Are Virtual Workforces Cost Effective?
You must understand that virtual teams and virtual workforces are not a novel idea. It has been there for some time, but recently, it has been accepted by many organizations. Virtual employees are those people who work from remote locations. These people are either telecommuters, outsourcers, contractors, business partners or work on-site. Forrester Research conducted a survey in the US and China in 2009 showing that the virtual workforce will increase from 44% in 2009 to 73% in 2012. The report also reveals that a number of US virtual workers will increase from 39 million in 2009 to 63 million in 2016. Some of the reasons why virtual workforces are cost effective are listed below.
- Reduction in office facility and travel costs – Many organizations are opting for a virtual workforce or remote employees because they do not have to pay for office space and the expenses associated with it. The employees either work from home or have the option of coming into the office once in a while. Thanks to cloud computing and online collaboration, travel expenses are also reduced. People have become more tech-friendly and prefer video or teleconferencing than reporting physically.
- Improved productivity- Due to the absence of the office grapevine and micromanagement, the productivity of an employee increases. When the employee is working from home, from a coffee shop or any location that pleases his mood, he will put in his best work. Also remember, he may not have to commute to his office every day, so he is likely to put in more hours.
- There is work-life balance and job satisfaction – Employees are satisfied because they get the opportunity to work flexi hours, allowing them to spend more time with their family. When you are able to strike a balance between personal and office life, the productivity increases as well as work satisfaction.
- Reduces turnaround rates – Worker retention is one of the top priorities for HR today. If you can cut down the turnaround rate, you are actually saving a lot in recruitment, induction and training. When employees are given an opportunity to work in a virtual location, they put in their best performance. Not only will they be reluctant to move away from their current position, they are given the chance to work in their own comfort zone.
How HR Professionals can Support Virtual Teams
With the increase in virtual teams, the role of the HR managers is given a new dimension. The traditional way of HR functioning is giving way to more complex and compassionate roles. The HR department has to put together policies and procedures for virtual workers, providing opportunities for e-learning and also enlighten the virtual leaders on cross-cultural functionalities and providing training on leadership styles. Last but not least, the HR department has to be their voice in the organization. Let’s take a look at the new roles of HR professionals.
- Selection of virtual team and building teamwork- As a HR professional, one has to actively participate in the selection process of virtual team members. It is important to hire the right people and avoid hiring someone who is not focused on work in a normal work environment. It is also advisable not to include anyone who needs to be micromanaged. Hire someone who is more experienced working in a virtual environment. But remember, this comes at a cost higher than an inexperienced one. Building a virtual team is not an easy task. As you do in the office environment, you should hold individual conversations and provide feedback. If team members are spread in various locations with different time zones, then you should hold a video conference at least once a week. Here is the chance for team members to hear what other members are doing. Members would feel that they are a part of a group. With team building come new solutions and suggestions, team members will start to work directly together which in turn will show an improving output.
- Maintain a schedule – There has to be a certain level of predictability. Therefore, you need to organize your communication schedules to accommodate different time zones. Once you have established a routine for communication, stick to it. Introducing a calendar with a list of holidays will enable the virtual workforce to plan around holidays accordingly.
- Do not hesitate to exploit the technology – Virtual workforce is a growing trend and it is here to stay. Therefore, make use of the technology to support your virtual team. This includes collaborative software, shared directories, audio and video conferencing and so on.
- Recognize cultural gulf whenever they are manifested – You need to be sensitive to cultural differences. You must understand that the style of working will be different for people from different cultures. If working in HR, you should have an understanding about the gestures and behavior of the people of a particular region you are handling.
- Communicate frequently – You need to be proactive and the lines of communication should be widely open at all times. Don’t replace conversations with written instructions. There are times when instructions in an email can be misinterpreted. If such an issue ever arises, pick up the phone and talk to the concerned team member directly.
In conclusion, you should connect with the virtual team. When you are in an office, you will pick up small gifts and mementos for special occasions or festivities for your colleagues. Similarly, you can use snail mail to send gifts to your virtual team members who will feel appreciated and well-cared for. Ensure to include incentives, a reward system or promotional salary increase will make them feel like they are a part of the company team.
It is the role of the HR professional to hold the virtual team together through innovative and creative thinking.
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