processes for documentation, meetings, testing, and measuring results. Let the project management software bring-in a proper workflow to your team or organization. With this, you can track all aspects of your projects and ultimately keep a watch on overall productivity.
5) Focus on Consistency and Flexibility
Ensure that your team is consistently present across the virtual forums of your business organization and that each member puts consistent effort to meet the task or project requirements. While they may enjoy flexible working hours, they need to be very consistent in their approach. Only then, your team can steadily progress and achieve the expected results.
6) Track Work Hours & Performance
In a virtual business environment, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing. And the best way to go about it is by maintaining timesheets. You can have pre-defined time periods like 10 am to 11 am, 11 am to 12 am, and so on. After completing your assigned work, you or your team members can enter the relevant task done for that particular hour.
Another suitable way is to allow your members to get into each task and record the amount of time spent for the same. For example, writing blog content – 45 minutes, preparing presentations for X client – 2 hours. At the end of each day, track the work hours and analyze their output. By this, you will exactly know who is giving the best performance and who is lagging behind. Using such data, you can also conduct online training and motivation sessions to improve the productivity of individual team members. All this will further boost the team’s productivity.
7) Conduct Periodical Reviews & Assessments
Not just regular tracking, but also periodic performance evaluation is vital for improving the productivity of your project team. Based on the nature and type of your project, schedule weekly, monthly, or quarterly employee reviews. With the help of review and assessment software, accurately analyze and graph the overall performance of every member over a period of time. This will provide useful insights about your team performance and you can know which particular areas need improvement.
8) Pay Well and On Time
This comes unsaid. Don’t ignore your virtual team thinking that they are virtual. Just like conventional organizations, pay them well and on time. Timely payments motivate them to work hard for you. It keeps up their interest and enthusiasm towards work, and they give more than their best.
1) Inspire Your Team Members, Virtually
Organise regular virtual sittings and be the motivational speaker of your team. Engage your team through some chit-chats or inspirational videos. Each day, post some inspiring quotes that will keep the team ‘alive and kicking’. Think of ways to bridge the gap between you and your team members, and influence them to stay positive towards life, and not just work. This will make your team members happy and also make them stress-free. As soon as you accomplish this, you will notice more and bigger rewards coming your way!
2) Meet at least Once or Twice a Year
This is crucial for developing a distinct work culture. According to the availability of your team members, schedule yearly, half-yearly or quarterly meetings. Go for lunch or dinner and share personal experiences with each other. In this way, you not only get to know each other as a person but also develop close relationships, vital for a productive and content work life.
3) Develop Good Friendship
Regularly hangout on social media platforms and talk beyond work and business. From the latest movies to current affairs to serious issues plaguing the world, put across your views, debate and enjoy seamless conversations with your virtual team members. Like, chat, tweet, and comment on posts of your team members. Inspire them to do so. Also, talk about your favorite’s, likes, and dislikes. Gradually, develop such a feeling among your team members that you’ve known each other, for a long time.
Once you’ve established the above-mentioned points in the best way possible, you are sure to succeed as a hotshot Project Manager who knows how to effectively manage virtual teams without breaking a sweat!!