Presentation Tackles Challenge of Virtual Teams

(Northridge Feb. 13, 2013) — Businesses increasingly find the days of team members sitting around a conference room table giving way to virtual teams, with team members scattered throughout the world. "The use of virtual teams is skyrocketing," said Julia Hoch, Ph.D., a virtual team expert and faculty member of CSUN's Marketing Department in the College of Business and Economics. "It is expanding in organizations and applied research." Dr. Hoch spoke about unique dynamics of virtual teams at a Tseng College Elevate event sponsored by the Tseng College at CSUN's University Club.

Unlike face-to-face meetings, virtual team members may never see each other and may not know each other well. Dr. Hoch said companies hire individuals with the skills set to work under these circumstances. "Virtual teams are more difficult to manage. You need to be more self-motivated. People feel isolated and out of the game."

To compensate for the reduced in-person interaction, research shows that virtual team leaders and members must be proactive and able to work in different time zones and with different cultures. They must share the same understanding of team goals, when members do not have face-to-face interaction.

Dr. Hoch noted that lack of shared physical space challenge communication and management success. Structure and information management still must take place when the leader may participate from thousands of miles away. She said research shows virtual teams do better with shared leadership and shared decision-making, when they encourage feedback and recognition, and by making sure team members understand group goals.

"It does change the dynamic," said Joyce Feucht-Haviar, University Senior International Officer and Dean, at the event. "You are working in different ways. Some companies only put together virtual teams when looking for a high level of innovation. Managing the innovation process is not a hierarchical thing. You want members to come from different points of view and challenge each other."

Photos of the event are posted on the Tseng College's Facebook page.