There’s no doubt: the world has gone remote.
Even before the coronavirus, remote work was on the rise.
- An estimated 4.7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) work from home at least half the week.
- For 44% of employees, at least part of their team is a full-time remote worker.
In a post-pandemic world, we can expect remote work to be the new norm. If employees were allowed to work at least part-time from home, 99% of them would choose to do so now.
Whether your entire team remains in a virtual environment for the near future or there’s just a shift in flexibility—leaning heavily towards remote work—it’s something every leader needs to be prepared for.
Top Challenges for Leading a Remote Team
Unfortunately, leading virtual teams comes with many challenges. In a virtual environment, it can be especially difficult to effectively collaborate, communicate, and manage from a distance due to infrequent face-to-face contact, different time zones, and unreliable technology. And that just touches the surface.
Remote team leaders face a number of key challenges when delivering great customer service:
- It’s more difficult to build relationships and trust when there’s a lack of face-to-face interaction.
- Misunderstandings and miscommunication are more common due to how people interact in a virtual world: lack of visual cues and increased second- and third-hand information.
- Conducting effective virtual team meetings where everyone is engaged is frustrating and unlikely. We’ve all found ourselves in this hilarious situation.
- Observing performance, holding team members accountable, and coaching from a distance are all more complicated.
- Involving all team members in decision-making and problem-solving requires lots of maneuvering to match time zones, schedules, and technology.
- It can be difficult to share and receive information in a timely manner.
- There’s a risk of increased issues due to poor quality technology, lack of technology training, intermittent internet connection, etc.
- More than half of virtual team members say they feel disconnected from in-office employees.
The good news is that many of the challenges can be addressed with the right leadership behaviors and training. A good place to start is with the RAMP model, explained by Onpoint Consulting in their Virtual Team Study Report.
What is the RAMP Model for Virtual Teams?
The best virtual leaders recognize that they must enhance their performance in four main areas: relationships, accountability, motivation, and process. This is the basis for the RAMP model, and it’s critical to helping you close the gap between life in the office and life working virtually.
The key is learning how to leverage technology and adjust behavior to replicate the characteristics of face-to-face teamwork.
The first dimension to success in a virtual team environment is to focus on building relationships. To do this, remote leaders must learn how to build trust, manage conflict, and enhance collaboration.
Though 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when they work from home, as a remote leader, it’s difficult to confirm that. Accountability is the second dimension of the RAMP model and looks at how virtual leaders can and should establish clear goals and make sure individual team commitments are met.
How can virtual team leaders motivate people they cannot see? It’s not easy. Leaders must inspire, influence, and engage every individual on their team and the team as a whole to be successful.
The final dimension of the RAMP model deals with business processes. To support virtual work, team leaders must establish clear processes that effectively use technology to build relationships, keep team members accountable, and motivate individuals.
Virtual Leadership Guide: Using RAMP to Lead Virtual Teams
So, how can the RAMP model help virtual leaders achieve success? It’s about developing the right attributes, habits, processes, and culture to support remote work and collaboration.
Below, we offer 24 practical ways—based on the Virtual Team Study Report by OnPoint Consulting—to:
- Build relationships
- Keep virtual team members accountable
- Motivate remote employees
- Manage virtual processes
6 Practical Ways to Build Relationships in a Virtual Environment
Relationships develop over time and require mutual trust and shared interests to succeed. They also necessitate regular interactions that happen as naturally as possible. You need to be able to chat over morning coffee, get to know each other over lunch, and spend time at each other’s desks.
The problem is that most of these interactions are not possible when you’re not in the same physical location. In fact, a virtual environment makes informal, spontaneous opportunities to connect almost impossible.
That’s why it’s essential for virtual leaders to develop processes and habits focused on developing relationships in a remote work environment. There are a few practical ways to do this:
Initiate and encourage interaction among individuals and as a group for more than just work. Hold virtual birthday celebrations; schedule virtual coffee breaks every day; regularly and consistently hold non-work conversations.
Use video chatting tools to engage in and encourage interaction in a less formal way that feels more like in-person connections.
Make care calls to each team member on a regular basis to discuss non-work items. It’s about demonstrating emotional intelligence as a leader.
Hold team meetings with all members to gain a variety of perspectives to help with problem-solving and decision-making.
Encourage collaboration among team members by partnering people in different locations or creating teams to achieve goals.
Proactively create a forum for team members to express their points of view, handle conflicts, and connect with each other.
6 Practical Ways to Keep Virtual Team Members Accountable
To develop accountability, you have to establish clear expectations from the get-go. From there, you need to ensure that people make their commitments. It’s about setting people up for success.
In a remote work environment, accountability becomes more difficult because virtual team leaders have fewer opportunities to observe their employees. They lack visibility into what everyone is accomplishing on projects and tasks, and how that fits into the bigger picture.
To overcome this problem, it’s necessary for virtual teams to implement software that offers the ability to share files, assign tasks, check due dates, communicate next steps, track time, and more.
There are also six practical things virtual leaders can do to keep their employees accountable.
