Introduction

developing real skills for virtual teams UNC
If estimates from the Telework Research Network are correct, there’s a good chance that as you read this paper, you are sitting in your home office, catching up on some reading on your designated telework day. According to the network, regular telecommuting grew by 61 percent between 2005 and 2009, and based on current trends, the organization estimates that the number of telecommuting workers will grow to nearly five million by 2016—a 69 percent increase (Lister & Harnish, 2011).

With the growth of telework—increasingly called virtual work—is the inevitable growth of virtual teams, groups of people who are geographically dispersed but who work together virtually through the use of technology such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing, e-mails, text messages and telephone. Today, you would be hard pressed to find an organization that doesn’t have one or more virtual workers and virtual teams.

And as Arvind Malhotra, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, notes, virtual teams are here to stay. Malhotra says organizations realized more than 15 years ago that business travel takes away from productivity and increases costs. The faltering economy was “the final momentum builder,” according to Malhotra, firmly entrenching virtual workers and virtual teams into most corporate structures (UNC Kenan-Flagler, 2010).

Promise

Not surprisingly, participation in and management of virtual teams comes with its own unique challenges and opportunities. This white paper will explore virtual teams, their benefits and challenges to organizations, and will outline the three key steps that HR and talent management professionals can follow to ensure that virtual team members and leaders in their organizations have the skills, competencies and tools needed to succeed. These important steps are:

  1. Participate in the selection process of virtual team members and leaders.
  2. Ensure for the appropriate selection, training and use of virtual team technologies.
  3. Provide training for virtual team members.

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