A virtual team can be a life saver for an online business owner. Your team members may be spread across the country or even the globe. When your staff work virtually, you don’t have activities that typical companies have like team-building workshops, happy hours and holiday parties. So if you don’t see each other in person on a regular basis, is there a way to make virtual staff feel like they are a part of a team? Absolutely!
I’ve worked in many virtual teams and the teams where we were engaged on an ongoing basis made it much more enjoyable and a place that I was excited to work for everyday. I was made to feel like I was on a mission with colleagues. I wasn’t just in a corner by myself plugging away day-after-day.
If your staff is engaged, chances are that they will be loyal and stay on your team long-term and stay loyal to you and your business.
Here are some quick easy tips that I’ve learned from working in some amazing virtual teams. All thanks to everything I’ve learned from them!
Weekly Team Meetings
Team meetings can be tricky if you have staff that are located all over the world, but if it’s possible, do a short weekly meeting! These should be for the purpose of engaging the team and to do a high-level updates so they shouldn’t be super-long. Start off the week by doing a quick team meeting to get everyone on the same page and excited about what’s ahead.
Make sure you have a meeting leader, whether that be you as the business owner, or your team leader (project manager, online business manager, etc.). It should be their job to keep everyone on track and to watch the time so you don’t go over what has been allotted to everyone’s schedule.
Have an agenda that covers specific points before you begin the meeting. A consistent agenda helps the team to prepare in advance. Here are some potential agenda items to cover on a weekly team meeting.
Give any major business updates
Use this time to give a high-level update about the business, including introducing new projects or partnerships that the company has taken on and celebrating any major milestones that the team had been striving for together.
Weekly contest and prizes
I worked on a virtual team where every team meeting a staff member would win a prize for the best email written to a client from the past week (how dorky, right?!). The prize was something small like a $10 Amazon card but it kept motivation going in the team and made our weekly meetings fun.
Each team member goes around and gives an update on their top priorities for the week and asks for where they need clarity or support. This isn’t the time to delve into those details, but rather the goal is to identify who the person will be to assist or clarify this team member’s concern. The follow-up will happen after the meeting.
Google Hangouts are a free system to facilitate face-to-face meetings. Maybe it’s just me but setting up a Google Hangout in the traditional way through Google+ has always given me difficulties! Someone in the group never receives the Google+ invitation and then there is back and forth emails and texts with everyone to figure out what the issue is. Here is the easiest way I have found to setup Google hangouts for team meetings.
How to setup the easiest Google Hangout ever for a weekly team meeting
1. Go into your Google calendar feature. (https://www.google.com/calendar/)
2. Create a new event with the date and time of your first team meeting. Make it recurring so that you don’t have to set it up again.
3. Activate the video call feature by clicking on ‘Add video call.’
4. Invite your team members to the event and a Google Hangout will automatically be added to each recurring meeting. Easy peasy!
5. When it’s time for the team meeting, you will access the Google Hangout by clicking on ‘Join Video Call’ in the event invitation. Voila! You’re in! The Hangout will be set up automatically for every team meeting you have setup on a recurring basis.
If a team meeting is asking too much of your team’s time, an alternative is to send out a weekly newsletter. This doesn’t have to be a fancy newsletter with a branded template like you would send out to your list; a simple text email with bullet-points will do just fine.
Some topics you could cover
- Business major updates
- Priorities for the team for the week
- Interesting blogs posts or content from other sites to read (if your business is a dating service, you might send out an announcement of a buzzworthy dating website that has been launched)
Weekly Newsletter Template
Happy Monday, team!
Here is our weekly team newsletter of company news, team goals and (company industry) news:
- Company News #1
- Company News #2
- Goals #1
- Goals #2
- Industry News #
- Industry #2
Have a great week and let us know if you have any news to share for the next newsletter!
Skype Group Chat
Skype is the tool of choice for instant message and quick conversation between team members. It’s handy to have your team all be accessible by Skype to ask them all a quick question, message or even to shoot over a funny note or link to brighten their day.
How to setup a Skype group chat
*Note: The screen shots are for Skype on a Mac so if you are on a PC it might look slightly different for you.
1. Start a chat with one of your team members
2. In the top right hand corner on the window, click on the icon that looks like a ’+’ sign.
3. Click on the icon and select ‘Add people’ on the drop-down that comes up.
4. Another drop-down of all your Skype contacts will come up that you can add to create a Group chat. Add all your team members into the Group chat.
5. This Group chat will show up under your ‘Recent’ sidebar. Right click on the Group chat for the drop-down and click on ‘Add to Favorites.’ The Group chat will be anchored under your Favorites so that you can access it easily at anytime.
6. Once the Group chat has been anchored under your Favorites, it’s time to give it a name! Right click the Group chat and click on ‘Set Topic’ to name the group. You can name it something fun and empowering like “(Business Name)’s Super Team” or “Team Make Stuff Happen.”
You now have an easy and fun way to connect your team members. You can send anything from a quick question or a light-hearted note to everyone on your team all at once without sending over an email.
Other quick tips on engaging your virtual team:
- Email alias– create an email alias to inform the team all at once about something. Make it something fun like teamawesome@.
- Shared social network group: You can setup an easy social network group to keep everyone connected and engaged through a private Facebook groups or Google+ group.
- In-person meetings- The most effective strategy for engaging your virtual team is to get your team together in person once or twice a year. During this time, you can celebrate where you’ve come, brainstorm about future business plans and bond as a team.
Above any strategy you use to engage your team, the most important tactic you can do is this: care. If you care about your team and whether they are happy and excited about their work, they will absolutely be more engaged. This can be as simple as a quick Skype check-in at the beginning of the week. This can also be as simple as showing gratitude for your staff when they go above and beyond on a task you assigned.
What are some of the ideas you have around creating an engaged virtual team? I would love to know!