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Tag Archives: Remote Teams

What should you look for when hiring someone in your virtual team?


Virtual InterviewVirtual Teams are slightly different from your normal teams, and hence, they require slightly different skill-sets from your team members. Working in a virtual team is not for everyone, only certain types of individual can perform well in a totally remote team. They should be highly motivated, enthusiastic, and flexible. Thus, it becomes very important to hire someone who can work effectively with minimal supervision than hiring someone who is familiar with a particular toolset. And hence, I would like to provide you with some tips through which you can assess the personal qualities and the tools experience of a candidate during his/her interview.

Technology competence: If you are hiring someone who can work remotely, then you need to make sure that she is comfortable with technology. You can perform a simple test during the interview itself to gauge the competence of the candidate with technology. Just set up the interview using the technologies that you would use when working with the team, such as VoIP, web cams, email, instant messaging, and so on. It will quickly become apparent how comfortable the candidates are with working with the technology and how they handle it when things go wrong.

Self-accountability: Here is where the behavioral and scenario-based questions come into play. You should ask very specific questions which can help you understand how the candidate reacts to a big problem and how she holds herself accountable for the work that she does. You can ask questions such as… How do you organize your workspace? How do you plan your day? How do you keep up with the office when you are traveling for work? How do you manage distractions when working from home/office? What types of distractions are the most difficult for you to overcome? Etc. With these questions, you are trying to find out if the candidate can work on their own, or will they require hand holding to perform their basic tasks. After all, working in remote team is no joke.

Ability to work remotely: Once the candidate answers your questions, ask more detailed questions that examine the candidate’s motivations and behaviors. It is very important to find out how comfortable is the candidate with working remotely. Ask specific examples about the time when the candidate has worked remotely. Tell them to elaborate on their experience. For example: How was your experience working remotely? Was it positive or negative? What did you not like about that experience? What organization techniques have you implemented to identify your priorities? When working virtually, how do you establish a rapport with teammates you have never met? By asking these questions, you are trying to figure out if the candidate is comfortable working remotely, and how she will fit in your remote work culture.

Synergy with your team: As with any hiring decision, skills alone are not enough to ensure that a candidate will be successful on your team. The candidates must also possess personality and character traits that fit with the other team members. If you have a choice between someone who is knowledgeable but obviously difficult and someone who is less experienced but enthusiastic, consider choosing the less-experienced-but-enthusiastic person. You will likely have far fewer personnel issues, and may get someone who will build team synergy.

I hope, my blog can help you find the right candidate for your virtual team. If you know any other ways through which we can improve the hiring process for a virtual team member, then please feel free to share it here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

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Why should you NOT let your employees work from home?


Work from home

Marissa Mayer might be under scrutiny by many of her employees due to her recent decision of ending ‘work from home’ culture in Yahoo, Inc. Though I am not aware of those extreme circumstances under which she needed to take this drastic step, I can say this for sure….’work for home’ culture is not for every organization. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for workplace mobility, when required. But some of the organizations are just not made to support ‘work from home’ culture. Thus, in this blog I will  provide you few reasons for NOT having ‘work from home’ policy in your organization.

Depends on your business needs: Not every organization can afford to have the popular culture of telecommuting. Sometimes the business need, itself, won’t allow you to implement this culture in your company. Let’s say, you own an Apple Store. Are you going to be able to make your “Genius” employees work from home? Though these technicians can resolve people’s technical issues over the network, it is a strategic disadvantage for them to do so. Apple Store is widely known for its best customer support. And hence, the business need requires their employees to have some face time with their customers and develop that strong customer relationship to promote their brand.

It’s not for every company: Some people just can’t communicate well over the messenger, email or phone. There can be various reasons for this situation including lack of training, stagnant workforce, availability of appropriate tools, etc. Nonetheless, if your current workforce and your current company culture can’t support the initiative of working from home, then it might not be for your company. If some of your employees are not self-starters, and if they need someone to hold them accountable, and can’t be motivated themselves at home, then they need to work in the office. OR If you have some of those employees in your team for whom ‘work from home’ is the other name for a ‘vacation’, then this is definitely not for your company.

