Virtual Team Collaboration: 5 Effective Best Practices for Virtual Teams
Ask any business leader about the most essential key to organizational success — and often their biggest challenge — and the answer is typically centered on effective team collaboration. In fact, a McKinsey report revealed 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project. Clearly, when a group of people works together in harmony toward a common goal, magic happens.
This synergy is, of course, harder to achieve with the ubiquity of remote and hybrid work. Connecting virtually certainly has its issues: managing different time zones, interacting across cultures, dealing with different communication styles, and the ever-present technical glitches that distract from the task at hand.
How do you replicate the spark of human connection one gets from sitting across from another person while working on a shared project? Those hard-to-simulate a-ha moments experienced while passing each other in the office hallway? What tools and resources can help bust through the barriers of virtual team collaboration?
While successful virtual team collaboration presents its difficulties, it is vitally important to get right. Read on for the 5 best practices for an effective virtual team experience; but first we’ll dive deeper into why team collaboration is a business-critical imperative that drives relevancy, resiliency, and value.
How Collaboration Builds Better Teams
It breaks down silos.
A Deloitte report shows that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has risen by 50% or more in recent years.
These efforts are designed to combat the silo mentality — when one team or department doesn’t work to share ideas and innovations with the other parts of an organization — that is one of the most common problems in large companies, especially now that people are most often physically working on their own. This type of narrow thinking and lack of information flow not only can cause miscommunication, but it also hinders employee engagement and performance and organizational results.
Creating collaborative and cross-functional teams — groups with different functional expertise working on a shared project or common goal — can beat the isolation that often leads to silo mentality, opening up new lines of communication and collaboration that produces fresh ideas and solutions.
It serves as a tool for employee attraction and retention.
Because collaboration lays the groundwork for a more connected, informed, open, and dynamic workplace, a collaborative culture drives employee engagement and appeals to both current and future employees, aiding in greater talent attraction and retention, a chief concern for executives in today’s volatile job market.
It leads to faster performance and heightened productivity.
A study by The Institute for Corporate Productivity, a human capital research and consulting firm, found that collaborative teams perform five times better than non-collaborative teams because they view themselves as teammates motivated towards a common goal.
With an interconnected team, you unlock the ability to bring products and services to market at a faster rate because all stakeholders are involved in the process sooner. For example, if your product team is launching a major new feature, it would be strategic to involve your marketing team as early as possible to develop a comprehensive PR plan. This type of cross-department collaboration can also produce new ideas and advancements more quickly.
It boosts creativity and better problem solving.
In a collaborative workplace environment, group brainstorming is an established and expected aspect of the business in which each team member has the opportunity to share their ideas, discover smarter solutions, and contribute to solving any obstacle standing in the way of achieving the organization’s goals.
As collaboration brings a variety of talents and voices together, it forges a foundation of diverse knowledge and skills to regularly draw from when creatively ideating and problem solving. It also allows teams to switch between focused (concentrated, conscious, and relatively predictable) and diffuse (relaxed, largely subconscious, and often surprising) modes of thinking, unlocking new ideas as a group and then executing them as individuals.
It helps create a culture of learning.
When working together as a team, people regularly participate in collaborative interactions and contextualized discussions, offering them the chance to learn more, gain new perspectives, and discover new ways of thinking. The ideas freely shared in a collaborative culture helps maximize a team’s chance to learn from each other’s experiences, which helps create an environment designed for lifelong learning.
With these principles in mind, how can you construct virtual team experiences that have lasting impact and intention in your own organization?
5 Best Practices for an Effective Virtual Team Experience
At NovoEd, we’ve examined data, surveys, and stories from thousands of courses and tens of thousands of teams on the NovoEd platform, and we’ve established best practices, as well as guidelines for team leaders. Below are five general best practices for creating an effective virtual team experience that enhances collaboration and connection:
Schedule meetings with a strategy in place. Before setting up a calendar invite, ask yourself: Does this meeting have a clear purpose? Could this question be answered via email or a quick phone call? Being cognizant and respectful of your team members’ time is a simple way to increase employee engagement and productivity.
Acknowledge various communication styles. Clear communication is critical to establishing effective collaboration, and each team should discuss their preferences. For example, some team members may prefer to align with each other on tasks and projects via internal messaging and project management platforms, while others may get the most out of weekly virtual team meetings held via video. Invite feedback and acknowledge these differences while agreeing upon what channels will be used to accomplish initiatives.
Centralize your content. Organizing your team’s communications, brainstorming sessions, project outlines, and feedback all in one place via collaboration tools for virtual teams aids in seamless collaboration and rapid alignment that leads to successful outcomes.
Assign clear-cut roles and goals. By having an assigned role or task for each initiative, team members will have accountability for a distinctive aspect of the success of the project. This also builds transparency and trust between team members, an important part of enhancing the spirit of collaboration.
Establish a safe environment. It is crucial that each of your team members feels supported and psychologically safe in a collaborative and connected environment. If you notice that a team member hasn’t been attending meetings or has been less active, reach out to them directly to offer feedback, establish expectations, or answer any questions they may have.
How NovoEd Inspires Effective Virtual Collaboration
NovoEd’s online learning platform is a powerful way to learn about virtual collaboration: Our platform allows you to create experiential learning experiences online through team assignments. The platform supports team collaboration through a private team workspace and collaborative tools for synchronous chat, file sharing, and meeting scheduling.
In a corporate leadership training class run on the NovoEd platform, a learner shared how he learned from working with his team:
“We took turns leading and submitting certain project material, we attended calls when possible, and we utilized email to coordinate when necessary…we were all able to practice these as part of the collaboration for this leadership class.”
“This course teaches you how to interact with others which is a strong characteristic of becoming a leader in today’s workplace. It also teaches an individual how to find common ground with one of his/her peers on a particular subject or project that needs to be completed in a timely manner.”
Collaborating virtually with others across time and space is becoming a key skill and valued way of training in our modern workplace. This is a skill that can be learned, and there are best practices that can be implemented and established. But most importantly, virtual collaboration can be practiced through thoughtfully designed online learning experiences that allow people to work with each other, and, as a result, learn how to most effectively work with each other.
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