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Teamwork in the Digital Age

17 October 2016 by National Bank

Technology continually evolves, and the modern workplace is following suit. Employees now choose where and how they work, supported by mobile technologies that enable them to stay connected just about anywhere.

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Deloitte’s 2015 Human Capital Trends report found that Canadian workers are hyper-connected to their work through technology and expect flexibility in their workspace. Virtual teams are changing how work is done, and posing new challenges for business owners on how to ensure employees are engaged and communicating well.

These six tips will help your team to work effectively in the digital age.

1. Tap into communication technologies

With a virtual team, technology plays a key role in communication. There are lots of options available so select the technologies that work best for your team by focusing on reliability rather novelty. A collaboration suite familiar to all staff will prove more effective than newer platforms, where the team may struggle to get connected or need time to learn how to use new features. Streamline e-mail and instant messaging to save time. Solve issues in a conference call instead of filling up inboxes with multiple e-mail conversations. Save instant messaging for questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

2. Choose a common language

A virtual team is often cross-cultural and this can complicate communication between team members. Employees may think they are speaking the same language, but there is a risk that words and phrases will be interpreted differently. Take the time to identify and explain interpretations of words and phrases and make these interpretations readily available for team members in a shared online workspace.

3. Build based on fit

Culture fit has long been a key consideration for recruiting. A study by researchers at the University of Iowa revealed that employees who fit well with their organization, supervisor and colleagues experience greater job satisfaction and perform better. The risk when some or all team members work separately: disconnection and disengagement. Creating a team based on both skillset and fit helps establish rhythm between members. Define your organization’s mission, values and goals, and integrate them into the process of building your virtual team.

4. Create a workspace that suits everyone

Organizations are changing the layout of the modern workspace to accommodate virtual teams. Today’s employees expect greater flexibility, and companies are evolving beyond the standard workplace setting, allowing employees to choose how, when and where they work. Options range from personal workstations and quiet rooms to open collaborative spaces, which can be reserved online.

Technological solutions enable employees outside of the physical work environment to stay connected: laptops and tablets, secure Wi-Fi connections, and voiceover IP (VOIP) in lieu of traditional phones enable team members to remain accessible.

5. Start face-to-face

Trust and confidence factor significantly into any team environment, whether traditional or virtual. Face-to-face communication is still more effective than virtual when building relationships between team members. Start by bringing the team together physically and help them get to know each other on a personal and professional level. If a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, engage employees in virtual team-building to create a cooperative framework using tools such as Skype, FaceTime or a private-network app. Building relationships among team members establishes a foundation for teamwork and provides an opportunity to create a shared vision and guidelines for how the team will communicate and work together.

6. Coordination is key

The team should be aligned on roles and responsibilities from the outset. Coordinating tasks and processes is more challenging with a virtual team, as colleagues do not share a location or facility. Establish a critical path to simplify tasks as much as possible, with clear instruction on who does what and a deadline for each task. Schedule time to review key action items to evaluate how things are going and proactively identify any needs, process adjustments and issues.

With team members less and less likely to work at the same time and in the same physical space, it is increasingly important to build and nurture the kind of connections that inspire collaboration and increase productivity.

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