Friday, October 30, 2009

What To Look For When Hiring People To Work Virtually

Yes, that's a picture of me working virtually in what I call Attic World - my real world office. I don't look my jolly old self because I probably haven't spoken to anyone on my virtual team in days. That can be the nature of some virtual work.

While there is no one profile for an effective virtual team member, we can, I believe, point to some very desirable characteristics. The following set of characteristics - that I first introduced in Where in the World is My Team? - can help guide recruitment, interviewing, training and development,and coaching and feedback. Ironically,given that we are talking about the new workplace, I call the framework TRADITIONS. While the new virtual workplace is different in some ways from the old, we don't need to throw out what we have valued before in our people, and start again.

Technological Competence
High comfort level with available collaborative tools
Ability to select and use the right technology for the right objective
Ability to troubleshoot and fix small technical problems
Ability to stay calm and not panic when technology fails
Understands when not to use techology

Results Orientation
Ability to stay highly focused on the virtual team's purpose and goals
Is not satisfied with just being busy, but wants to add value
Is highly self motivated to get things done despite the challenges of distance

Has a strong work ethic
Takes personal responsibility for completing own tasks without continuous supervision
Sets high standards for own work
Doesn't free-ride on the work of others on the virtual team
Reconciles the needs and priorities of the team with local demands

Avoids procrastination
Establishes personal routines and systems for managing own work efficiently
Follows processes and uses tools agreed to by the team
Minimizes disruption to others on the team by, for example,keeping all promises

Spots problems early and acts proactively
Doesn't always wait for permission to fix a problem for the team
Shows great willingness to present ideas and solutions

Time Management
Responds to others on the team in a timely way
Meets deadlines and commitments
Manages workload and doesn't become overextended

Interpersonal Effectiveness
Connects with others through engaging conversations
Has ability to develop and maintain trusting relationships across distances via technology
Understands that distance can give rise to many misundertandings and demonstrates patience
Communicates clearly and precisely
Can sense and respond to the feelings and needs of others even though working at a distance
Listens very carefully to others and gives well thoughtout responses
Works hard to be constructive when things get tense

Welcomes ideas from everyone and everywhere
Demonstrates curiosity and a learning mindset
Shows a great willingness to share knowledge and skills across the team
Shows adaptability to change

Understands the importance of relationships to getting things done
Reaches out to others - internally and externally - to help build team capability
Maintains a high presence level with other team members; stays in close contact

Self Sufficiency
Works well in relative isolation with little direct supervision
Can tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty and keep going
Takes responsibility for own personal development

While it's not a polished and finely-tuned framework, it can function as a starting point for understanding the virtual worker.

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