Several months ago, the whole world turned upside down and without any warning many employees became virtual leaders, virtual colleagues and team-mates. At the beginning, people were happy to avoid traffic jams and the morning rush. Suddenly, they had more time to enjoy their coffee and their families.
However, one month later companies and their leaders started to face real challenges as engagement went down and people felt disconnected and tired. The question “How to keep remote team members engaged?” became “a hot thought” in the heads of many team leaders.
As an intercultural consultant supporting multinational teams all over the world for more than 15 years, I would recommend the following strategies:
1 – Give Employees A Sense Of Closeness
Never forget to devote a few minutes to small talk and encourage team members to share their latest news. As they come from different cultures, do not push them to talk about topics which may feel inappropriate in their culture. Just give them the freedom and encourage them to choose their favorite topics to build a tie with their team.
2 – Foster Closer Relationships In A Team
To compensate the lack of face-to-face interactions, it’s always helpful to arrange casual hangouts or offer time slots for private talks.
As a virtual leader, schedule unofficial meetings for the whole team to build trust and to get to know each other better. Initiatives such as “Let’s have a cup of coffee together!” or “Choose some pictures to introduce your culture!” always provide great opportunities to open up a more private communication.
3 – Make Sure Employees Feel Heard And Respected
Every team member should have a guaranteed space to share their thoughts and insights. Communication styles vary across cultures and online communication tools sometimes sharpen cross-cultural differences. Team members from direct cultures do not need a special invitation to deliver their opinions. However, those from indirect cultures often wait to be encouraged and invited to provide their comments.
Waiting for an employee to speak up may be too late. In fact, many of them will never decide to raise a problem themselves.
4 – Match Assignments With Talents And Strengths Of Your Team Members
If people feel trust and support from their leaders, they are more engaged and passionate to finish their assignments and go the extra mile. Leaders who know the talents and strengths of their team members contribute to their personal development and increase their team’s performance.
5 – Set Clear And Measurable Goals For Team Members
When team members work from home and try to motivate themselves to achieve goals, having a clear idea of what to do and how, is the clue for their engagement and performance. Virtual leaders should be aware of their communication strategies and be crystal clear about responsibilities, assignments and deadlines.
6 – Be A Leader Who Shows Recognition And Appreciation
In general, employees often miss being appreciated and recognized. Companies and leaders often take care of failures and hot issues. Once everything is going well, they neglect opportunities to show their recognition and appreciation. A simple and short “Thank you!” email works wonders and distributes a lot of positive energy to do our best.
Part 2: 20 culturally correct questions for leaders and members of virtual teams