Train remote/hybrid teams to collaborate productively in the virtual landscape

Here at Voltage Control, we’re passionate about educating individuals and companies about why facilitation skills are important. As the workplace shifts toward more remote work and a hybrid workplace, virtual collaboration training becomes even more important as leaders and facilitators won’t always have the luxury of having every team member present in a physical room. Virtual teams are becoming more common and the best leaders will need to adjust the way they manage and train their teams – just because all teams aren’t in-person anymore doesn’t mean they can’t be equally, if not more so, effective. 

The Voltage Control team has always been remote (outside of our former in-person events and workshops), so we practice what we preach of our extensive knowledge on this topic. The new virtual landscape unlocks many opportunities for collaboration and partnership that weren’t possible before. Now, we can connect with people around the globe via interactive virtual workshops, attend conferences, or productively collaborate with the team, all from a remote or home office. This is without the cost of travel, renting event room space, and provides more possibility to bring people together who would otherwise be unable to attend – collaboration and meaningful work are now possible with internet access alone! Greater diversity in collaboration is another resulting benefit. We have the power to solve problems and create collectively at a higher level than ever before. The question now becomes, how do leaders and facilitators train virtual teams to collaborate more effectively in the remote workplace?

Here are 5 ways facilitators can promote more effective virtual collaboration training:

1. Facilitate Productive Virtual Meetings

One of the biggest differences of working virtually is that screen time replaces face-to-face interactions. Remote facilitation skills are more important than ever with virtual meetings and teams. Always schedule with purpose – no purpose, no meeting. Identify the main goal of the meeting and distribute an agenda beforehand. When planning a remote meeting agenda, scale down expectations on how much time participants will invest (try to limit to no more than 2-4 hours/day). 

Another way to promote virtual collaboration training is to create homework and group work. Have teams read material as pre-work so they come to the meeting prepared and less time is wasted during the meeting itself to get the group in sync. During the meeting, consider assigning group work and splitting into small breakout groups to complete tasks or exercises. Then, the groups can finish their work on Slack, email or smaller video calls, leading to more productivity and less wasted meeting time. (pro tip: Try Zoom’s “breakout room” feature to organize people in separate spaces).

2. Adjust Design Sprints for a Remote World

Team standups or weekly check-ins are relatively straightforward, making an easier transition to the virtual world. However, complex meetings such as remote Design Sprints will require more virtual collaboration training. 

Typically, a Design Sprint is a five-day process for tackling a business problem. Here are some ways that we’ve adapted our Design Sprint model for remote work:

  • Move Slower: The pace of the Sprint needs to be slower in a virtual setting, due to distractions, limited ability to read the virtual room, and other inevitable delays.
  • Tweak the Schedule: Five full days in person is not equal to five full days virtually. People can’t be expected to be glued to their screens for long periods of time. That’s why we shifted our remote Design Sprints to a series of mini-workshops as opposed to five full days. 
  • Set the Stage: Virtual Design Sprints need more planning because there are outside factors to consider. What are the best tools to use? What adjustments need to be made for timing? What are some methods to optimize engagement and interaction? Set expectations before the workshop so team members come prepared with all the right tools and know their deadlines and deliverables from the get-go. As a facilitator, you demo the expectations and process for everyone else, field questions, and then let them go off and do their work. The goal of virtual collaboration training is to have everyone on the same, productive page.                                                               

3. Promote Human Connection

As a facilitator and/or team leader, training your virtual team to collaborate more effectively also means promoting connection with each other. Without the possibility of in-person “water cooler” conversations or after work team happy hours, don’t be afraid to get creative. Team bonding is still very much possible in a virtual environment. Here are some ideas for virtual ways to connect:

  • Randomly match up different team members for virtual “coffee chats” – this gives people who might not otherwise interact a chance to meet and get to know one another.
  • Hold a virtual happy hour on a Friday afternoon for the team after a successful week.
  • Have beginning of the week standup meetings where the whole team joins via video and discusses their goals, updates, and questions with the group.
  • Prioritize 1:1 meetings with those on your team.
  • Sprinkle in elements of fun and surprise – for example, start meetings with a funny or inspirational video, add funny GIFs to presentations, or try implementing Kahoot! (an online quiz tool and game-based learning platform) to fuel some friendly competition.

4. Utilize the Right Tools/Technology

Tools and technology are even more important for virtual collaboration training when a team is remote. Some of our favorite tried-and-true tools for virtual collaboration are:

  • Zoom – Videoconferencing platform with breakout room capabilities.
  • Trello – A place for assigning work and tracking work progress using a Kanban-style list-making application. Assign individuals to cards to create clear to-do lists and organize priorities.
  • MURAL & Miro Templates – Use our custom templates to help teams collaborate virtually. 
  • Basecamp – Real-time communication tool to keep track of everything you’re working on in a shared space. 
  • Focus To-Do – Pomodoro time and task management app that helps you perform tasks efficiently. 
  • Process Street – Make checklists for your team to help you remember and keep track of all of your to-do’s. 
  • SessionLab – Dynamically design, organize and share workshops and training content.
  • Slack – Team messaging platform that is a smart alternative to email. It allows the team to have a shared view of work progress and purpose
  • Loom – Screen recorder that allows you to capture video screen messages instead of sending long emails. It’s also helpful for sending team members visual directions if you cannot screen share in real-time.
  • Doodle – Calendar scheduling system for time management and to easily coordinate one-on-one and team meetings. 
  • World Time Buddy – World clock, time zone converter, and online meeting scheduler to coordinate and plan across different time zones.
  • Google Docs – Smart editing and styling tools support joint teamwork to flow smoothly and easily and keep ideas in one place. Teams can work on different pages or in different docs accordingly. 
  • Google Drive or other cloud storage – Drop all assets and work content into a shared space for easy access for all team members. Use different folders to organize information. 

5. Reference our Virtual Guide

Finally, reference our in-depth Virtual Work Guide. Virtual collaboration training and facilitating with a distributed team is both an art and a science. We created this guide for you to build a foundation for promoting quality work in the virtual workplace, and it expands on the above topics in more detail.

The future of work looks different, but bright. Successful virtual collaboration training will take some additional work and planning, but will eventually lead to more effective teams in this increasingly virtual work environment. We look forward to helping teams transition to the new business landscape!