In a growing number of organizations, “going to work” means something different for each member of a team, as companies are increasingly embracing virtual teams for the benefits they offer to employees and organizations alike. In fact, when Harvard Business Review contributor Keith Ferrazzi’s firm, Ferrazzi Greenlight, surveyed knowledge workers, they found a staggering 79% reported working “always” or “frequently” in dispersed teams. Thanks to technology advances, pressure to innovate, and a tight labor market, organizations are looking to virtual teams for the flexibility and brain power needed to thrive in a very competitive landscape. Development on demand: When and where it’s needed Virtual teams are appealing for everyone. Organizations can source top talent in the locales that make the most sense to manage their software development costs and quickly assemble global software development services to enable cutting-edge software and web development at a fraction of the cost. Saving on average software development costs The overhead for equipping virtual teams with the cutting-edge technology they’ll need to do their jobs well (think web cams, laptops, and business-level Internet speeds) is pretty minimal compared to the cost savings. For one, organizations can source virtual team members strategically. For example, a business looking to transform its HRS Talent management system may outsource the related software development projects to a team in Mexico, saving on talent cost without having to sacrifice skill or expertise, but keeping the project manager overseeing the project in the United States. Saving on operations costs With a virtual team, the organization also alleviates rent costs. And organizations that appreciate virtual teams enable their employees to mitigate commute time and costs, benefitting individuals in direct time and money savings, and then benefitting the business again through better retention, which in turn saves recruiting, hiring and training costs. Challenges for virtual teams Early research on virtual teams, such as professors Vijay Govindarajan and Anil Gupta’s 2001 study of 70 teams, indicated individual virtual teams can feel unsuccessful. In this particular study, 82% of teams missed their goals and a third rated themselves unsuccessful. Later studies would go on to report missing the mark for client requirements in most cases, and some virtual teams have reported that collaboration technology can overwhelm. To unlock the most value from their virtual teams, organizations must intentionally design and actively manage them to avoid these potential pitfalls. And here is the good news: an Aon Consulting report found virtual teams can actually improve employee productivity – by up to 43% in some cases. Virtual team management With a strategic outsourcing partner, organizations are often relieved of the burden of virtual team management. But regardless of who is establishing the ground rules, a clear plan for the virtual team must be laid out, including:
- Review. Establishing a probation period and conducting a performance review for each employee ensures all team members are strong contributors.
- Training. Just as employees are regularly coached in an office, virtual team members should also receiving organizational training and regular coaching touchpoints with managers.
- Accountability. Team leaders must establish performance metrics, evaluate team performance, and ensure the project stays on schedule and in budget.