The popularisation of remote and hybrid work has resulted in many more organisations operating through distributed teams, with some employees at home and some in the office – some even in different time zones. Managing a remote team is challenging, with increased barriers to communication and understanding and therefore, motivation. But there are also many advantages to it. Organisations are freed from geographical restraint and have access to a larger and more diverse pool of people. They can also afford to be much more flexible, creating individual working contracts with people to suit them. Motivating a dispersed team is not impossible. It just requires a different management style, and it’s important to get this right to avoid burnout and employee turnover.
Based on Impact’s Team Performance Model, here is a list of five key tips for dispersed team motivation:
1. Understanding the ecosystem in which the team operates – External alignment
Most teams have experienced not only internal changes but also external changes related to the ecosystem in which they operate. Understanding the impact that key stakeholders have on a team is crucial to enhancing its effectiveness. This is an often overlooked but very important aspect of team effectiveness, and it should be the starting point for any development plans and changes aimed at increasing motivation.
2. Focus on a common goal – Unified purpose
Regardless of the place, time, and method of work, each team should still be unified by its goals. One of the ways to establish these goals is using the SMART framework, which ensures that goals are specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and timely. A team whose objectives do not have SMART parameters will encounter many difficulties in achieving them, which will consequently lower their motivation. Tailored project management software can help with this, but remember that goals must not come from the top down; the key is dialogue, and it must involve the entire team.
3. Use the distributed model as the impetus for positive change – An agreed approach
If an organisation is new to dispersed teams, then this change can be a great catalyst for innovation and development. It can be an opportunity for remote teams to start developing new and better collaborative practices. The involvement of all team members in this change is crucial for a remote working cultural transformation to occur.
4. Strong leadership in action – High-performing mindset
When team members do not have decision-making autonomy, they can feel like cogs in a machine with no influence over the activities of the team or business. They may become passive and apathetic about the results of their work. Therefore, each team member should be encouraged to take acts of leadership. At Impact, we understand this as the ability to notice situations that need to change, to decide to act and to take action and responsibility for the result. Acts of leadership can emerge from anywhere in the organisation. A leadership culture based on this approach brings real business results, maintains motivation, increases the level of co-responsibility for team projects, and allows team members to hone their skills. By taking acts of leadership, introducing frequent feedback, and supporting each other to grow and improve, distributed teams build a high-performing mindset.
5. Transparent and frequent communication – Quality conversations / effective relationships
A reduction in face-to-face contact completely changes team communication. Existing procedures must adapt, and new ones must be adopted. Communication within dispersed teams must still cover all aspects of the organisation's functioning, as anyone that does feel cut off from information will be willing to look for it themselves, and this is how rumours arise, leading to an erosion in trust and misunderstandings. This is why frequent communication is so important to keep your team motivated and to eliminate any anxiety about a lack of transparency. In this way, employees can focus their energy solely on their work. Communication should always take into account the perspective of the other person. Never before has this area been so important as in the case of distributed teams.
Each change in an organisational culture should, in principle, increase the effectiveness of its teams. But how do we measure this? At Impact, we use the advanced Team Performance Model method, which enables us to examine the six dimensions of dispersed team effectiveness. Thanks to TPM, we can identify which areas in a given team are successful and which require strengthening. In this way, we can tailor any proposed changes so that they have the desired impact on the team, the business, and its goals.
Read more about how we can help you to motivate dispersed teams and achieve high team performance.