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What are the Challenges for an HR Department Who Manage Virtual Teams?


Human resources often appears to be not much more than a shuffle of papers. There are applications to be completed, and forms to be signed for various benefits. It is a highly administrative area that some people believe accomplishes very little. That perception is sometimes increased when the modern global economy is considered. Virtual teams are not centrally located. They are everywhere and that may be in different countries. Decision-makers could question whether human resources can exist effectively in this type of a long distance world. As a matter fact, human resources can do more than just survive but thrive. Certain challenges do need to be met.

The Needs for Effective Virtual Team Management 

Virtual teams are going to require motivation and setting high standards, and expecting a good work ethic will help. The teams are geographically distant and coordination of any meetings have to consider the respective time zones. A manager of a virtual team must keep in mind the question of diversity. It is more than just different times but can include different cultures. Cultural sensitivity is a topic that all team members have to be trained in to better act with each other. It will be necessary for a manager to understand what motivates individuals on the team. Some may be looking for career growth, while others hope to advance in job titles. Knowing this information about the respective team members will help the overall manager be a better coach.

The right tools mean a lot. Business mobile applications are developed with productivity in mind, but also recognition of distance. Some of the better ones can be adapted for use on traditional PC, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. One of the best is Evernote, which will allow for notes to be posted in a general notebook for all team members to see. HootSuite is a dashboard in the sky that a manager can use to coordinate all communication between distant team members. Both of these will allow team members to know exactly what the status is of various projects. The manager can also use these and other mobile applications to make assignments and follow-up with individuals. Use of video and virtual conference rooms are going to help bring all parties together. These also allow a voice to be added to a name or an email, allowing people to get a little closer in a bonding process.

Communication is a Key Quality 

There is the need for informal communication between team members and this should not be ignored. It is important to remember that any such communication must be within specific guidelines to avoid potential harassment. At the same time, the manager can indicate to the entire team information such as birthdays, anniversaries, or special events that occurred in the lives of individuals. These can help add to the morale of the team.

What is going to be at the forefront of any manager’s challenges is the ability to communicate. Team goals can be set high but they have to be carefully articulated. Coaching is something that will require an understanding of the business culture of the team member. It cannot be assumed that everyone will act as if they all lived in New York City.

There is an enormous benefit to be derived from being able to manage virtual teams. The global economy is opening up market areas that once were inaccessible. Virtual teams can make sure that policy is followed properly in new territories, and that is human resources functions operating efficiently. The various Internet tools available to manager will allow effective communication and guidance to distant offices. Perhaps the best of all is that problems can be solved in real time. No one has to wait for long-distance telephone call or overnight correspondence. Virtual team management allows situations to be addressed quickly and effectively.

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