How to Contribute to Virtual Teams

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How to Contribute to Virtual Teams

Career Development, College Tips
Jon Outland
July 12, 2016

How many times have you heard the phrase “There’s no I in team?” Probably more times than you would like, but that phrase has never been more accurate! Teamwork is a skill that is not only valuable, but also necessary in college and the workforce.

Employers frequently mention the need for teamwork within their organizations. As more organizations embrace the idea of employees working remotely, the need to effectively work with team members in different locations grows. These individuals may work in different offices, work from home or be members of partner organizations. In any case, the ability to effectively work as part of a widely distributed team is critical.

More importantly, it’s already a demand of most organizations. In a 2014 survey of 1,700 professionals, 79 percent reported frequently working as part of a virtual team. However, the Harvard Business Review notes that while these teams are common, it’s difficult to get them right due to a number of variables. For example, how many people make up the ideal virtual team? What subject matter experts are needed to help a team accomplish a wide range of tasks? Who manages meetings and how often should the meetings occur?

That’s why it’s so important to learn about the technological and social skills needed to function effectively as part of virtual teams that may vary drastically from organization to organization.

As technology grows, you will see more and more virtual teams. This means you may be working in teams via the Internet, and boy, can that get complicated! However, if you understand some of the popular team programs and work well with other, you can thrive working in a virtual team.

From a technical standpoint, many of the tools that are used in education – such as learning management systems, email, online meetings, and video conferencing – have similar systems to those that are used in business. Not only do students need to become proficient in the use of these tools through their classes, but they also must learn their best practices in a professional setting. This technical proficiency helps students get a “running start” when they join a new organization.

One tool that students and working professionals are using to conduct work within virtual teams is Google Drive, formally known as Google Docs. Google Drive is a “file storage and synchronization service.” This program is a relatively modern way to share documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Because of the program’s convenient sharing abilities, many established tech companies, such as Groupon, are taking advantage of this tool.

From an interpersonal perspective, working as part of or managing a virtual team is also important. You should identify and practice the organizational and personal skills needed to be an effective team player. These skills can include optimizing time management, performing different roles within the team, efficient collaboration and problem solving. When acting as team leaders, people use skills they have learned in delegation, project management and conflict resolution. All of these skills are consistently mentioned by employers as necessary for both new hires and individuals on track for promotion.

The Business Program at Herzing University is committed to helping students prepare for successful careers by listening to the needs of employers and incorporating the knowledge and skills they require for new hires into our curriculum. Faculty and staff in the program perform detailed market research to help identify emerging skills and bring their findings directly into the classroom. Additionally, our advisory boards of employers, experts and graduates provide insight into the changing nature of work, and ensure that our curriculum is regularly updated to account for sought after skills.

The Business Program is currently adding this type of content into our courses. By integrating practical business skills such as virtual collaboration, Herzing University aims to help students develop the skills that will help them not only as they enter the job market, but also throughout their entire career.

There may be no “I” in team, but as you make your way through school and into the workforce, you will undoubtedly find yourself working on many teams. Having a strong grasp on the interpersonal skills and technological tools that are vital to teamwork can help ensure success for years to come.

Dr. Jon Outland is the System Division Chair of Business and has over 20 years of experience helping businesses meet their strategic goals. He has been teaching online and on-campus classes for 18 years in the areas of management, e-commerce, project management and information systems.