In early March, everyone was talking about Yahoo’s change in its telecommuting policy. The change banned employees from having the option of working from home. This decision sparked a controversial stir in the business world, not to mention the halls of Yahoo. As Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, insists that face-to-face interaction generates more collaboration, many believe that the rise of email and other technology lessens the need for such encounters.
This draws attention to the underlying question that affects all employers: Can remote employees be equally as productive as those in the office?
With the heightened level of technologies, virtual training teams are becoming more popular as companies engage themselves more in work-life balance practices. For such teams, empowerment is vital from the onset to ensure collaboration, motivation and overall productivity are at their highest.
Empowering your virtual training team poses unique challenges, as the absence of face-to-face interaction can lead to isolation and stagnation. Your team members are by far your most valuable assets, regardless of their location. How can you maintain the balance between ensuring that your team members meet project milestones and having them feel as though they've made a significant difference, wherever they may be?
Empowerment goes beyond motivation. Whether they are internal employees or independent consultants, your virtual training team members are experts at what they do. They provide strengths and expertise in their own right, and when empowered, can make a huge difference both locally and organizationally.
Take proactive measures to let your team members see how invested you are in them. Set an example by being as available as you expect your team to be. Maintain a proactive, virtual presence by ensuring that issues are addressed with urgency (e.g., technical difficulties and project-related issues), and make conscious efforts to regularly engage your team both individually and in group settings.
Utilize your virtual environment and associated technologies to provide team-building opportunities for your team. Let your team members know that their presence is significant, regardless their role or location. Encourage your team members to use available technologies to foster their individuality; especially in environments where training consultants and internal employees will be interacting with one another. Fostering a strong, cohesive team at the onset is a recipe for success.
When establishing virtual training teams, effective information exchange at the forefront will carve the pathway for the course of the project. Feeling detached and isolated in a virtual training team is not uncommon, so encourage team members to share their ideas and foster a warm and safe working environment, just as you would for an in-house workgroup.
Nobody appreciates a micromanager, especially in virtual environments. Providing opportunities for your virtual training team members to earn your trust through performance consistency and task-based successes is far more appreciated, than constant checks and balances. Training consultants working remotely value the trust and creativity associated with autonomy. Find opportunities to have your team members express their opinions and decision-making power as appropriate, rather than simply delegating tasks.
Find moments to genuinely point out accomplishments. Though it may seem redundant, frequent verbal affirmation makes up for the lack of body language interpretation in virtual environments. Start with small compliments - provide feedback and learning checks throughout the project, and if possible, provide more visible rewards as they are appropriate.
Identify the types of challenges that motivate your team members, and utilize their strengths by assigning tasks appropriately. Having this understanding will aid you in finding the best combination of incentives to empower your team, especially in virtual environments with both internal employees and external training consultants. Take the time to ask your group members what challenges them to succeed and build from there.
Utilizing these approaches at the onset of your project, will position your team for success. Take into account the dynamics of your team, as well as your organizational culture and structure, and tailor your approach as necessary. Maintain a positive attitude and ensure that attitude emanates through your actions and your virtual training team members will recognize it, even if they actually can't see it.
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