Attaining true collaboration helps in making the tasks simpler and improving productivity of individuals manifold. Collaboration helps in bringing out quality results with much lesser investment of time and resources. If the teams gel well and collaborate effectively the success of the project is definite. In a virtual team, it is more difficult to achieve collaboration, especially when team members are strangers and could be from different countries.
Here are 15 ways that can help in improving collaboration of a virtual team and improve their productivity.
Use Online Tools To Stay Connected
Staying connected is one of the most important aspects of effective team-work. Consistent communication increases the employee’s efficiency and productivity. For virtual teams, communicating effectively, can be a tedious task. Being in virtual teams, one should use online tools like Skype and Hipchat etc. to connect with others. Using such tools for communication, especially through video conferencing, eliminates physical absence of the member and provides a rich conversation experience. One can also schedule online meetings and readily connect with other team members, at a time, suitable for everyone.
Expand Cross-Cultural Awareness
Cultural awareness has become a crucial business tool in every industry. In a remote team, members can vary in their cultural backgrounds. Having cultural differences can create barriers in communication and understanding between the team members. Being aware of different cultures enhances unity and collaboration in the team. As a team lead, one can convert this obstacle into a motivational tool. Cultural differences must be used a talking point to know more about the other culture and bring greater harmony in the work environment.
Translation tools are also helpful in such cases, where there is absolutely no common language.
Screen Sharing Tools
Screen sharing is a method that can be extremely beneficial for effective collaboration in a virtual team. While working on a project, a second opinion can be important to make the task more fruitful. Being in a separate geographical location, makes it difficult for virtual teams to collaborate. To simplify this, one can use online screen sharing tools like join.me or mikogo and work more effectively with others, in the team. Screen sharing tools also allow you to get a complete understanding of the situation and action accordingly.
Setup Project Management Systems
When a virtual team takes up a project, each member works on separate aspects of the larger project. The expertise of one individual is different from the other and so there is a need to collaborate with each other for timely deliveries. A web based project management software is helpful in sharing important documents and assigning tasks. The tool helps in improving collaboration in the team and raises the productivity levels. These tools allow for regular tracking of tasks for on-time delivery.
Co-Create Team Rules
Every team does its tasks according to certain rules and regulations. Whether it’s a decision making or a conflict resolution, there are certain steps, that a team takes, to tackle the problems collaboratively. In virtual teams, given the distance and the cross-cultural factor, it is essential to agree and follow the standards and expectations of various processes. The guidelines can be used as an opportunity to improve collaboration among team members. One should create these guidelines taking the whole team into confidence and should ask for their inputs. Building such instructions, solidifies team strength and augments collaboration.
Share Documents Online
Sharing of documents is common, while working as a team, but remote teams my find it difficult to do so repeatedly. Using online tools like Dropbox or Google Drive can be a good solution to such problems. With storage and backup, these tools allow its users to edit, save and share documents in real time. Use of such online tools have made it easy for virtual teams to interact and collaborate effectively, irrespective of their location.
Get Together In Person
Being in a remote team, one hardly gets a chance to meet with other team members. This not only affects the unity of the team but also creates barriers in terms of knowing each other well. Once in a while, the team lead should organize a get together for the team, where the members can meet, interact and socialize with each other. If it is really not possible to get together in person, online get togethers can also be very helpful. One can also organize interesting games and quizzes online and offline. These too, can can be helpful in getting the individuals to engage with each other and work as a team. These activities get them talking on an informal level and collaboration becomes really fruitful.
Brainstorming is a popular method, that if done correctly, can have great outcomes. Virtual teams face an immense barrier while having a brainstorming session. For brainstorming, everyone has to be on the same part of the project, visually. This should be accessible to all those, connected. One can use online tools like Mural.ly for efficient brainstorming discussions. It collects all the thoughts of the users in a single place and allows others to give feedback on it. Mural.ly holds the ability to give a life like experience of a discussion to the team members. This can really multiply the results for the team.
Use A Flexible Team Structure
Working collaboratively becomes difficult, as the team grows. The more complex the project is, the larger would be the virtual team. Dividing the team in a fluid structure can act as a perfect solution. One should split the whole team into three tiers including a core, an operational level and an outer network, depending on the responsibilities. Applying this hierarchy, clubs all the members that need to work together, improving collaboration in the long run. Doing so, further improves the quality of the outcome and increases individual productivity.
Collaboration and time tracking go parallely while working as a team. Time tracking applications are very helpful in enhancing the productivity of virtual teams. They help in defining the due dates of particular tasks and ensures timely delivery and efficiency. Teams can be allocated new tasks as they have completed an existing one. Besides that, apps like these are helpful in sending out online invoices to clients for the work done by virtual teams. This helps in sending out invoices that are more accurate. An online timesheet helps in reviewing the productivity of employees and gauging the level of collaboration among them. The teams can be given appropriate training for time management and collaboration, based on the time tracking data generated from these tools.
Define The Role But Don’t Define The Task
A good amount of teamwork is absolutely important to complete the project on time, but working collaboratively is what enhances the quality of the work done. Usually it is believed that if a virtual team has flexible roles and as a team they have a clear idea about how to get the job done, then collaboration becomes a natural process. Studies have shown that collaboration increases when each team member knows his responsibility but does not have the idea about how to reach the goal. The uncertainty about the path of project completion enables the team members to think creatively, collaboratively and work their way towards their objective.
Encourage Cross Questioning
Cross questioning and looking for the right answers is very important. A work culture that encourages questioning helps in building a collaborative work environment and allows the members to understand the project and the tasks properly. With cross questioning one can get an in-depth understanding of the task and plan out the development process accordingly. But, one should be careful while applying this method. Constructive use of questioning techniques are useful, while its exaggeration may lead to bad results.
Use World Clock
World clock tools are very helpful in managing virtual teams better. The teams can connect and chat with each other on a suitable time and collaborate effectively. Due to time zone variation, it could become increasingly difficult for associates to work together. Online tools are really helpful in bridging this gap.
Trust is the key to a productive and sustainable collaboration of remote teams. It’s the trust between individuals that makes collaboration work. If employees don’t trust each other, they won’t be able to work in a systematic way, and this will affect the outcome drastically. Engaging with each other and staying transparent about every process can help in gaining the trust of colleagues. Lack of trust between team members affects their ability to innovate.
Play Virtual Collaborative Games
Playing collaborative games is an effective way to promote better productivity.
Games like, Picture This and Scavenger Hunt, demand team-work and can be played online, making them a perfect group activity for remote teams. In these games, especially Picture This, all the players help each other out in one way or the other. Scavenger Hunt is more like an icebreaker activity that gathers interesting facts about the team members and fuels the virtual team collaboration.
As we become more connected across the globe, collaboration is becoming increasingly important. Virtual team collaboration benefits both sides of the business. It leads to a happier workforce which results in higher productivity and enhances the work culture of the team.