Maintaining work relationships virtually presents unique challenges.
It’s more difficult to build trust, manage accountability and form bonds among teams separated by physical distance. Add to that a greater potential for miscommunication or misunderstandings, and it’s no wonder our own research has shown one in every four virtual teams is not fully functional.
High-performing teams are able to overcome these challenges and continually adapt to other issues as they arise.
Here are three companies that have gotten it right.
SAP holds the title of the world’s largest inter-enterprise software company. With more than 30,000 employees in 60 countries, virtual team collaboration is critical to the company’s success. The company has structured itself in a strategic way, with global headquarters in Germany and large R&D centers in India, China, Israel and the United States. Each center has a specific area of expertise it shares with the entire company, which reduces costs. Managers can assemble virtual teams that include employees from each of these specialty groups, making each team more well-rounded.
SAP has also enhanced its virtual team performance by creating an ongoing team-building initiative with the help of an organizational development consulting company.
This initiative began with a training program in which teams worked together to build a community through a blend of online learning, conference calls, briefings, and coaching sessions.
IBM employs more than 200,000 people from different countries and backgrounds. One of the major challenges within a global company of this size is managing time zones.
Allowing people to work at the hours when they are naturally most productive can boost performance and morale. That’s why IBM reinvented itself to use a Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE). Employees can live where they want and work in virtual teams based on their own schedules. What holds the workforce together is the use of collaborative software to help workers build trust and enhance communication among team members. IBM uses virtual meeting software and chat tools to enable more collaboration, even as team members work more autonomously during the hours that work best for them.
3. General Electric
GE employs more than 90,000 employees throughout the world.
Facing the challenges of communicating effectively across a global workforce, GE invested in training its leaders and employees.
Through a virtual classroom, employees learned how to collaborate to achieve common goals with interactive e-learning and quizzes on foundational virtual teamwork concepts. Training was made more interactive with virtual breakout rooms, polls, whiteboards, games and role-playing scenarios.
Personal feedback helped determine strengths and weaknesses for each participant and identified ways to enhance performance.
Training programs like these can transform a workforce. GE’s virtual leaders also receive specific training that addresses cultural differences, an important aspect of effective virtual leadership training in a global setting.
Although these three global companies have developed best practices for managing virtual teams over many years, companies of all sizes can apply these tactics to their own teams.
Want to learn more about how to use training to develop more successful virtual leaders and teams?
Watch our latest webinar, where Wolverine Worldwide’s director of learning and organizational development will discuss how she implemented training initiatives that empowered her virtual teams to excel.
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