Bringing Method to the Madness of Managing a Virtual Workforce
Within the next
two years, at least 40% of the North American workforce will consist of off-site employees or freelancers, according to The Society for Human Resource Management. That makes the ability to manage beyond walls and across borders today’s must-have skill for successful managers and supervisors.
Organizations across Canada using the Predictive Index tool, available from Certified Partner Predictive Success, show that establishing trust between colleagues plays a key role in successfully managing virtual teams. Thoroughly understanding the behavioural traits of every team member is the secret to maximizing their performance in their assigned role and improving their ability to integrate with the rest of the team.
To establish and build virtual teams that have a clear focus and high levels of trust and engagement, managers need to leverage employee analytics in five key areas:
1. Hiring a stellar team
The hallmark of a successful hire is a powerful fit between an employee’s natural abilities and the requirements of the role. Data gleaned from behavioural assessments of employees who previously excelled in the role can help hiring managers craft a job description that will attract the right candidates. Benchmarking the key behaviours and drives required for the role will substantially increase the odds of hiring appropriate people to fill it. This applies across the board, whether hiring in-house staff or augmenting the team with virtual staff.
With 122 local agencies, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (BBBSC) has a dispersed, remote workforce of full and part-time employees. By applying employee analytics to develop behaviour-based job descriptions, BBBSC hiring managers understand the exact abilities required to fill the specific needs of an inter-office team. By using analytics from the beginning, including in the development of interview questions, BBBSC managers ensure that a new employee is not only a fit for the role on the team, but also for the team’s culture.
2. Inspiring employees
Employers need to inspire each team member, whether they’re in-house or off-site, to produce a high performing, collaborative workforce. Having a profound understanding of what motivates employees also allows managers to identify when to intervene as trainers, coaches and mentors.
In the case of BBBSC, having access to behavioural data from the time employees are hired provides objective information about the motivational drives and work behaviours of individual group members. These insights allow managers to identify any gaps on the team and address them with tailored mentoring and coaching.
3. Managing to spark performance
With today’s teams consisting of workers dispersed across offices, territories, and countries, performance management is more complex and can’t effectively be achieved with traditional tactics. Behavioural assessments such as the Predictive Index, available from Certified Partner Predictive Success, can help managers uncover the natural behavioural characteristics of team members regardless of location. With this, management can make strategic decisions that define appropriate performance goals for the team, enhance collaboration and facilitate workflow.
With an understanding of both the job profiles and the characteristics of co-workers, BBBSC managers ensure that each virtual team member is engaged in positive, collaborative interaction. In addition, BBBSC works with each virtual team to establish specific goals based on behavioural analytics. This promotes productivity and guarantees the completion of key organizational tasks.
4. Coaching to build a positive culture
Acknowledging and appreciating good work boosts employee self-esteem and reinforces job security, whether they’re physically in the office or not. On the other side of the spectrum, insufficient communication or excessive criticism builds a climate of fear and mistrust, ultimately creating a culture of negativity.
Finding that delicate balance requires understanding what makes each team member tick. By having an open discussion of each team member’s behaviour profile, everyone in the unit can agree on acceptable behaviours and create appropriate guidelines for future interaction.
5. Managing conflict
When a group of disparate personalities is thrown together, there is bound to be disagreement. Employee analytics can provide vital, objective information about the root causes of conflict between team members. Analytics offer a clinically-removed means of discussing difficult situations so that no one is threatened by the conversation. By focusing on the data instead of the personality, managers can bridge the conflict in a way that ensures the employees involved feel respected and heard.
Investing in talent is essential to ensure the productivity, longevity, and competitiveness of businesses. As remote teams become more common, so too will the use of science-based insights to establish direction, improve communication and build trust among local and virtual team members. This evolution will also drive demand for managers who understand behavioural analytics and how to apply them to the unique challenges faced by virtual teams.
Eric Walker is a managing principal with Predictive Success Corporation (www.predictivesuccess.com) in Ottawa. Certified Partner Predictive Success leverages the Predictive Index to optimize organizational development. Eric can be reached at 1-855-430-9788 x. 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.