The demanded skills of local companies to work in a Global Virtual Team
Today’s global business landscape and technological progress have created a nurturing environment for global virtual teams L. Zander (2015) . On one hand, global businesses are in dire need of such forms of work, to save on travel and expatriation costs while still keeping international teams connected and working on common projects. On the other hand, modern technologies allow for satisfying this need, making global virtual cooperation practical and accessible. As such, global virtual teams are a common phenomenon in many companies.
2 Overview of background
We think that companies in Gelderland and NRW are beginning to adopt working in Global Virtual Teams (GVT) as a way to safe cost and increase performance. There are challenges, however, inherent in the virtual team concept. It is difficult to build trust and to manage conflict when team members lack the ability to interact face-to-face. What is the perspective of managers of the skills needed to work effectively in a GVT? Do we train our students well enough to deliver professionals to the regional field market who possess these skills?
3 Research Focus
Related to the supply and demand of skills that both companies and future professions need or have to work in GVT, we wonder how competent are our students to work in GVT, what are the skills companies need from them and how to behave (attitude) in a GVT to perform succesfully?
What are the skills and attitudes needed to successfully operate in a Global Virtual team at the Companies in Gelderland and NRW?
What are the skills and attitudes needed to successfully operate in a Global Virtual team?
How well prepared are the HAN students to overcome these barriers?
3.3 Research aim/expected outcomes
This research tries to identify the major challenges global virtual teams face and existing frameworks for successful global virtual teams.
Should we pay more attention to GVT in the curriculum of our education, should we prepare them better? What possible changes should we make in the curriculum of an ABS student.
Publication date: Nov-Dec 2017
4 Research Methodology
4.1. Qualitative research
- Interviews with companies in Gelderland and NRW that work in GVT will be looked into in respect to their needs and their requirements via interviews.
- Looking at the Feedback and Comments of participating ABS students and interview them about their remarks and their experiences in working in GVT.
Turning Qualitative in Quantitative using code remarks
- Using the Feedback and Comments section of the X-culture we are going to filter those F&C relating to working in a GVT in a qualitative way, but also in a quantitative way. (see 4.3)
4.2 Quantitative research
Via research using the X-culture participants of this year and last year we would like to learn more about the challenges they face and study how they have overcome these challenges, learn what they have learned about working in a GVT, measure the attitude towards working in global teams during and after the X-culture project.
Using the huge data set of the X-culture weekly deliverables to measure the issues, problems know in GVT.
4.3 Data Collection/constructs
The X-culture database of weekly deliveries, the data from the pre-test and the end-evaluation and the individual interviews with ABS students that are or have participated in X-culture. In appendix 1 the variables that we need from the X-culture database
5 Research protocol/collaboration Mode
Below the division of work between both authors
R.Warmenhoven: X-culture database analyse, interview Companies/ ABS students who participated in X-culture
- Popescu: Literature review , final editing.
6 Literature Review (incomplete)
Recommended topics based on Literature Review so far:
- The use of technology
- Trust level
- Level of leadership
- Group development stages
- Barriers in GVT
- Goal Alignment
- Knowledge Transfer
There are challenges, however, inherent in the virtual team concept. It is difficult to build trust and to manage conflict when team members lack the ability to interact face-to-face. Communication is often more challenging, particularly among global virtual teams, which can also make it more difficult to overcome cultural barriers (Ebrahim et al, 2009).
A recent report by RW3, LLC, a cultural training service, found that 46 percent of employees who work on virtual teams said they had never met their virtual team cohorts and 30 percent said they only met them once a year. The report, The Challenges of Working in Virtual Teams, was based on a survey of nearly 30,000 employees from multinational companies. The survey also found that:
- The top challenge for virtual team members was the inability to read nonverbal cues (94%).
- Most virtual team members (90%) said they don’t have enough time during virtual meetings to build relationships.
- There is an absence of collegiality among virtual team members (85%).
- It is difficult to establish rapport and trust in virtual teams (81%).
- Managing conflict is more challenging on virtual teams than on conventional teams (73%).
- Decision making is more difficult on virtual teams than on conventional teams (69%).
- It is more challenging to express opinions on virtual teams than on conventional teams (64%) (Hastings, 2010).
In addition to these interpersonal challenges, survey respondents noted that different time zones are a stumbling block for virtual teams (81%). Other hurdles included language (64%), holidays, local laws and customs (59%) and technology (43%).
Much of these challenges are exacerbated when working with global virtual teams. According to Karen Cvitkovich, managing director of global talent development at Asperian Global, cultural issues often inhibit team communications. She notes that people in North America tend to be “low context” communicators, and rely on words and signals to interpret what a person means. Most of the world’s populations, however, are “high context” communicators, meaning that they rely on nonverbal cues and focus more on the relationship, the setting, and previous interactions to interpret what someone means (Hastings, 2008).
