Many things go into creating a successful virtual team, from work habits, to personality types, to company culture, and perhaps most importantly, the tools provided to enable efficiently functioning as a working team, while maintaining the business identity and intelligence.
Unified Communciations: The Enabler for Virtual Teams and Remote Workers
Below are the results of a Dell study, via Remote.co, on what makes the remote working environment work for several of their team members, as well as a survey on tools remote workers use. Technology clearly plays a big role. It is interesting to see the collection of disparate tools on the survey. Thinking about the management of separate tools and the loss of business intelligence makes the OCN team cringe. With a Unified Communications solutions, all these multiple tools are combined into one easy to use unified communications solution.
With a unified communications solution, voice (your traditional phone) is combined with other communication and collaboration tools to provide one consistent environment to work from. It is also seamless to change from one communication method to another, on the fly, as needs require.
For example, if you are on the phone or using the chat function to get some help from a co-worker and questions arise where “seeing” what’s happening would be helpful, you can click on a single button within the same interface to share your desktop. At that point, if a face-to-face meeting would further enhance the ability to solve the problem, the click of another button turns the share into a video conference. Yes, with the click of a single button. Going the other way works as well. On a call or “in a meeting” virtually and have to run out the door to your next appointment, you can “slide” the call over to your mobile device seamlessly. No interruptions, no need to call back in, etc. All this communication is also logged within the history so participants can later reference it. From an organizational standpoint, no business intelligence is lost. It all stays within the corporate communications environment.
If you’d like to take the solution one step further and integrate into your CRM or other enterprise platform, you can do that too!
With any voice line with unified communications and collaboration, the app for your computer, tablet or mobile comes with it. In fact, you can install on as many devices as you want all for the same price. You can choose to have a deskphone or not, or simply use your mobile, or a headset and your computer.
So let’s take a look at that Dell study, reposted from Remote.co.
Dell’s Tools for a Successful Virtual Team
I joined Dell over four years ago, and it was my first experience as a remote team member on a global, successful virtual team. This was a complete change from my previous work environment: a hyper-local organization where employees came into the office every day and business was always conducted face-to-face. Luckily, the transition to a global, virtual team wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated, as Dell offers a number of useful tools and resources.
Here’s what we use at Dell to be a successful virtual team:
Collaborative Video Communication
It is not always financially realistic to travel for crucial meetings, and when you can’t see the person you’re talking to there’s an extra layer of conversation that gets lost. To help bridge this gap, my team uses collaborative communication tools so we can chat over video and share files or screens easily.
Our talent acquisition organization has embraced video interviewing to allow candidates to experience a personal connection earlier in the recruiting process. There are several roles that IT plays that supports a Connected Workplace.
Employee-Only Social Media
At Dell, we use Salesforce Chatter as our internal social network. There are hundreds of groups you can join depending on your team, business, outside interests, even community events. It makes it easy to see what’s going on in other parts of the company around the globe and get quick answers to issues you may be having.
I was having trouble connecting to my network one morning, and posted on the IT Help Desk Chatter group. Within minutes, another group member had emailed me with a suggested fix for the issue. The power of social media!
The HR Chatter group has also developed its own virtual annual tradition. Every holiday season, the group hosts an #HRLove shout-out, where HR team members are encouraged to publicly share kudos for other HR team members with the hashtag #HRLove. Even without physical communities, this virtual space offers an encouraging sense of camaraderie.
Global Perspective with GlobeSmart
GlobeSmart is another tool Dell offers to help team members connect by better understanding different cultures and work preferences. After completing a quick survey, you can compare yourself on five preference scales—from whether you’re direct or indirect, to the degree of respect you give superiors by virtue of their job titles.
My team went through this exercise a few months ago and I was surprised how much I learned about colleagues I’d been working with for over two years. The exercise was really eye-opening and gave me a deeper understanding and empathy that I wouldn’t have arrived at on my own. It turned “the other person” into someone I could relate to and gave me communication ideas to foster better relationships with cultures that I have minimal experience in.
Employee affinity groups also help make a remote employee feel more included. Finding your “tribe” and knowing you have people who share your passions and interests can make a large, global corporation feel that much smaller. Dell’s affinity groups are called Employee Resource Groups and the newest one, Conexus, brings together our remote team members.
Conexus hosts virtual career development seminars, and their group on our internal social networking site is a place to swap tips for making remote work productive, as well as a place to solve technical issues. There are even face-to-face networking events hosted in areas with several remote team members. This is a great way to get to know people from other areas of the organization.
Being a remote team member on a global, successful virtual team doesn’t have to be difficult. New collaborative technologies and creative virtual communities can help remote workers be just as connected as those in a traditional face-to-face working environment.
Meredith Barnhill Harrison is a project manager on Dell’s global employment branding team and focuses on content development, branding and improving the candidate experience. She works remotely from her home in Austin, Texas.