BE A SUPERSTAR VIRTUAL MANAGER

It can be tough navigating in the current professional world! The traditional concept of employees arriving at 9am to sit at their desks until 5pm, is changing as quickly as technology advances. Internet, webcams and free video conferencing means that many people are now able to work from their homes or even sitting on the beach with their laptops. In this scenario how do we make workers accountable? How do we ensure information reaches everybody in a timely manner, and everywhere it’s needed? Communication and setting of goals have always been the key ingredients in good people management, but if you are wondering how on earth to achieve this in an online situation, where one employee is sitting in New York and the other in Bulgaria, you might find the below ideas and tips useful.

WORK ETHIC

Whilst the virtual workroom allows for flexible schedules and working methods, it is important that you and your team remain professional in attitude. If you have specific rules that you wish your team to abide by, make sure you communicate these to all new employees before they start and ensure that they accept these. For each project or task you assign, make sure that you explain the goals clearly and if there are any do’s or don’ts, these should be carefully detailed. Once you have done this, you can then be firm with your expectations. Delays, work containing errors or employees not being available when agreed, should be dealt with straightaway.

CULTURAL SENSITIVITY

Often working with a virtual team means that you are dealing with people from all corners of the globe. They may, or may not, have the same values or ideas and what you consider polite may seem rude to them. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and respect them. Sensitivity in matters of race, age, gender, religion and sexuality is required. Daily schedules and the days of the working week may change from country to country which might mean that just as you are getting inside the office, your employee is sitting down for dinner. A good knowledge of the factors that influence your team’s working habits will help you to manage them appropriately and with adequate sensitivity.

COMMUNICATING ONLINE

Giving people access to information and listening to their concerns is vital. When you are not physically present in an office, it is difficult to gauge moods and ensure workers are motivated and focused on work. In this situation a manager is required to communicate with his employees as much as possible. This applies to all areas of work: explaining the goals of tasks or projects clearly, making sure the workers understand what their duties and obligations are, asking for feedback, encouraging the flow of information back to you and listening (or reading) carefully when you receive it, then responding appropriately – these are all paramount. Stay realistic in your expectations and keep lines of communication open, cordial and specific.

USE TECHNOLOGY TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

A virtual team needs to be supported by appropriate technology. Detailed forward planning with software and hardware is a must for efficient remote management, and programs like Slack, Microsoft Power Bi and Project, and Quickbooks can really help with this. This will save your valuable time in future. Having to deal with broken communication or slowed production due to technology does happen anyway, but you can minimise mishaps and crashes by having a well thought out technology plan beforehand. For instance, sometimes it is easier to explain complex projects via videoconferencing, whilst email or instant messaging applications can be great for back-and-forth daily communication.

GIVE REIGN AND FEEDBACK

Last but not the least, empowering team members to do their work – without breathing over their shoulders – means that you are giving your employees the trust they need to solve problems independently and get on with their work. Giving feedback is also important. It is not easy to figure out virtual team members’ mood or motivation levels and sometimes virtual managers can forget the importance of making their subordinates feel valued. If you can give your team confidence and make them understand that you consider the work they are doing important, then you will overcome the geographical distances. Even a brief acknowledgement, a thank you or a ‘how are you doing?’ will let your people know that you are thinking of them and you are available when they need you.

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