As noted in the survey results, selecting and using the appropriate technology for the task—and ensuring that all members on a virtual team have access to the same technology—can also be a stumbling block. E-mail and the telephone may be widely available and appropriate for relaying fact-based information, but they lack the ability to convey the nonverbal cues so vital to building trust and teamwork. As a result, selecting the wrong technology may result in misunderstanding among team members and ultimately harm interpersonal communication, trust and productivity (Lockwood, 2010).
These challenges to virtual teams are not insurmountable. HR and talent management professionals’ active involvement in the proper selection and training of virtual team talent, the selection of the appropriate technologies (and the training for use in those technologies) and the encouragement of executive support for virtual teams can turn these challenges into opportunities.
Today’s globally dispersed business landscape and technological progress have created a nurturing environment for global virtual teams. On one hand, globally dispersed businesses are in dire need of such forms of work, to save on travel and expatriation costs while still keeping international teams connected and working on common projects. On the other hand, modern technologies allow for satisfying this need, making global virtual cooperation practical and accessible. As such, global virtual teams are a common phenomenon in many multinationals.
Yet, there also seems to be a consensus on seeing several challenges associated with this ‘virtuality’. One major challenge refers to virtual communication. One of my previous blog posts on the topic of virtual teams highlights that the challenges may arise exactly due to a lack of face-to-face time in such teams. When we communicate with people face-to-face, our communication also includes a multitude of nonverbal cues (e.g. tone of voice, facial expression), which get lost in virtual communication. Moreover, apart from lacking important elements of communication, the virtual environment poses its own challenges. Indeed, have you ever fully succeeded in keeping a high-quality contact with your foreign colleagues, friends or acquaintances simply via e-mail or social media? Doesn’t it happen to you that e-mails get answered later than expected, instant social media messages get misunderstood, and time differences limit opportunities for video conversation?
Naturally, these known drawbacks of virtual communication can be dealt with by putting some extra effort into the process. For instance, a recent HBR blog post by Paul Berry, a Founder and CEO of Rebel Mouse, shares several communication tips to be used specifically with global virtual teams (See also these more general tips for managing virtual teams). At the same time, there is still a view, voiced for example in a Forbes article, that the disadvantages of virtual teams threaten to outweigh the benefits and are quite difficult to beat.
Interestingly, recent academic research on the relevant topic suggests that the disadvantages of virtual teams can actually turn out to be advantages. Specifically, having studied global virtual teams, researchers Magnusson, Schuster and Taras (2014) found that psychic distance, which is a perceived assessment of whether one location feels nearer than another, has a positive effect on team performance. Contrary to the dominant view of psychic distance as a barrier, the researchers identified that working virtually with each other, hence experiencing physic distance, truly does make people expect substantial collaboration challenges, but that these challenges increase employees’ efforts towards positive collaboration. As a result, greater efforts increase performance, showing how a disadvantage turns into an advantage.
In a similar vein, the study results (2014) suggest that the challenges or disadvantages of virtual reality are not negative per se. On the contrary, being aware and ready for the potential challenges may motivate employees in global virtual teams to put more effort into collaboration, which, in turn, is good for overall team performance.
Diversity training service group RW3, LLC offers the following practices organizations can use to improve the relationships among virtual team members:
- Hold monthly virtual lunches to build rapport.
- Use online chats, video-conferencing and audio-conferencing in addition to one-on-one conversations and e-mail.
- Post profiles of team members on an online directory. The profiles can include each member’s areas of expertise and how they fit into the overall organization.
- Be sensitive to the amount of participation virtual team members will engage in if meetings are held early in the morning or late at night in their time zones.
- Ban multi-tasking during calls and meetings (Hastings, 2010).
Karen Cvitkovich, managing director of global talent development at Asperian Global, offered the following tips during a 2008 SHRM Diversity Conference to help with the challenges of cultural diversity faced by many global virtual teams. Her first word of advice for virtual meetings: set ground rules for team interactions. Some practical ideas to help set those ground rules include:
- Speak slowly.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Listen to understand.
- Speak as though remote participants are in the room.
- Don’t use a computer or text message during meetings.
- Set agendas for meetings and distribute them beforehand.
- Leave time for relationship building.
Ferreire et.al., (2012) Perception of virtual teams performance, Int. J. Production Economics 140 416-430
- Janutaite, V. Vosyliute, (2015) Cross-cultural virtual group work: cooperation vs. collaboration, 2015 J. Social Sciences 2/88,
- Zander, P. Zettinig, K. Makela (2013), Leading global virtual teams to success, Organizational dynamics 42 228-237
Lead/contact author: Warmenhoven Rob, Rob.Warmenhoven@han.nl