Virtual teams can offer considerable benefits to companies, whether small, medium or large.
Accessing a wider pool of talent:
The pool of available talent is no longer limited to one city or town. While it is true that one could, for certain senior positions, hire employees from elsewhere in the country, this would normally involve paying removal expenses. Additionally, a higher salary would probably be required to compensate the new hires for uprooting spouses and families. While many people may be happy to move anywhere for the right position, many excellent potential employees are not — their spouses have good jobs, their children are settled in school, they have friends and family and commitments in their current community. Virtual teams avoid all these problems; suddenly the available talent pool is nationwide or even worldwide.
Cost savings for some corporations using virtual teams are considerable, running into millions of dollars a year. Clearly relocation packages are no longer an issue. Additionally, there is a significant reduction in travel costs, commuting, and paying for office space. Of course, some of these cost savings are passed on to the employee, making the position even more attractive.
Time saving and increased productivity:
As mentioned above, virtual teams allow employees the luxury of flexibility; commuting is eliminated, employees are subject to lower stress levels and take fewer sick days, resulting in increased productivity. Additionally, having a team whose members are located across several time zones effectively expands the business day from eight hours to twelve hours, even twenty-four in some cases. Projects can be accomplished in a shorter period by utilizing more hours in the day.
Sales and marketing:
Having team members in multiple locations gives customers access to a physical presence nationwide or even globally.
Virtual teams can help level the playing field for small or medium businesses, giving them advantages that were previously only available to larger corporations since marketing and communications can be outsourced to different countries.
Obviously, virtual teams also present unique challenges but these can be readily overcome with experienced leadership and careful selection of team members. Virtual team members will need to be self-motivated and capable of working alone without the stimulus of co-workers. They will also need to be good communicators; maintaining effective communications may be one of the biggest challenges facing virtual teams. Cutting-edge technology — allowing cloud computing, video conferencing, email, messaging, etc. — will be the team members' strongest ally.
Effective team leaders will be able to establish clear performance standards and ensure that all team members are clear on the company’s goals. A collaborative ethos that allows all employees to feel that their opinions are welcomed and respected, enabling positive discussions, needs to be fostered by the team leaders. Remote team members need to feel they are not being left out of the loop and that they have the support of the rest of the team. Successes also need to be celebrated, just as would happen if all team members shared the same corporate office space.
Virtual teams clearly need to be able to communicate and access information anytime, anywhere. To this end, cloud-computing options offer the perfect answer for virtual team members.