SharePoint & Microsoft Resources

The Leader’s Guide To Managing Virtual Teams

By Alex Graves, Co-Managing Director & Founder

The Leader’s Guide To Managing Virtual Teams

If you’ve been following our blog then you’ll know that we are passionate about the opportunities that Microsoft 365 brings for engaging and managing remote teams. But we are equally evangelical about the soft skills that sit behind the tech.

We founded Silicon Reef on a commitment to supporting our employees and partners in achieving a healthy and fulfilling work/life balance. We built our operating model around the premise that each individual has different needs and finds their motivation in different working environments. Our talented team work flexibly across the UK, collaborating and interacting in many different ways to create the coherent culture that underpins Silicon Reef.

We come together through the work we do, through our shared values and common goals. It is our leaders and managers jobs to engender this collaboration and maintain the drive towards delivering excellence for our clients.

The huge potential of O365 is a vehicle for the imagination, creativity and community spirit that comes from your people. And when it comes to inspiring and leading these people, it starts with you

Here is our cut-out-and-keep check list for the top five things we should all do when managing our virtual teams (with some handy tips for using Microsoft 365 to help you along the way).

Keep the information flow consistent

One of the most challenging things about running virtual teams – particularly when running projects – is ensuring that each individual is up to speed with the latest information, decisions made or priorities. From shifting timelines, to delivery scheduling, personnel changes and creative decisions, keeping your staff abreast of the most up to date information is key to maintaining engagement and ensuring success.

Use Microsoft Teams to set up Teams and Channels to manage projects and themes. This way you can share information, documents and rich data instantly with predefined groups, as well as encouraging and engaging with discussion around content and announcements.

Make one to ones personal

We are all human and, as humans, are hard-wired to interact with one another. Offering opportunities for remote workers to regularly face-to-face with you keeps the personal connection alive, even when a trip to the office for them, or the remote location for you, is impossible. 

Teams meetings can be run for 2 people or thousands (for live events), but – most importantly – all you and your team member need for a face-to-face is an internet connection and a camera. Connect from within chat, by dialling in, or – crucially – through the mobile app. You can share presentations and documents to discuss work in detail, and collaborate on shared projects, wherever you are located.

Coach, train, mentor and educate

Continual personal development and learning, and the genuine belief that your manager and company cares about your professional growth, are absolutely vital for employee engagement. But on-the-job training can be particularly challenging for virtual teams. As a manager you should recognise that both structured and unstructured learning needs are different from each individual. So, look to establish a plan for remote workers that you can both commit to and follow through by linking them to peer mentors, arranging for remote training, and giving them personal coaching in day to day activities.

The Microsoft Stream application allows you to create, host and share rich training videos. Using Streams you can build tutorials and present them for individuals to follow or bookmark. You can also share videos directly in a Teams tab to link training to a particular discipline or project team. 

Encourage collaboration

Collaboration breeds creativity, and giving your virtual teams the ability to work together towards common goals can bring a unity to a business regardless of the physical location of its employees. Where collaboration is already part of the culture, your focus should be on removing any barriers to keep information and ideas flowing. Whether these are barriers of language, technology, access to data or skill sets, it lies with you to find ways to release the blockers.

An easy fix for opening up access to data and collaborating in shared workspaces is using Microsoft Teams, where documents, presentations, plans and rich content can be shared, held for collaborative editing and discussed by anyone linked to that team or channel, regardless of location. 

Don’t forget to keep the culture alive

Every company has a unique community culture and feeling part of that community is a key part of employee engagement. This is one of the most challenging things to overcome when managing a remote workforce, particularly when there is little or no opportunity for an individual to physically join in. 

The biggest watch out here is ‘Don’t Forget’! 

Don’t forget to extend the invite to the latest team social to your entire team (wherever they are located) and don’t forget to include your remote workers when you are canvassing employee opinion on the new reception layout. The most fundamental, though, is not to forget that culture emerges in the way people talk to each other; about work, life, hobbies, and things outside work that interest them. Encourage an open, honest, personal dialogue between colleagues – and make that conversation available to the virtual team – and you will keep your culture alive across your virtual team.

Yammer is a purpose-built social network for businesses which has been specifically designed to build and strengthen relationships and ideas. As a manager your activity on Yammer will model the behaviour you want to see in your teams. Engage, be open and relaxed, and you should see the same from your teams. Yammer is being relaunched this year so check out our take on some of the great new features.

How is Microsoft 365 helping you to manage your virtual teams? Contact us now to find out more about how Microsoft 365, Yammer and Teams can help your business to connect and thrive.

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