When your employees are working remotely, virtual leadership is critical for effective teamwork.
Here are 10 best practices for leading virtual teams:
- Use smart goal-setting to prioritize tasks
- Employ digital time-management tools
- Follow good remote recruitment policies
- Use effective digital onboarding procedures
- Practice good virtual team communication
- Use efficient project-management tools
- Provide remote support
- Promote remote worker engagement
- Monitor performance numbers
- Maintain budgetary controls
Learn more about what virtual leadership is and the best way to manage virtual teams.
What Is Virtual Leadership?
Virtual leadership can be defined as the guidance of remote teams to achieve business goals using digital tools.
Goals of virtual leaders can include:
- Selecting and prioritizing team objectives
- Managing personal and team schedules to achieve group objectives
- Assembling and training talent
- Supervising production through effective communication and project management
- Supporting team members by answering questions and maintaining morale
- Keeping production and budget numbers on track within profitable parameters
To achieve these goals, virtual leadership employs digital tools such as:
- Business communication platforms
- Voice communication
- Video chat
- Social media
- Project-management software
- Calendar-scheduling apps
- Analytics tools
Virtual leaders use these types of tools to manage remote teams, communicate with team members, supervise projects and keep production aligned with productivity and budgetary goals.
How to Manage Virtual Teams Effectively: 10 Best Practices
While the same leadership practices that go into effective office management generally apply to managing virtual teams, certain applications are particularly important in a virtual environment.
These are 10 of the most important examples of guiding principles for teams operating in a virtual environment:
1. Use Smart Goal-Setting to Prioritize Tasks
Smart analytics apps designed for business intelligence, such as Power BI, provide virtual leaders with powerful tools for prioritizing goals. Analytics tools let you set up key performance indicators (KPIs) you can use to track how well you’re achieving your goals. You can then analyze what adjustments you’d need to make to reach your objectives.
For example, say that you’re falling short of your revenue goals. By using analytics, you can compare how your revenue correlates with key marketing numbers that affect your sales, such as unique website visitors and conversion rate. This will tell you how much you would need to increase your web traffic and conversion rate to reach your revenue targets. You can then take appropriate action. Using analytics in this way allows you to set data-driven goals instead of just steering by guesswork or intuition.
2. Employ Digital Time-Management Tools
As a business leader, you have to manage your own calendar as well as that of your team. Time-management software makes this task easier by allowing you to automate tasks.
You can use digital tools to:
- Create digital calendars
- Sync one team member’s calendar with that of other team members
- Track the average time it takes your team or individual workers to complete different types of tasks
- Estimate how many tasks of a given type your team can complete in a given time frame
- Delegate and schedule tasks based on your team’s available hours
- Track billable hours
Features supporting these objectives come built into a number of leading business management and project management tools, such as Scoro.
3. Follow Good Remote Recruitment Policies
Virtual recruiters suffer the disadvantage of not being able to see applicants face-to-face to evaluate body language, tone of voice and other live behaviors that they could normally observe. Virtual candidates also need specific qualities more than on-site workers, such as the ability to motivate themselves and knowledge of how to use digital tools required for remote work.
To address this, it’s imperative to follow good recruitment practices when hiring remote workers:
- Craft job descriptions to emphasize qualities needed by remote workers, such as self-motivation and familiarity with the required technology
- Use video chat interviews to compensate for lack of face-to-face communication
- Ask interviewees questions about qualifications such as their ability to work independently, manage their time and use key technology
Talk to your recruitment team about steps you can take to screen virtual candidates.
4. Use Effective Digital Onboarding Procedures
Onboarding can present some challenges in a virtual environment. Supervisors aren’t in the same location as workers to provide guidance and answer questions.
To compensate for this, you can leverage digital capabilities to promote onboarding:
- Use project-management or onboarding software to set training goals for new recruits and track progress
- Provide a welcome pack with digital training materials for new recruits
- Store digital reference materials on your online portal for easy access
- Assign new hires a training contact they can ask questions
- Provide automated chatbot tools to answer frequent training questions
These steps will help ensure a smoother onboarding process so that new hires can become productive team members more quickly.
