The field of human capital management brings with it many challenges, but these days, perhaps the biggest one is getting disparate groups of people to work together. Your employees will include all different types – varying in their ages, styles of doing work and even their locations – and your job is to unify them. The whole of the workforce is always greater than the sum of its parts.
The “locations” part is an added wrinkle that’s new in recent years. Thanks to recent innovations, it’s not necessary for people to be in the same office – or even the same state – to be co-workers. Videoconferencing and other communication software solutions have emerged as “collaboration technologies,” which are fast becoming a major buzzword in business.
In the new world of HR, you’re tasked with driving employee engagement for a group of employees who aren’t even working “together” in the literal, physical sense of the word. This makes it a little more difficult, but it can still be done.
According to the TED Blog, employment leaders conquer this challenge all the time. Haley Hoffman, product strategist for TED Conferences, explained that she manages employees in six different states, ranging from Florida to Oregon to South Dakota, plus two other countries, but she makes it work.
“Our team’s growth isn’t constrained by the cost of office space, and local challenges like a hurricane or a power outage don’t halt our work entirely,” Hoffman explained. “But it also means we have to be very deliberate about how we work because we rely on virtual collaboration. We know we’re not alone. More and more workplaces are bringing together talented people in flexible, virtual work environments.”
So what’s the best way to do it? The following are five ideas for making communication easier among “virtual” employee teams.
Invest in videoconferencing
The occasional email and phone call might not suffice for keeping in touch with your remote employees. Videoconferencing is the next level, as it enables you to hold “meetings” that feel almost as authentic as the real thing.
Replicate a normal office
In a regular office, there are all different types of communication happening. There are 1-on-1 meetings, group discussions, and general chatter that everyone’s privy to. Use different types of communication tools to make all of the above possible virtually, too.
Budget time for communication
Meetings don’t just “happen” – you need to budget time in the day to fit them in with all the other tasks on your schedule. Perhaps book a standing conference time each week so that people can keep in touch while still budgeting their time effectively.
Set expectations for teleconferencing behavior
Teleconferences should be like any other meetings in an office setting – they should follow basic rules of etiquette. People should speak honestly but also respect other’s opinions and listen well. Managers need to set these expectations early.
Use consistent, reliable technology
Having a good Internet connection is vital when you’re working with remote, virtual teams. If one person’s access is down for even one day, it’s a huge roadblock. For this reason, it might be worth investing in laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots that will reliably keep all of your people connected.