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8 Tried and True Ways to Motivate Your Virtual Team

Four years ago, the world learned that it can work virtually and have the same, if not more, productivity. The pandemic also made people reprioritize. They aren’t living to work anymore, they are working to live. Fast forward to present day and we see this ongoing tug-of-war between employers and employees over remote work. Companies are convinced the best collaboration and innovation happens in a building, next to the water cooler, or in physical team meetings. But what if there was another option? What if companies weren’t restricted to hiring local talent, or relocating individuals simply to fill an office building? 



a teal mug to the left of an open laptop. On the laptop screen, a virtual meeting is being held, as there are about 25 small squares showing a group meeting.


Imagine the strength of a motivated team of the most talented individuals-- without the limit of geographic location. Happy employees produce better quality work, and a positive company culture. As individuals who have worked virtually for over a decade, and have successfully tripled the size of a virtual global talent acquisition function that hired nearly 700 individuals per year, we know a few things about creating a collaborative, motivated team-- without the buildings. 


It’s as simple as this:

People want to feel heard and connected. 


It’s our job as leaders to set that stage, even if people are working remotely. 


So how did we build connection across the globe with our virtual team? So glad you asked!


Include the team in setting annual goals.

Schedule a Zoom and have a day of fun, teambuilding, and you guessed it, goal setting.  Set the stage with outlining the companies’ goals, and have them go into breakout groups.  See what challenging, yet achievable goals they can come up with.  


Bring them together virtually. 

Hold monthly team meetings, and empower team members to help run those meetings.  Whether it is doing refresher training or having an “open floor” to help someone who is struggling with a project or task, stakeholder, or situation.


Set the stage for cross-collaboration. 

Everyone has their individual goals, but we also set up “projects” to complete as part of annual team goals. When it comes to those projects, try our best to assign team members to preferred projects while also ensuring there is diversity in the group selected. Diversity meaning individuals from backgrounds, locations, roles, or departments. These projects give the team a shared goal, and a place for them to naturally start building relationships. This connects them into the organization. 


Listen

Not only should managers be holding regular one on ones with their direct reports, but companies should deploy skip-level meetings.  Say what? A skip-level meeting involves leaders meeting with the team members managed by the employee who reports directly to them, providing a direct line of communication beyond their immediate reports. 


A diagram showing how a skip-level works within a team.

Now this isn’t all about the meeting cadence, but people want to know they’ve been heard. So, leaders, this is all up to you! You need to actively listen, and remember what people share with you. Have several employees, and a poor memory? That isn’t an excuse - take control over your calendar, and take notes. Remember their partner’s name, their career goals, or even their pet peeves. People trust those who listen to them, and they are motivated to work for a leader who demonstrates they listen, and care.


Set up “new hire buddies” or mentors.

The goal here is to integrate and train a new hire but it also gives that person a “go-to” when they are ramping up. A new hire buddy or mentor should be focused on helping teach the individual how the company works, and also introducing them to the organization.  Their role is to be a support system for the new hire. 


Keep the cameras on.  

If you were in an office, you wouldn’t speak to someone through a wall, would you?  No.  You would look people in the eyes and talk to them. Sitting on the computer is the exact same. A silver lining to working remotely is that you have the opportunity to see into your team’s lives. Ask to virtually meet their children, or dogs. Ask about their home. Get a tour of a home project they’ve been working on. Treat them as people, because after all, they are. And the company’s success depends on their productivity.


Communicate.  

In addition to those regular meetings, there is so much technology available today, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have group chats/messaging platforms. Just because you aren’t passing each other in the hallway doesn’t give you an excuse not to reach out.  We like to use group chats/messaging platforms where we cover anything from “Hey all, quick update on ABC” to “Would someone have bandwidth to take on a stretch assignment?”  


Have fun.  

Have everyone order from a food delivery service, and schedule a team lunch.  Set up “Meme Friday” where everyone throws a silly meme into a group chat about their week.  Mail the team thank you cards, small tokens of appreciation, etc.   Just because you are virtual doesn’t mean you don’t set aside a budget to care for your employees, it just means the way you spend that budget and plan those events is different.  


Again, people want to feel heard, and included.  So, get yourself organized, take control of your calendar, and remember your team comes first. Always. 


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