How to Build a Virtual Task Force and Keep it Running


Note: This is a guest post by Robert Cordray. I’ve added some humor notes to go along with the great tips from Robert.

virtual task force

photo: Ed Yourdon

Telecommuting has become a common way to give employees extra flexibility in their work and employers flexibility in who they hire by eliminating the zip code requirement. While there are many advantages to having a virtual team, talent management becomes more challenging as managers no longer see their employees everyday.

To effectively create and run a virtual team, remember these five key rules.

1. Create Clear Goals and Employee Roles

Virtual teams should be created very purposefully. Otherwise, the lack of structure will quickly throw the team into disarray.

Employees who telecommute don’t have the advantage of being in the office to understand what their contributing role is, so managers need to clearly define and communicate with them what the results of their work should be. Doing this gives a sense of urgency to the worker that will help them maintain their energy and stay focused on their job.

Humor Note: One way to create clear roles is to organize your team as if it were a football team or legion of superheroes. Create a document or page that identifies each persons key focus area, title, and thematic picture (see these meet the team examples for inspiration).

2. Facilitate Communication

Building a virtual task force isn’t just about individuals, it’s about building a united team. Regular communication between members is the only way to develop teamwork and loyalty.

A combination of emails, teleconferencing and videoconferencing will help members to stay in touch, share ideas and work out issues they are facing. A chance to actually meet via a video conference can help build up trust and confidence between members of a virtual team.

Humor Note: Face-to-face time can improve conflict resolution, so schedule weekly videoconference calls where virtual teammembers give updates on both their projects and their personal lives.

3. Set Performance Standards

When a manager can’t directly see how his or her employees work, judging performance becomes much more difficult. In addition, when virtual workers are coming from different backgrounds or even cultures, the understanding of work ethic and what makes excellent work can vary.

Once again, good communication is key. Don’t assume employees know what is expected of them. Outline clear, measurable performance standards that will achieve the results you want if employees follow them to the letter.

On top of performance standards, security protocol will also need to be addressed and enforced. Ensure a secure web gateway for employees to connect to important company systems to protect the company’s data.

Humor Note: Include a metric for use of humor in your employee’s work to show that you take having fun seriously.

4. Give Recognition

It is easy to forget about someone that you don’t see everyday and take the work that comes in from them for granted. However, employees that don’t receive recognition quickly become dissatisfied with their work and will not have a sense of loyalty to the team.

Giving recognition for milestones and achievements, on the other hand, is one of the greatest opportunities for a manager to build a collaborative attitude in a virtual team. If possible, hold the celebratory meetings in-person or in a way that allows the remote employee to be recognized by the whole team or company.

Humor Note: One of the best ways to give recognition while also supporting teams is through giving “Gifted Gift Cards.” When awarding an employee, give them a gift card with the only caveat being they have to give that gift card to someone who helped them achieve their success (it could be a manager, a peer, or a spouse).

5. Meet In-Person

If your telecommuting team lives where they could come into the office once a week, make it a requirement to come in and touch base with each other. Meeting occasionally helps to reinforce the efforts you have made, as well as strengthen the overall company culture.

In addition, be sure to invite virtual team members to any company activities, as one of the best ways to connect is by doing something fun or challenging together.

Humor Note: Improv exercises make for a great team-building experience.

Robert Cordray is a former business consultant and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in areas such as corporate leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture and entrepreneurship.

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