Beyond setting a target or a number to achieve, you need to clearly explain what “good” looks like and what each team member can do to achieve it.
Make work visible through a post-it action plan, an online dashboard, or a daily meeting, so that everyone knows what everyone else is doing.
Develop a framework and context for success, so that way, employees are able to take more autonomy in how they reach their goals.
Provide structure, guidance, and parameters so that team members can make good choices every day.
Schedule periodic check-ins where you’re monitoring performance rather than waiting until a deadline.
Involve team members in the early stages of project planning and goal setting, in this way, they can help you set realistic deadlines and expectations.
6 Practical Ways to Motivate Remote Employees
Motivation is about inspiring, influencing, and engaging employees as individuals and as a team. It’s the next step up from building relationships, and it is all about facilitating excellence.
It can be especially difficult to motivate employees in a virtual environment where frequent distractions and unique challenges can affect motivation. And since virtual workers also feel isolated and struggle ‘unplugging after work’, keeping them engaged and feeling positive about work is not easy.
Here are six practical ways to motivate your remote employees every day.
Demonstrate your own enthusiasm for the job, task, or goal. Your excitement can and will rub off on others.
Connect the employee’s effort with outcomes that affect the entire company; this will encourage them to take more responsibility and put in more effort on every task.
Regularly provide feedback and coaching on how well they’re performing and what they can do to improve so that they are motivated to continually try harder.
Use rich media, such as video conferencing, to communicate and connect with employees. It’s difficult to inspire via email or telephone.
Provide an overarching purpose for work beyond metrics. An understanding of why you’re doing something creates a sense of community and encourages productivity while helping employees avoid burnout.
Create an environment where people feel like they have access to everything they need to succeed, including their teammates.
6 Practical Ways to Manage Virtual Processes
Making decisions and sharing information in a virtual environment is inherently different than in-person. There are many more opportunities for misunderstandings, lack of communication, poor resource use, and more. Whether it’s technology or training, managing remote work processes is essential for success.
The more your virtual team members understand your company’s unique processes for accomplishing goals, collaborating, sharing information, and communicating, the better. Missing even one of these elements could mean that work doesn’t get done, profit isn’t made, and goals aren’t met.
The key is to clearly outline all expectations within the virtual work environment and how employees can meet those expectations. Here are six practical tips to get started.
Develop a plan of action for the applications of tools and technology. The goal is to ensure that everyone has access to the same resources and uses them for the same situations.
Put a mechanism in place where team members can share information and use the same shared process for problem-solving and decision-making.
Provide the necessary technology resources—Google hangouts, GoToMeeting, Zoom, Basecamp—so that everyone is able to work virtually, successfully.
Create common methods for interaction and communication, outlining which tools are used for which task: building relationships, managing conflicts, summarizing meetings, etc.
Set expectations for each platform—how it’s used and when it’s used. In particular, you need to set a preference for communication. For example, do you prefer chat over phone calls or email?
Provide regular training on all technology and remote resources so that everyone is on the same page and can accomplish the same tasks. For example, less than half of remote employees say they receive proper internet security training.
How Scorebuddy Supports the RAMP Model for Virtual Teams
Scorebuddy is a tool that allows you to assess and collect data on the quality of your interactions between customer service agents and clients. As a platform, it increases transparency so that leaders who complete evaluations and agents who receive evaluations know what is going on.
When it comes to the RAMP model for leading virtual teams, Scorebuddy meets your needs in a variety of ways.
- Relationships: Scorebuddy helps all remote employees feel a part of a team by providing two-way communication—between agents and supervisors, between supervisor, and between supervisors and team leads. It’s a focal point for collaboration in terms of managing remote relationships through video reviews, increased visibility, and more.
- Accountability: Scorebuddy allows you to set clear goals and objectives on a dashboard that’s accessible and shareable. And as a scorecard platform, it offers self-scoring, increased evaluations, coaching opportunities, and ways to showcase good practice.
- Motivation: Scorebuddy increases the visibility of task completion, reviews, and self-evaluation—all of which help motivate your employees to keep trying. And through this visibility, it offers opportunities for positive feedback, rewards, recognition, and collaboration.
- Process: Scorebuddy helps you maintain adherence to important processes by offering remote working protocols, measuring and emphasizing quality assurance compliance, and allows you to respond rapidly to divergence from process or policy. It also makes it easy to review important processes and policies and modify as needed.
Lead Virtual Teams with RAMP
Working remotely presents a whole host of new challenges for leaders. On a day-to-day basis, virtual managers have to look for new and better ways to build relationships, keep employees accountable, motivate individuals and teams, and manage processes. It’s not easy, but it’s vital to success.
The good news is that the RAMP model for leading virtual teams helps you break down the remote working environment into easy to understand and handle pieces. In this way, you can see exactly what is important to success, and what you can do to make it possible.
Best yet, Scorebuddy can help. We can be your partner in the virtual work environment, helping you to run your call center just like you were in-person. Learn more by contacting us today.