Social media provides instant feedback. If you struggle with that thought, toss something controversial on Twitter and see how quickly it gets re-tweeted. The virtual workforce is more aligned with Social Media behaviors and requires and demands immediate feedback to advance the goals of the organization. Performance appraisals that are now performed on a semi-annual or annual cycle are outdated. You should be getting performance feedback every day in our ultra-connected virtual world.
When working virtually, most communication is work centric transactional without the emotional investment of social and non-verbal feedback. The imperative of feedback is critical to keep progress towards objectives aligned. It is equally critical to allow more prudent risk taking. Consider the role of the waiter in a restaurant. The server receives instantaneous feedback on their “performance” through customer interactions and the compensation feedback through the tip at the end of the meal. Presentation style, fluency of the menu, and checking for feedback during the meal together provide a table by table appraisal for the server. How does this fit into our virtual meeting and conference call process of today? Do you get regular and immediate feedback from virtual meetings or conference calls? If not, what might not happen that can propel the team forward to meeting and exceeding their goals?
Virtual work can attenuate risk since the physical feedback of facial expression and body language can’t be assessed to determine whether the risk is additive or aggravating to the process. For the majority of the less courageous and politically insecure workforce, risk will be averted in the virtual workplace. Consider how much quicker and more creative a result can be achieved when risk inviting processes are part of the decision process.
There are ways to mitigate this challenge. One advantage of the virtual workplace is less time spent commuting. In my case, my commute consists of descending a flight of stairs and crisscrossing a busy kitchen to get to my home office. How best to spend this found time? Set aside time each day to invest in the relationships with those you need to collaborate with. Schedule time with someone you don’t know well or is new to the team and spend 10-15 minutes to get to know them as a person, not just a work colleague. Learn about their backgrounds and experiences. Ask them what they enjoy most about the work problem and what they find the most challenging or frustrating. Share the same with them such that each of you understands better how to partner in the virtual work place.
Special attention should be directed to those that participate at a minimum level. Are they not challenged in their role? Are they bored? Do they feel they are an outsider to the team? Not knowing the answers puts their contribution at risk. Spending 10-15 minutes understanding their concerns could provide many hours of positive ROI for that small time investment.
By now I hope you see my theme. Virtual work places will become the norm. If we do not invest in building the emotional cultural fabric that exists by default in the physical work place, the results will be pedestrian and the euphoria of celebrating as a team will be non-existent or disingenuous at best. Virtual work is harder and challenging as it demands purposeful reaching out to build the pathways to relationships necessary for organizational success.