5. Practice Good Virtual Team Communication
One of the most important characteristics of effective leadership styles is good communication. With virtual teams, you are dependent on digital tools to communicate with workers, making efficient digital communication critical for smooth project management.
Improve your communication with your virtual team by following best practices:
- Establish standard digital communication procedures for your team (such as acceptable time frames for responding to messages)
- Incorporate your communication protocols into your training procedures
- Encourage workers to keep messages brief and to the point in order to communicate clearly and save time
- Use digital platforms designed to support both group and private discussions, such as Slack
- Don’t rely on email for group messages or file sharing, as one team member may get behind on a thread or file version
- Incorporate video chat to provide a sense of presence for remote team members
- Keep it short and sweet: Avoid spending more time than required on virtual meetings or email
Practicing good communications procedures will help keep your team productive.
6. Use Efficient Project-Management Tools
In a virtual environment, your project management portal is your workplace. Choosing the right project-management tool and using it efficiently will increase your team’s productivity and reduce impediments to your output.
A good project management app should include a number of key features:
- Ability to organize team members into groups
- Permissions controls so that you can determine who has access to which projects and files
- Built-in communications tools
- Automated notifications
- File-sharing capability
- Task-management tools for assigning projects and scheduling deadlines
- Resource management features so you can see which team members are available
- Project-completion tracking
- Time and expense tracking
- Integration with payment processing tools so you can automate the process of paying workers for completed tasks
Software such as Asana is available that includes these and other features. Choose a tool that is compatible with other software your team uses, such as your productivity suite.
7. Provide Remote Support
In the absence of on-site supervisors, virtual workers require special support measures. Make sure your team is adequately equipped by following remote support best practices:
- Upload digital tutorials to assist with training
- Provide an online knowledge base that team members can consult for answers to frequently-asked questions
- Use chatbots to automate the process of answering common questions
- Assign each team member at least one mentor or contact person they can contact with questions
- Ask team members to share their biggest support challenges so that you can develop strategies for addressing these
Providing superior support will enable you to get more out of your virtual team.
8. Promote Remote Worker Engagement
Virtual workers who lack face-to-face contact with supervisors and coworkers may be at risk of becoming disengaged. Take steps to promote remote worker engagement:
- Assign a mentor to each worker to provide a point of social contact
- Introduce new team members to other workers
- Incorporate periodic video chat meetings to increase a sense of presence
- Provide a company social media discussion board to encourage socialization
- Invite virtual workers to real-time events
- Offer incentives to virtual workers that promote their career goals, such as paying for employee upskilling
- Hold periodic performance reviews which include discussions about virtual worker satisfaction and career-advancement goals
Encouraging virtual worker engagement will promote greater satisfaction, improving employee retention and productivity.
9. Monitor Performance Numbers
To evaluate the effectiveness of your virtual leadership policies, it’s important to monitor your key performance numbers. These can include items such as:
- Number of tasks completed
- Average task completion time
- On-time completion rate
- Error-free completion rate
Some performance metrics will vary by department or task. For instance, the performance of customer service workers will involve variables such as first contact resolution rate which would not apply to marketing team members. Select KPIs which reflect your team’s goals and needs.
10. Maintain Budgetary Controls
Your team’s financial performance is also important to track. As team leader, you’re responsible for ensuring that your team’s productivity keeps your performance profitable and sustains positive cash flow. Pay attention to numbers such as:
- Revenue generated by your team’s production
- Revenue generated by the work of individual team members
- Project costs
- Return on investment
To stay on top of these numbers, set up your analytics tool to display key financial metrics in customized dashboards and in reports. Schedule regular report reviews with your financial planning team and accounting professional. Seek to identify places where you could increase your profit margin by improving productivity or trimming your budget.
If you need capital to cover expenses or invest in better technology for your team, consider seeking a short-term loan or other small business financing solution.
Follow Virtual Leadership Best Practices to Promote Remote Team Productivity
Better virtual leadership makes for more efficient teamwork and higher productivity.
Setting priority goals and managing time wisely sets your team on a path to success. Effective recruitment and onboarding procedures help you assemble and equip a winning team. Good communication and project-management policies promote efficient production. Strong support and engagement build team unity and cooperation.
Watching your performance and budget numbers keeps your team on target for productive and profitable results. Follow these tips to lead your team to success.