3 steps to improve your distributed team collaboration

Remote working has been growing for the last decade, and that trend is set to continue. A recent study suggests that by 2028, over 70% of all teams will include remote workers, and they could be located anywhere in the world. However, while there are many advantages to this approach, there are challenges too, and if it’s time for you to build your own remote team, there are some things you can do to ensure a smooth implementation and management experience..

Why use distributed teams?

Before we look at ways to improve distributed team collaboration, it is important to understand why so many businesses are adopted in the strategy. While global events have certainly influenced the idea of remote working adoption, the trend was in place well before that.

With location becoming irrelevant, businesses can choose from a global pool of talent, broadening the recruitment process to bring in the very best people that otherwise would simply be unable to work at a specific location. This is also the foundation of one significant challenge that a distributed team brings. With team members operating in different time zones, collaboration is a challenge, but by overcoming such issues the rewards in terms of cost savings, improved results and flexibility present an exceptional opportunity for any business.

Having a unified goal and clear expectations

For a team that spans multiple time zones and cultures, keeping everyone on the same page can be difficult. However, when you build your own remote team, setting clear common goals and laying out all expectations for the entire group is extremely beneficial in unifying their focus.

With a transparent approach and identified goals to work towards, it is easier for teams to collaborate naturally. Each individual understands the direction of travel and with transparent interactions, ensures that all remain in sync for team objectives.

An excellent approach to achieve this is through collective staff augmentation, using unified employee development programs that build each team members’ capabilities and knowledge base. As the team develop together, enhancing skills and understanding, guided by the same experts, a clear culture can be developed within the team that defines goals and expectations.

Not only that, but such development programs create a team spirit that transcends time and culture differences, aiding that sense of togetherness and teamwork essential for improved productivity and efficiency from the team. By organizing development in ways that encourage cooperation, from video conferencing to onboarding, teams have a chance to bond and encourage collaboration.

Focus on results-oriented metrics

It shouldn’t need saying, but the number of hours worked does not correlate with success. In fact, with a team distributed across locations and time zones, moving away from specific work hours can make it easier for teams to communication across those time zones. In this case, a more flexible solution actually delivers tangible benefits. Instead, finding alternative metrics that measure success and promote collaboration are key to understanding how well a distributed team are functioning.

One such approach is the Objectives and Key results method pioneered by Peter Drucker. In this framework, objectives are clearly defined, bringing transparency to team activities and the management process, providing clear identification of the key results necessary for measuring success for the team.

Through weekly updates and identified milestones, a team who may not ever meet in person can enjoy a sense of togetherness and be reassured that all members are pulling the same way and achieving their goals. This boosts morale and aids efficiency, making such metric measurements an essential aspect of the distributed team strategy,

Make your meetings count

Remote working is becoming more convenient than ever, but it does come with some issues. A sense of isolation from the group, and with that comes low morale, being one of the key challenges for business to meet. With a global distributed team, in person meetings are likely to be very rare if not impossible, and as a result, video conferencing and other virtual meeting platforms become more important than ever.

Video conferencing allows team members to share their experiences, solving another issue with remote working. The disconnect between team members can make it hard to understand the challenges others in the team are facing, and that makes proposing solutions even more difficult. By having time to share experiences and gain understanding of each other’s problems, teams are better able to form collaborative solutions to those issues.

There are issues with video conferencing though, and these must be addressed. If only a few team members are fully participating in the discussions, the meeting can quickly become worthless. It is important to plan carefully, ensuring that every member of the team has adequate time to contribute. This includes scheduling to take into account the various time zones involved for team members.

Effective collaboration takes work

What should be clear to all is that, while a global distributed team brings with its significant advantages, to maximize their effectiveness takes work. Managers cannot expect to simply hire remote teams and everything to fall into place. When you build your own remote team, it is crucial to enact policies and provide infrastructure that allows them bond, share common goals and work effectively together.

From staff augmentation programs to establishing effective meetings and flexible work schedules to overcome time zone issues, there is much that can be done to emphasize and encourage effective collaboration.

With the benefits clear, that effort delivers exceptional return on investment, creating processes for distributed teams today is sure to deliver impressive results into the future.