6 Types of Experiential Learning Elements for Virtual Teams
This article discusses in depth how in a remote working environment, employees can be trained effectively. This is imperative for both employees and companies.
The pandemic has changed the way companies function. More and more companies are looking at sustained remote work. In this scenario, it is important to have high performing virtual teams.
The remote workforce development plan of a typical company is quite complicated. Creating systematic and sustainable on-boarding of remote teams is usually of highest priority. But what are the basic elements that can improve remote team performance? Let us explore.
Google and Project Aristotle
Google created Project Aristotle to analyze the ways in which remote team performance can be enhanced. The researchers looked at nearly 200 teams of Google and gathered and analyzed their data. This data included the characteristics of the team members, like their education, work experience and style of communication.
The researchers discovered that this data did not have a consistent relationship with team performance. There were some cases in which several employees were part of more than one team. But those teams did not have the same performance.
Put simply, team performance depended more on how team members work together, and less on individual qualities. This is good news for Learning and Development leaders, because they can affect team behavior with the correct training.
Google’s data shows that psychological safety is the most critical factor for effective teamwork.
According to Amy Edmondson, professor of Harvard Business School, “Psychological safety is the confidence that my team won’t embarrass, reject or punish me if I take an interpersonal risk.” This means talking about an issue or revealing personal information.
When a team feels psychological safety, the members of the team have mutual trust and respect. They can be themselves while being with each other. Greater honesty complements psychological safety and improves team performance. Here are a few examples:
- Improvement in process or product: If there is a flaw in the group or the manager’s plan, all team members will feel free about pointing it out.
- Idea Generation: If all team members feel comfortable about expressing their own ideas, it creates more options.
- Interpersonal Issues: If friction points arise in the team, the team members can resolve those instead of third party intervention.
- Prevention of Failure: Team members can ask for and offer help seamlessly, which helps prevent failures.
The two main behaviors that create psychological safety are taking turns in talking, and empathy. These behaviors need to be bolstered with healthy group norms. These norms are the unwritten rules of how team members behave with each other. According to Project Aristotle, group norms have a significant effect on improving team performance.
Creating Healthy Norms and Psychological Safety
Healthy group norms are psychological safety are essentially social. It is impossible to train individuals in isolation. Instead of the ‘tell me’ or ‘show me’ approach, this needs experiential team learning.
For example, during a group learning program, a learner sees a teammate take a small risk and come through safely. Then he does the same, and realizes that safety is a real possibility. Eventually, more learners will come forth and take larger risks and act like safety is real. Hence, it becomes real. It is created collectively through repeated actions of team members.
This kind of team building is beneficial to all sectors. Remote teams face more challenges, which makes virtual team building critical.
Meet the Challenges of Remote Teams
The biggest challenges that remote teams face are a lack of physical interaction, limitations of video calls and less visibility of non-verbal cues. Some also miss the spontaneous interactions that are usual in workplaces.
There are six mutually reinforcing elements which are key to build a healthy remote team.
- Experiential learning for teams, and not individual employees.
- Adopting the core healthy norms.
- Structured activities to practice core skills.
- Techniques for key interactions.
- A facilitator who can reinforce interlocking norms, skills and techniques.
- Delivered in short nuggets over a period of time to enable better retention.
It is true that virtual conferencing and remote working have many challenges and limitations, especially when it comes to team interactions. But it is equally true that remote working has its own opportunities and plus points.
As remote working is becoming an integral part of our lives, companies must help their teams make the most of their remote environments. Employees must not just survive in a remote environment, they must also thrive.