When developing a virtual workforce, there are a lot of issues that management has to consider. One of those is the identification of integration points, in order to make it easier for the workforce to interact with one another. But these integration points: technological, procedural, personal, organizational, and cultural dimensions, need more than just recognition. Identifying how to integrate these issues and the best ways for a company to move forward with a new virtual workforce are very important. Here are some of the most vital things to understand about identifying integration points for a virtual workforce.
Putting in the Effort Has to Come First
No matter what a company does when it comes to integrating a virtual workforce, the effort that company puts into the identification of the integration points matters. The company has to know what is going to work for itself and for the people it hires for its virtual working arrangement. If that is not well understood, any attempts to integrate the workforce could fail. Additionally, opportunities could be missed due to a lack of clear understanding. Since there are a number of integration points, and many of these integrative dimensions are not on a single point but a continuum, there is much work for a company to do.
Expectations Can Be Managed With Focus
A virtual workforce needs an investment of time and effort, but it also needs expectations that are properly understood. Companies that do not properly integrate their virtual workforce generally expect too much from that group of employees. Without integration of the five dimensions that matter to that workforce, a company will not see the highest level of efficiency or effectiveness. Additionally, the workforce may not perform at the level the company expected, and the focus of the virtual workforce may not seem to be clear or direct. That is not the fault of the workforce, though, but rather of the company.
Bring Virtual and In-House Employees Together
If possible, companies should take a careful look at the ways they can bring virtual workers and in-house workers together. While they might not be able to do it very often, and some workers will simply be too far away to be included, it is one of the more unique ways to address integration. It may not be right for every company and every workforce, but it is worth considering. In order to have a strong virtual workforce, companies have to make sure these workers feel valued and appreciated. When they are left alone, and largely ignored, that does not equate to feeling like they matter or like they have something important to offer.
Technology is a Big Part of Workforce Integration
One of the most significant ways for a company to integrate its virtual workforce effectively and efficiently is to provide high levels of technology. This technology allows for communication, leadership, collaboration, and much more. It helps employees get things done, allows them to work with each other, and ensures that they can reach and be reached by management, as well. A workforce will have a very difficult time being integrated if it does not have strong technological options it can choose from and utilize. To make it easier for workers, a company that addresses technology must purchase and use what works best.
A Virtual "Water Cooler" is a Great Place to Start
An integration point for virtual workers, where they can simply interact on a more personal level, is another good way to help them work more effectively with one another. It can reduce some of the cultural barriers and other concerns, and can help employees feel as though they are being seen as people, and not just as virtual workers. A forum or other location where employees in a virtual workforce can interact is an excellent way to encourage integration that is not forced or required. It allows employees to get to know one another on their terms, aside from the working relationships that they must cultivate.
Not All Hours Should Be Working Hours
Among the problems that affect some virtual workforces is the hours they are being asked to work, or to be available for interaction with other workforce members. While some workforces are not set up to be traditional or 9 to 5, employees still should not be expected to be on call or available all the time simply because they do not work at the company's office. Even employees who work from home need down time, and hours where they move away from their computers and spend time on hobbies or with loved ones. Integrating a good schedule into the virtual workforce can be helpful for any company's success.
Focus on the Virtuality When Making Decisions
When a company makes decisions about the best options for integration of their virtual workforce, the "virtual" part of the equation should be one of the most important issues considered. This is because a virtual workforce has different needs than a more traditional one. Decisions about how best to create and maintain that workforce, along with how to reward employees, allow them to interact, or reach out to them with praise or concerns, all have to be made differently than they would be with a workforce that was located on the company's premises. Interaction and integration points are not the same virtually.
Schedule Frequent Meetings to Ensure Understanding and Compliance
Frequent meetings and interactions are good times for integration of employees and management. These help to ensure that everyone understands concerns that are had by others, and that everyone is complying with the rules and regulations that are valued by the company. If employees in the virtual workforce are not properly addressed, they may struggle to realize some of the issues that workforce has or is developing. Rather than allowing that to happen, a company should focus on integration of the workforce in order to help each of their virtual employees develop and grow on a personal and professional level.