You lose the human touch: While communicating over a phone or a video conference provides your team the flexibility to join the meeting from anywhere, it comes with the dual edge sword. With the virtual nature of the communication for a ‘work from home’ team, it becomes challenging to schedule a meeting, since your team member have to wait for other people to come back to their IM client so that they can communicate. Also, written communication over e-mail or the verbal communication over the phone can create many inter-personal conflicts due to misunderstanding, which taking long time to resolve them. With written communication being so inefficient and passive, it might not be a good idea to go with the ‘work from home’ culture, if your employees are not ready for it yet.

Can create security concerns: I know, we have the latest technology today with the VPN connection and the secured channel communication. But as the technology advances and becomes complex, it becomes very difficult to address these security concerns remotely. No matter how strong is your office network, if your employees are working from home, your company can be exposed to various security loopholes. If you don’t have adequate IT support to address these security concerns for the people who work at home, then you might want to wait before implementing a ‘work from home’ policy in your company. Internet security is not the only problem. When your employees work from home they are exposed to various other security issues like their laptop getting stolen, having their password getting hacked due to lose WiFi network key, etc. Obviously, these issues will be less frequent if all of your employees work in the office, instead of their less secured home environment.

So, what do you think about my argument? Do you know any other situations in which you should not allow your employees to work from home?

Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 
 

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Practical solutions to reduce time barriers between your Virtual Teams


DifferentTimeZonesI have seen various virtual teams that fails to accomplish their mission due to lack of communication. Virtual teams have many challenges like culture differences, language barriers, lack of personal touch, etc. But the ‘time difference’ is one of the most important challenge that a virtual team faces. As a part of my existing job, I manage various individuals from 3 completely different locations. And I have faced similar situations while managing these individuals. Through my experience, I have developed few practical solutions to resolve these challenges, and I would like to share those tips through this blog.

Define rigid working hours: I am neither a micromanager nor I believe in monitoring my people. But sometimes it is very crucial for a team to follow a strict schedule. Asynchronous communication channels like SMS and e-mails will only resolve few issues. But if you are working in a fast paced environment like me (Agile or Scrum approach), then it becomes very difficult to communicate through these asynchronous channels of communications. This approach makes it possible for me to meet with each and every individual at least 2 times a week (through video conference). From past few months, my team in China comes early every 2 days during the week and my team in USA stays late for those 2 days. This arrangement makes it easier to work with these people and it also helped me to increase my team morale.

Establish rules for e-mail communications: In the past, I have been in various situations when I will get an e-mail from my China team at around midnight in my time zone, and I won’t have any opportunity to reply to them until the day after. Thus, if you are working in a virtual team then you should be establishing few rules for your e-mail communications. For example: Tell your remote team in China to notify you regarding any urgent issues/concerns before midnight your time. Obviously, they will not be able to identify all the issues every time before you go to sleep, they might encounter few problems after you go to sleep. In that case, make sure that you always task them with some kind of other work, which is independent from that particular task. This will give them something to work on, before you can actually resolve their problem. This approach had helped me tremendously to increase the productivity of my team.

Make information go public: In most of the cases, people depend on each other for the information. Most of the professionals will take an educated decision in a given situation, if they were provided with the appropriate information. I made most of my information public in such a way that my team can have access to that information all the time. For example: during every meeting, I take meeting notes and prepare a list of action items. I started putting that information to our SharePoint site. This helped my team to have a baseline information and having the right information in their possession. This approach has reduced long chain of e-mails to get the same information that they would have got otherwise.

I hope, these tips will help you to reduce various time and communication related challenges with your virtual teams. Please feel free to comment on my blog, if you have any other suggestions for improving efficiency of your virtual teams. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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