Top Tips to Motivate Your Virtual Team

April 8, 2020 | Activate Learning | 4 min read

For most supervisors and managers, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced the new dynamic of having most or all people on the team now virtual.

If you’ve gone from a blended team of onsite and remote workers to all working remotely, there are important considerations for a manager of a virtual team. These considerations will require forethought and different behavior on the part of the manager to ensure the team remains motivated and productive in their new virtual environment. Here are some tips to get virtual motivation right.

Set up team members

Proactively talk with each team member individually about the new situation to gauge how they are feeling and also to get an agreed-upon level of support that you both feel works. For example, some people may wish to stay in close contact and will feel better with frequent feedback and reinforcement. Others may be quite independent and require less frequent contact with you. Identifying the right cadence for individual check-ins between you and each employee will ensure you show your interest in the individual and give them the support they need.

Maintain team dynamics

When working in the office, it’s easy to grab a conference room for team meetings to keep everyone connected and on the same page. In a virtual work environment, you need to assess the tools you need as a team to be able to function similarly to in the office. Allow time for the team to learn any new tools or technology being introduced. Ensure that you schedule team sessions regularly to eliminate the risk of team members feeling isolated. When running the team meetings, offer everyone the opportunity to be heard and participate in the conversation.

Communication overdrive

Make sure that your individual and team meetings are maximized for communication. If you have access to a videoconference solution, use it and insist team members be on camera. This goes a long way in helping the team still feel like a team and maintain peoples’ attention. And, because people are remote, it is important to reinforce the points you’re looking to make multiple times. If you can, record meetings and send them out afterward with summary notes to ensure that key points land. Follow up with team members to ensure their understanding.

Maintain kudos

Effective managers recognize the performance of their team. What used to be a casual conversation at the water cooler needs to be adapted to a virtual work environment. This means making a conscious effort to publicly recognize the special contributions of both individuals and the entire team. That extra effort by managers will help reinforce the team atmosphere and help to further motivate each team member.

Don’t lose sight of the personal

There is a deeply personal side to what is happening and understanding how each employee is doing is critical to provide them with the support they need. Ask how they are doing and listen. Empathize and provide some leniency when employees are at capacity. Managers who demonstrate genuine care for their employees have more motivated and loyal teams.

Be available

When you’re in the office as a manager, employees can drop by any time or check in with you as they pass in the hall. That dynamic changes in a virtual team and impromptu discussions aren’t as easy. Consider adapting your schedule so you can be accessible for people to check in. Whether by phone, email or IM, be as responsive as you can to folks on your team. This goes a long way to establishing a sense of trust that you are there for them.

Enable cross-functionality

Depending on the team and individuals on it, they may be used to working with other departments to get things done. In a virtual work environment, the normal ways of doing things may not be available. As a leader, work with other department leaders to set up the tools, processes, meetings and rules of engagement for teams to work together.

These are trying times of change for everyone. Taking proactive steps to smooth over the challenges of moving from in-office to remote goes a long way to help people feel well-equipped and secure to take on these new dynamics while remaining motivated and productive.

Skillsoft course suggestions:

Leading by Motivating

Establishing Effective Virtual Teams

Russ Howard is the Senior Director, Product Management at Skillsoft