Archive Monthly Archives: August 2015

Supercharge your virtual team’s performance with an enterprise social network

Different time-zones...languages...cultures. Different ways of behaving.

Working in virtual teams can be a challenge to say the least, and all large global organisations have them.

How do many virtual teams get around these challenges? Well, often they don't. They struggle with old tech and even older ways of working.

The enterprise social network, or ‘ESN’ for short, is the new kid on the block. When used to the maximum effect, it can supercharge a team’s virtual performance.

Here’s how...

How a virtual team can use an enterprise social network

Communicating. Team members can share project updates, useful or inspirational link, meeting minutes, basically anything they like – without inundating everybody’s inboxes via a group email. With email, when someone replies all just to say ‘thanks’, the whole team needs to delete the message individually. Pleasantries can be done as simply as hitting ‘like’ to a comment in a social network. Much easier

Sharing files and media. Members can share documents via the ESN without having to attach them to an email. People will be thankful for not having their email storage quota maxed out (some orgs have as little as 500Mb for the storage). All types of rich media can be shared easily – videos, audio files, info-graphics, etc – and done in a relatively simple ‘one hit’ fashion.

Seeking help. Members can ask for assistance from the team on any given matter. Anyone within the team is free to respond. Compare this to the email model, where only the people that the sender thinks can help would be included. Why not make the request open to everyone in the team? Email encourages far too much thinking into who gets added to the TO and CC field.

Creating a record for future reference. The team’s activity is captured and can be used as a reference source in the future. This is especially useful for new recruits who can delve into historical conversations and quickly familiarize themselves with the key discussions. Conversations that take place in long email threads are inaccessible to anyone NOT on the original email distribution. This democratizes the teams intellectual property.

Helps team morale. The success of a virtual team hinges on how well team members communicate with each other. A social network helps to bind the team in subtle ways. Remember this is a ‘social’ network after all. . Members can ask for assistance from the team on a given matter. Anyone within the team is free to respond. Compare this to the email model, where only those that the sender thinks can help are included.

Let’s look at some of the things to consider when setting up a network for a virtual team.

Basic steps for setting up a virtual team network

  • For the team to embrace the social network you need leadership endorsement and involvement from day one. While some networks may survive without the boss’ involvement, the ones that do far out-perform the ones that don’t. So step one is to engage the leadership around why the team would benefit from using a social network. You need to be articulate the benefits for the team – what would they be getting out of it on a day to day basis?
  • The next step is to engage the team. How? Craft an email message to come from your leadership setting out the rationale and benefits of using the social network, and have it come from his of her email account (with their permission of course!). This helps to legitimize the social network in the eyes of the team members.
  • Assign a community manager to manage the running of the network (or it could be you?). Either way, there is an art to effectively community managing a team, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The success of the group often comes down to competency of the community manager.
  • Hold a meeting to demonstrate to the team how to use the social network. This should be a practical session to walk people through basic set-up / navigation so they know which buttons to press. You should also give them practical things for them to do in the network to get them started. Don’t assume people know what to do, often they don’t and the whole thing will quickly grind to a halt.
  • Encourage the right ‘social behaviors’. Narrating your work, being helpful to colleagues, praising each other for good work done, helping each other out, being thoughtful, being kind. You need to encourage your leaders to live by that code too. They need to be active and visible in the group, and setting the tone for the rest.

Summary

I hope this article has given you some solid understanding for why social networks help virtual teamwork, as well as some practical ideas for setting one up. Now it’s over to you…

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