Keeping virtual teams together

Organisations with strong management behaviours have been found to consistently have employee engagement and performance among their focus areas. Now, mass unplanned transitions are testing the agility, resilience and ability to deal with ambiguity of people managers, leaders and business operations functions. These challenges to business-as-usual offer an opportunity to adopt more efficient and human-centric approaches to coaching, productivity and management practice, quickly.

We find ourselves operating in new scenarios where we are driven in an accelerated fashion to reshape how we work, engage with our people and interact with and deliver services to our external and internal customers. This calls for creativity and innovation, but most of all empathy and authenticity – attributes that are normally important, are now critical.

The new normal has managers waking up in the morning with questions on how they can keep their teams motivated, prevent drops in engagement and productivity and provide support that team members need to deliver their work; all while trying to keep the business engines running.

Leaders may more effectively drive team engagement and performance by modelling leading management behaviours while adapting (along with their teams) to remote work environments all enabled by the right tools.

Management Behaviours supporting virtual working:

Leaders need to set the standard in behaviour. They need to give purpose and structure to their teams’ and provide the flexibility for people to learn and decide how they can perform their best, virtually.

  • Model the way by being compassionate and transparent in every interaction. This will create an environment open for conversations.
  • Identify and actively share positive messages to strike a balance in times when communication is dominated by negative messages.
  • Set a few personal standards for working remotely, focus on individual well-being and talk about these commitments. Eg.: Single task focus and being present in meetings, avoiding overuse of email, establishing boundaries to avoid work-home blending etc.
  • Go the extra mile in your role as a coach. Reach out to people and ask how they’re doing and what they need to continuously strive for reaching their potential. Ensure that there is clear separation between task and performance discussions with team members. Personal growth is still important.
  • Praise frequently and celebrate hitting targets or deadlines. Recognise performance in new ways that matters for the team.
  • Be mindful of personal space and the impact these challenging times have on different individuals.

Remote Working Practices:

In addition, Strong management practices and routines that may have been neglected in an office setting must now come to the fore. A key part of this is how we continue to drive performance with readjusted capacity levels.

  • Plan your own day to take control, establish a clear working pattern for the team each week / month. Ensure you have daily touchpoints with the team. Being connected holds a different meaning now.
  • Encourage personal accountability by co-creating goals and expectations in the team each week and each month. Allocate work with clear time expectations and give purpose to every task.
  • Delegate appropriately within teams, provide visibility of all work happening and empower team members to take accountability.
  • Sustain normalcy and camaraderie in unconventional ways. Make time for casual conversations, set up virtual coffee-breaks or team games, keep a virtual chat room mirroring office settings.

Enabling tools:

More than ever, employees must maintain self-discipline and self-motivation, deriving satisfaction from the work process and their output. Clear effective communication is key for team morale, especially for those who may feel disconnected.

Providing teams, the resources they need to be high functioning, promoting transparency and efficiently identifying risks, gaps, and opportunities in delivering business outcomes should form the baseline of any remote-working protocol. Operating on standard events and cadence creates regularity, enforces process, and allows teams and entire programs to focus on prioritized work while enabling transparency. And while we’re at it, try to keep it light to help with well-being.

Lastly, selecting the tools that will best enable us to be effective in this new environment will be important - both leveraging what’s available and selecting additional tools where needed.look at your policies that impact remote working. Set clear guidelines on what is encouraged and the boundaries to operate in, to maintain privacy and confidentiality. Leveraging existing technology to rapidly resolve staff queries and other problems will enable better adoption of the new ways of working.

  • Leverage enterprise-grade platforms to enable communication and collaboration across the globe. Use productivity tools to set daily/weekly targets and track progress. Lead by example to encourage usage amongst team members. It may not come naturally to some of them to shift to different tools.
  • Use engagement tools to brainstorm, co-create and share information. 1-2-minute video blogs instead of emails to communicate key actions or knowledge sharing can help combat email fatigue.

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Martijn Schouten

Martijn Schouten

Workforce Transformation Leader, PwC South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

Tel: +65 9667 4961