Critical Competencies of Virtual Team Members

Virtual team environment is characterized by uncertainty, fluid membership and task complexity. It is not easy for everyone to be productive and efficient in the specific demands of virtual environment. Those, whose performance is dependent on the significant workplace structure, are unable to deliver at their full potential in virtual settings. For a successful virtual team, utmost care has to be taken while selecting a team member. HR manager as well as virtual team leader has to look for competencies beyond just good technical and communication skills.

Here individual competencies are defined as the knowledge, skills and abilities possessed by an individual to perform his tasks effectively as well as to aid team building.

  1. Independent, Self-Motivated and Disciplined - In the global virtual work environment, managers and team members are located at different places, sometimes even in opposite time zones. There is no one to monitor the members on day-to-day basis. To ensure strict adherence to project timelines, the member should be able to create his own daily goals and plans and should be able to stick to his set timelines. The person should have the requisite level of expertise to complete assigned tasks without minimal support.

  2. Intercultural Sensitivity - The global virtual teams are spread across cultural boundaries. The person should be aware of the nuances of other cultural traits and should be able to show respect towards them. This would ensure successful interactions as well as formation of trust among the members.

  3. Manage Complexity and Uncertainty - Differences in time zones, languages, cultures, nature of tasks and technology-mediated interactions increases the complexity of the work environment. There is also certain level of uncertainty about the roles within the teams, which technology tools to use, delegation of tasks and career growth. All this uncertainty and complexity acts as barrier to trust. One should be able to break the task into milestones, have long-term vision and total compliance to the pre-defined workflow and processes to stay productive in the complex virtual environment.

  4. Proactive and Cooperative - The day-to-day monitoring is not an option in the virtual work environment. Like in traditional work teams, in virtual teams one cannot walk over to the adjacent cubicle of the colleague to seek help. The virtual team member should be proactive enough to reach out to the other members to resolve any problem. On the other side, the members should collaborate with other members when they face similar situations. The virtual setting also calls for being proactive in informing virtual team leader about any possible delays and changes.

  5. Networking - Virtual work environment leads to social isolation because most of the team interactions are centered on the tasks. Members should build networks within the team by interacting on areas other than work. These would deepen relationships, understand the personalities and make meaningful connections. Social networking tools are best to facilitate such interactions.

  6. Competence to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Tools - The person should be able to effectively use variety of ICT to communicate and collaborate with the team members. Various ICT tools are emails, web conferencing, instant messaging etc. The person should be adept at using these tools, present written and verbal information in a logical and coherent manner which should be easily understood by others as well as ability to understand the expressions when communicating with other members.

  7. Trustworthiness, Openness and Honesty - In addition to the above mentioned six individual competencies the virtual team member should also be trustworthy and honest in his dealing with others. He should be able to deliver on his promises and should be open about any problems. He should be able to perform his assigned tasks with high levels of integrity such as not sharing the confidential data and using correct information and methods to work.

The understanding of these critical competencies of virtual team members is essential for hiring the right candidates for the job as well as for designing the training programs for the virtual team members. This would ensure virtual teams to be successful and effective in meeting their project milestones.

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