A Generational Perspective to Managing Virtual Teams

Image: A Generational Perspective to Managing Virtual Teams

Making All Generations Comfortable with Working Virtually

These days, working for an organization doesn’t necessarily mean heading into an office each day for eight hours or more. In the age of video chats, smartphones, instant messaging, social media and online collaboration, people work from many different locations at many different times.  This is not just an employee perk, but a business need.  Experts from different geographic areas must come together to solve client challenges and achieve business goals.

However, Traditionalists are used to getting up each morning and going to work, which to them means physically going to a building where work takes place. For most of their careers, they did not work with virtual employees and work was never completed at home. This means that the Traditionalist leaders of today have had to adjust their management styles around virtual or global teams. The traditional methods of managing employees (observing employees at their desks, making sure everyone comes in and leaves on time, ensuring that office rules and policies are followed, etc.) no longer work when teams are spread out across the country or the globe. Traditionalist leaders need to focus on outcomes and results instead of ‘face time.’

Baby Boomers see working from home as a privilege, not a right. Many Baby Boomers believe that only high performers or those with a great deal of seniority should be able to work remotely as a reward for their service. However, the construction of global virtual teams is no longer a luxury. It has now become a necessity and Baby Boomers have had to adapt.

Working Remotely with Traditionalist & Baby Boomer Employees

In many organizations, Traditionalist employees may be expected to work remotely along with other colleagues. Its best for leaders to provide Traditionalists with a lot of direction when creating a virtual team, especially at first. Traditionalists often aren’t accustomed to completing work on a less defined schedule. In addition, since they won’t be able to physically express their dedication and hard work, they’ll need to know how their managers and the organization will measure their success.

Baby Boomers who are part of virtual teams often want to build credibility to ensure that they are well-positioned in the team and that they are able to add value. They may struggle with how to build strong relationships if there is limited ability to meet face-to-face. Using highly interactive technology such as video conferences, real time chats and other tools will ensure an engaging experience for all team members.

Gen X, Gen Y and Virtual teams

Gen Xers and Gen Ys are quick to adapt to virtual team environments and often request for this type of team structure. Gen Xers who lead virtual teams are often very effective because they adopt a results-based approach. They don’t focus on how or when work is completed, but rather if the work is produced correctly and delivered on time.

Gen Ys have participated in virtual teams for most of their lives. They are very comfortable with collaborating online and likely have formed relationships with people they rarely (if ever) meet face-to-face. However, Gen Ys may struggle with the fact that some members of a virtual team may not be as comfortable in using online tools as their primary form of communication.  Be prepared to receive feedback and suggestions from Gen Y team members on how technology can be better leveraged to increase collaboration.

For more details on leading virtual teams, please see chapter 6 in Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills available at www.ngenperformance.com/book.

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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