Let's face it, the standard operating model with an on-site staff is evolving. For roles that can be performed virtually, many employers have been hesitant to give up the comfort of monitoring employees from the office. Can employers shift to trusting their employees to work virtually?
"Building a culture of trust makes a meaningful difference in both employee engagement and company outcomes by enabling higher productivity, better-quality products, and increased profitability." - Holloway Guide to Remote Work
So, how do you assemble a healthy remote team? Here are 6 steps to build and lead your virtual team from a foundation of trust.
Trust in your team members begins during the hiring process. Are they truthful? Do the skills and achievements they have represented in their resume stand the test of an in-depth interview? Do they follow up when they say they will? Your interactions with the candidate should confirm that they are honest and hardworking.
"Trust is broken when expectations aren't met."
With every conversation you have with your potential new team member, you have the opportunity to paint a picture of what success looks like in the role and how it can be achieved. Highlight the benefits of working virtually as well as the guidelines and processes that allow your organization to be successful while enjoying the freedom of location independence. It is important to be candid so that they can choose to agree and accept the position, or decline the opportunity.
As a new hire is welcomed into the organization, you have the opportunity to help them get plugged in with their team and become familiar with how your organization works. The effort that you put into this employee during their first several weeks will cultivate their trust in you as a leader and the organization as a whole. Additionally, this is an important time to reinforce and instill the expectations that were set during the hiring process.
Digital tools help a team work together and build trust by creating an open forum for information and transparency. This also helps individual members feel included in the group. These tools often include: documented processes, project management software, online training, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, video conferencing and chat solutions. Since technology is always evolving, we suggest soliciting feedback from your employees and team to ensure that there aren't any gaps in your workflow.
As hard as it is to pay attention in a meeting in person, it is even harder online. Be intentional with the quantity and length of meetings that are planned. It is important for your team to meet and build trust in each other. However, filling the schedule with numerous or lengthy meetings can leave your team feeling drained and unproductive. One simple way to show trust in your team and foster productivity is to encourage working groups to meet separately (without you) throughout the week. It can also be fun to engage your team more socially by hosting virtual events.
Many successful virtual companies recognize the need to build culture in person. They often do so by having national and regional gatherings and meetups. Meeting with your team in person removes the technical barriers and allows the team to engage more naturally. You can help anyone who cannot attend feel included by streaming the meeting virtually.
Trust is not a luxury or an option, it is a basic and necessary ingredient to allow your team and organization to work and thrive. Although it may feel unsettling to lead a team differently than you have in the past, hiring virtual team members opens the door to a vast pool of talented professionals that you may not have access to otherwise.
We hope that these 6 steps help you to build trust and maintain a healthy virtual team.