The world has become competitive, making businesses define new ways of remaining productive. Leaders still realize the importance of effective human resource in achieving organizational goals and objectives. As a result, they focus on developing productive teams, locally and internationally. Technology plays a role in building the teams, particularly for firms operating globally. Resource limitation and technological advancement have forced companies to work with workers across geographical locations. The employees come together and communicate virtually to work towards achieving the mission of the business. Various communication channels are available, including phone, e-mail, and video conferencing. Although local workforce would work productively to accomplish the goals and objectives of the company, virtual teams are more beneficial for companies seeking to remain productive.
A Definition of a Virtual Team
Virtual teams work together just like physical employees, but members are dispersed over time and distance. Bergiel, Bergiel, and Balsmeier (2008) define the concept as people working together to achieve a shared objective, but not in the same location. They are individuals working on the same project, but they are not on-site. It could be employees working from different offices or employees who operate from home. Members communicate through electronic media to combine efforts and attain the shared goals (Meyer, 2010). Technological development enables the use of diverse forms of communication, making it possible for organizations to build temporary and permanent teams across geographic locations. Many companies are opening up operations in more than one country, relying on employees from those regions. Virtual teams are also known as remote, dispersed, or distributed teams due to their isolated nature. Hoch and Kozlowski (2014) suggest that the business world is witnessing an increase in the number of online platforms and the trend will continue into the future. Companies can take advantage of diverse skills and talent from different countries.
The Purpose, Advantages, and Disadvantages of a Virtual Team
Firms should be highly resilient to participate in the modern economy. The nature of today’s business demand leaders with the ability to manage technical and support teams whose members are not necessarily concentrated in a particular location. Capitalizing on diverse team resources at a lower cost is the purpose of creating virtual teams. Companies take advantage of outsourcing capability by bringing together individuals from different regions, with numerous skills and expertise. Through virtual teams, firms have the chance to use human resource capabilities that are not available locally. Online platforms are supporting the development of flatter organizations that are not marred by hierarchical requirements (Hoch & Kozlowski, 2014). Therefore, virtual teams have proven to be better for business operations than the traditional business approaches.
Virtual teams have many benefits that are not possible with traditional groups, including the capacity to capitalize on diversity. The arrangement leads to lower overhead costs since there is no need for space, furniture, and utilities among other recurring charges. Higher scalability is another benefit that companies can gain from employing virtual employees because leaders can engage more workers without worrying much about additional costs attached to traditional employment. Still, the management does not need to increase other expenses, including power, heating, and air conditioning among other expenditures. Virtual teams bring more satisfaction among employees more than workforce operating from the office because of the convenience they offer. Workers can operate from their comfort zone and for flexible hours and still deliver satisfactory results (Bergiel, Bergiel, & Balsmeier, 2008). The firm enjoys the opportunity to bring in talented employees who would otherwise be unwilling to work from an office.
However, some drawbacks should be considered by leaders when deciding to engage virtual teams. Less cohesiveness and reduced trust are some of the limitations of the working structure. Workers are free to work during their hours, causing the risk of the highly fragmented workplace. For example, the leader might face challenges when convening an emergency meeting since it is hard to engage all members in a virtual place. The conference might only materialize if the information is communicated in advance. The virtual teams suffer from inadequate camaraderie since no social interaction would motivate effective collaboration. Companies share information remotely, risking security and compliance (Bergiel, Bergiel, & Balsmeier, 2008). Leadership is a critical part of the collaboration, but the arrangement poses a challenge in this area because of inadequate on-site control and management.
Issues Unique to Virtual Teams
One of the issues that affect virtual teams is the lack of trust, particularly because there is no direct communication. The management delegates roles to team leaders to decide on various issues affecting their members and the business. The decision is helpful, but becomes problematic because of the lack of physical contact and regular meetings, making it hard to confront issues in time. Building a community is a challenge for those leading virtual teams (Thompsen, 2000). Leaders find it hard getting the members of the group together for emergency meetings, which further build-up problems. Collaboration is an essential part of team-working, but it is not always comfortable with virtual teams (Levi, 2015). The aspect of effective teamwork is affected by the fact that communication is not adequate. The lack of social contact makes it difficult for the participants to collaborate successfully.
Leaders should foster an open communication culture between the team members and their heads (Benetytė & Jatuliavičienė, 2013). Interactions, whether physical or not, build the necessary trust within the groups, making them more effective in meeting the goals of the company. The teams should meet regularly with scheduled plans to ensure that all members are available at that time. Such consultations will play a critical role in discussing the issues affecting the employees, while the company can improve the operations where necessary. Members should be given time to air grievances and provide feedback and opinions on the concerns affecting them. Effective communication will play a role in fostering the necessary collaborative efforts to complete projects successfully (Benetytė & Jatuliavičienė, 2013). The changes will build better relationships between the members and their leaders.
Technology Tools to Uses by Team Members
Various communication tools will allow effective management of dispersed teams. Video conferencing is one of the technological tools that virtual employees should use to communicate directly especially during meetings. Audiovisual call tools such as Skype and Google chat allow members to discuss issues relating to their work in an environment similar to a physical encounter. In this platform, the team will require technological tools to facilitate chatting. The instant messaging tools play a critical role in sending urgent messages to team members. Technology applications such as Google Hangouts allow the members to work together while communicating to share information or seek clarification. File sharing and document storage tools are also necessary for setting up a successful virtual team. The applications such as Microsoft’s OneDrive and Dropbox allow members to store and access documents in real-time. Collaboration and project-management tools provide the team with a central hub for sharing information. It plays a role in eliminating cumbersome and inefficient emails that could be discouraging to read. Some of the applications under this category include Slack and Hip Chat. Virtual Phone System will also be used by the team to transfer calls more conveniently. RingCentral is one example of the applications that members can apply for this purpose (Graham, 2016). The tools give the team a lot of flexibility on the devices to use to communicate with each other and with their leaders.
The Importance of Virtual Teams in Current and Future Business Interactions
Companies that desire to succeed should take advantage of technology, including using the virtual teams to manage their projects. Leading employees in the environment are cost-cutting as the company can still achieve its objective without investing in space, resources, and utilities. Firms have been outsourcing since technology developed. Therefore, virtual teams have taken the practice to another level where business can use diverse skills and talents without necessarily bringing in the team to the physical office (Collins, 2014). Organizations will be able to increase their workforce due to the scalability of virtual teams (Zofi, 2012). As a result, companies will become more competitive and productive through innovation. Therefore, corporations operating across the world are capitalizing on the virtual teams to avoid building more office spaces around the globe and to take advantage of the human resource across the continent.
Virtual teams have become more critical today than ever before, and the trend will continue in the future. The rapid increase in the number of the groups indicates the reality that they are playing a part in the success of businesses. Leaders should take not only the advantage of the virtual teams but also understand the practical ways of managing them due to the unique challenges the virtual environment creates. If well executed, virtual teams promise successful business operations across the world as the organizations focus on cost-cutting strategies.