HR professor


Building Virtual Teams in Cyberspace

Every Internet and technological revolution has created a new world within cyberspace: The virtual teams. In the cyber world, you will find companies which have a vast network of people spanning several continents and time zones. They have a strong team built via the internet. The interesting thing is that the team mates or the organization heads may never have met each of the team people; yet the team goes strong and continues to work with enthusiasm despite the dissimilarities.

I work for such an organization. Having been Editor for an online publication of New York Times Company's About.com, I have lived through the concept of virtual teams. About.com is an interesting network of hundreds of editors working in three continents. What's so amazing about this company is that despite the difference in work cultures in various countries, About.com has an established reputation for high quality editorial content available on the Internet. Many other established online companies also have people working in different countries and often their employee performance meets more than the expectations.

Now what makes virtual teams work? For one, there is a certain level of autonomy that employees feel despite working for a corporate. The flexi-time work model enables employees to work from the privacy of their homes. The lack of 9 to 5 work schedule makes it easy for employees to use their time judiciously. In online work, compensation is based on your job output and not on the time spent working on it. Hence, employees are motivated to work harder in order to earn more.

Also, there are no organization structure issues like hierarchy, politics, or other issues that bog down the performance levels. To have an effective virtual team of employees, it is important to ensure that both parties are well networked. Internet connection, phone, fax, printer and modem are vital to have an online team.

The most crucial aspect of any virtual team is communication. A virtual team cannot work without two-way unrepressed communication. Since distances are huge, remote communication need to be maintained on a professional level. Informal channels are also set up like discussion forums and chat rooms to ensure that all team mates get to address their issues. Emails and messaging services enable speedy communication.

When the teams are spread out, motivation becomes an issue. The organization should work to building team morale by writing positive reinforcement notes and rewarding promising employees with more projects or higher compensation.

Virtual team is now a hugely accepted and a fast evolving concept. You don't need to have people around you to make a successful team; teams can be formed with members from far flung areas. The challenges of a virtual team are very big. It requires the dynamic leadership and team building skills of the captain to run the show.

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