Managing Remote Teams

Posted on June 26th, 2012 by The Learning Factor

As globalisation and technology converge to provide broad and immediate access to the farthest reaches of the world, our work is growing increasingly more “remote.” Up until a few years ago, most people shared a workplace with their teams and their managers. For the most part, only salespeople worked remotely and then only to be nearer their customers. Now a growing proportion of people now work at a distance, linked only by technology.

According to predictions in a recent report, Australia’s Digital Future to 2050, by IBISWorld and IBM, the new ‘utility’ as it’s referred to, will spell the enhancement of nearly all of our industries, and the extinction of some industrial-age industries. The world of ICT will be enhanced by high-speed broadband, cloud-computing, analytics, learning systems, cognitive computing and more, rendering the world of work, and employer-employee relations heading towards a whole new frontier.

So what are some of the key predictions of the enterprise and workplace of the future? Read on:

  • Teleworking – Perhaps one in four people in the workforce could be working at least partially from home if not full-time in the middle of this century. If so, then we would have five million working from home at least part of the time – taking millions of commuters off the roads. Almost half would directly benefit from – if not actually be enabled by – high-speed ubiquitous broadband.
  • No boundaries – As the new utility helps overcome factors like geographical distance, regional centres and some rural communities will be reinvigorated. Teleworking will enable some jobs centred in capital cities to be relocated to the bush. Skilled workers will be able to live anywhere they choose, and businesses will be able to source skilled employees across international boundaries.
  • The term ‘employee’ will be extinct – as a result of teleworking, the concept of 9-5 will be a relic. Workers may contribute to a variety of enterprises and will not be tied to a single employer.
  • Medium-sized enterprises, or companies with revenue of $1m-$100m, will continue to experience the fastest levels of growth due to: the trend to outsourcing by households and businesses, creating new entrepreneurial opportunities; the lower need or demand for capital (being service industries that are the fastest growing); and more flexible lenders.

None of these potential benefits come without the application of a different quality and focus by leaders of virtual teams.

Demand on first-line leaders time is already high. They are increasingly required to be visible and to role model purposeful leadership to their teams. The expectation placed on these managers is that they will do a lot when time is ever more limited, and to be skilled in dealing with the added complexity in remote venues when managing change. In this new world, managers are asking the following questions:

  • How does remoteness change group and leadership behaviours?
  • What is the right balance of task and team focus?
  • What is the right balance of control and autonomy in the way we work together?
  • What causes divided loyalties, and what can we do about them?
  • Why do we need to be a team anyway?
  • When should we communicate, and how often is enough?
  • How do I manage my team when the travel budget is cut?
  • When should I get face-to-face, and when is it better to avoid it?
  • How do I stay visible when I’m remote?
  • What’s the point in remote coaching?  Isn’t it just more work when I don’t have the time?
  • How can I travel less without damaging my career and still get results from my remote team?
  • How can I accelerate the transfer of learning through my dispersed team?

The Learning Factor runs a number of different training programs to help front-line managers understand the critical role they play as a leader in energising and empowering virtual team members.

We run part of this program on our virtual training platform. Participants can attend the program from their own office or home! A live facilitator interacts with the remote participants and they being to experience the power of using online tools to communicate with their own teams.

These programs should be a mandatory requirement for any manager who is or will be managing a virtual team.

Take a look at our Managing Remote Teams Training Program Outline. There is a large price to pay if you do not invest in up skilling your managers in this new world of work.


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