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6 key skills to develop for virtual teams

In our location-agnostic, remote-working world, virtual teams are almost a given in many industries.

But that doesn’t mean we know how to manage them effectively. Remote team management is an emerging skill set, and managing a virtual team can still be tricky. One study found that 82% of 70 virtual teams fell short of their goals.

That’s a scary metric, but it doesn’t have to reflect your experience. Other studies paint a different picture. Research by Stanford University showed that remote employees outperformed the office-working control group by 13%, and remote employees had lower turnover.

With the right skills, virtual teams can work beautifully. Below we explore six skills to develop in your team that will boost workplace collaborations and ensure you are engaging employees.

Communication skills for remote teams

Virtual communication is the most crucial skill your team will need to develop to work effectively. That’s because the old standbys of effective office communication, like dropping into a coworker’s office or meeting them casually at lunch, are no longer available.

When managing a virtual team, team leaders and members will need to find new easy ways to communicate. You’ll need to identify new work-focused avenues for discussion, like discussion forums, to avoid distractions.

You’ll also want to communicate more frequently and briefly so that your team gets more quick touch-points with one another. Debriefing after important calls and hosting weekly round table updates can help your virtual team develop communication skills.

Workplace empathy for virtual teams

When you work remotely, your virtual team isn’t as in tune with each member’s mental and emotional well-being. A healthy mental and emotional state is essential to virtual team effectiveness. When you’re remote, your team members may not find a way to mention that health issue or personal stress affecting their output.

Your team will need to develop their empathy skills to work well virtually. That way, even if they don’t know the struggles in their colleagues’ lives, they can be in tune to the fact that everyone carries personal burdens. Empathy breeds patience and understanding, two hallmarks of a team that works well together.

Conflict resolution on your team

Conflict resolution is a crucial skill for virtual teamwork. When miscommunications or problems arise, your team needs to be trained to address them in a virtual context.

Because clear communication is critical in a virtual team environment, you should have processes and policies that address conflict resolution. Your team should be trained on those processes and procedures so they feel comfortable using them to resolve conflicts independently.

Synchronising working and learning for your virtual team

Ideally, your virtual workplace collaborations will not feel remote. They should work so smoothly that the physical distance between your team members isn’t noticed. As often as possible, it should feel like they are working in the same office and in the same time zones.

To achieve that, your virtual teams must develop the ability to work and learn as one. Flexible working hours are great, but it’s vital that at least some of your team’s work hours overlap for meetings and casual discussions.

Try to schedule training sessions as a group, too, so that your team learns together, even when apart. Training as a team is a bonding experience in which virtual teams learn about other team members strengths and weaknesses and feel closer as a result.

Actively engaging employees in a virtual team

In a virtual team, just attending the meeting isn’t enough. Your remote team needs to develop the skill of active engagement in every meeting and every group discussion. Use video to ensure everyone’s at their desk and attentive to the meeting, and be clear that surfing the internet, texting, or going to the bathroom while on a call isn’t ok.

Call on each team member to share their thoughts and ideas. When appropriate, encourage smaller groups within the team to work on slide decks together and take turns presenting them.

Remote teams management with honesty and trust

When your team works remotely, honesty is even more critical than usual. Any minor grievance can feel amplified when an employee works in the echo chamber of their home office.

Encourage virtual team members to be honest about their concerns or problems. Develop trust from your team by considering each issue without reacting.

Build a skills development hub that benefits your virtual teams

A learning management system (LMS) is doubly effective in developing the soft skills your virtual teams need for success. Not only does an LMS deliver training materials to your team members so they learn in sync, but they can also discuss their training and projects through a variety of messaging systems and discussion boards.

An LMS allows your teams to connect in a shared learning environment that’s engaging for employees and accelerates virtual collaboration.

Plus, the right LMS – like LearnRight – allows you to monitor your employees’ progress and download customisable reports to track virtual team performance. That way, you’ll know your virtual team is hitting its milestones.

Contact us for a demo of how LearnRight can accelerate growth and output for your virtual team.

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