There is no doubt that working in a virtual team calls for an extraordinary work effort. It’s not as easy to create team cohesion or close collaboration, and it calls for significantly more awareness, planning and strategizing to reach a level where people share their knowledge freely and effortlessly. You need to tend to your team in a different and more attentive way. So when you recruit new people to join an already established team, you also need people who are up for and can create value through this way of working.
Of course, you need to consider all the standard things, such as professional accomplishments, education, personal and specialized skills as well as personality. However, in relation to these things, you would be wise to also consider 6 extra aspects:
1) The right profile
Finding the right profile for your team is not easy. Working virtually calls for something different than a collocated team. Some would argue that you need introverts, that you need people who don’t need other people, preferable a silent shy person who is already most comfortable in the basement. We would, however, frame it somewhat differently. Of course you need a person with the right competencies to fulfill the needed professional role, but you also need someone who is independent, communicative and empowered. Someone who is not afraid to call you (or someone in the team) and ask for help, someone who is not afraid to speak up amongst strangers or friends, and finally, someone who is structured, as working virtually calls for a great deal of structure.
2) What’s your team culture?
Before you hire, spend time on mapping your team. What is it that your current team members value as important, what is it that makes your team special, what is it that makes your team win? This is a great exercise to involve the team in, a way to also improve the team cohesion for the existing team, as you create awareness around the team’s practices and perhaps help them see themselves in a new (and positive) light. Make sure that your new profile can recognize herself/himself in the values described by your team.
3) Get a recruitment budget
Although many virtual teams are constituted on the basis of money-saving-principles, hiring a new person into the team is not a place to save money. You can of course do recruitment interviews through skype, but when you have narrowed the field, it is crucial to meet the candidate in person – either fly out or fly them in. It makes a difference as you will get a more in-depth feel of who that person is. However, more importantly, prioritize budget to get the team together shortly after the newcomer has started. Meet and greet, and create a collective experience for the entire team is essential when bringing someone on board – both of the newcomer and the ‘oldies’.
4) Build a strong network
Yes, there is a lot for you as a team manager to do when you get a new person on board. You should, however, make sure to delegate some of the tasks of getting the newcomer fully on board and integrated into the work of the team. The rest of the team needs to become the first circle of a network for the newcomer (might that be half an hour virtual coffee, preparing together for the weekly team meeting, or showing how an IT system work) and then they can help the new person extend their network within the organization. That way the newcomer will quickly become familiar with the organization, which will make them more efficient. A great side effect of this practice is that your team will likely take more responsibility in general by being empowered in this way.
5) Ensure your team is empowered
An important factor for making your virtual team take responsibility is to ensure they are empowered. You need to be sure that actions, plans and decisions are being carried out even though you are not present to ensure this. There is several ways to support this in general, but being very communicative and explicit around it is particular important when you get a newcomer on the team. Being empowered is a way to make sure that decisions are being made and plans are carried out despite the fact that the team manager is less accessible when you work virtually. Empowerment in itself calls for more than just a communicative act when a newcomer starts, however, when in place, make sure to demonstrate extra careful to the newcomer (and the team) that being empowered and taking responsibility is something that is treasured within the team. This may make it easier for the newcomer to act empowered.
6) Purpose and impactful work
The most important thing to have in mind is how you frame the purpose of the team’s work to the newcomer or the possible candidate. It shouldn’t be spelled out with big words and loaded with fluffy trivialities. Be concrete. What is it that the team does? How is this team contributing to the big picture? When getting a new team member on board or when deciding if the person is a right fit, it is crucial that this person understand the impact of what the team does, what they themselves would be doing in the team, and of course how their tasks would relate to the team’s overall work. It is vital to make the greater context clear and motive the newcomer to contribute to the team’s goals – and for the ‘oldies’ to engage actively with the newcomer - as there is a risk in virtual teams that the overall purpose of the team might otherwise get lost in between daily tasks in the virtual space.
We hope you can benefit from considering these aspects when bringing new people on board in your virtual team. We’d love to help you operationalize these advice even further, should you be starting a new team or getting new people on board. Just reach out and let’s have a talk: email@example.com