The current world is driven by the hasty growth of globalization and information technology. So far, majority of the working environments that are projected to grow at a fast rate are related to the custom of information system, computers and the internet.
Globalization has enabled many multinational corporations to make use of virtual teams. Examples of such companies include Nortel Networks Corporation, which has more than seventy thousand employees situated in one hundred and fifty countries, Price WaterhouseCoopers and many more. The study conducted by Gartner Group Incorporation has estimated that “sixty percent of the management and professional errands at global companies will be conducted through virtual teams” (cited in Holbeche, 2005, p. 37). This paper presents the major issues and challenges that virtual teams face in global corporations. Emphasis is directed on the members of teams who work in multinational corporations and embrace a diverse culture. Thus, a virtual team can be termed as a group of members that work together and communicate primarily by means of computer mediated communication that is devoid of geographical boundaries and the combination of the team members is made up of people from dissimilar cultural backgrounds (Holbeche, 2005). However virtual teams may also consist of team members, who have identical cultural backgrounds, or team members who belong to dissimilar or multiple organizations.
Issues Faced by Virtual Teams
There are a number of issues and challenges that are faced by the virtual teams. If these issues are not attended to by the concerned party, they can lead to inconveniences in the entire organization. Global virtual teams make use of advanced technology tools like the internet, mails and many more to communicate with fellow colleagues or leaders. The intricacy in communicating over time, space and distance leads to the multinational corporations’ unique challenges that are difficult to work out (Holbeche, 2005). Although overcoming speed and distance challenges are thought of as the most desirable merits to virtual teams, other essential features come about that generate some challenges and problems. These issues include the lack of non-verbal behavioral indications as well as associated cues. Researchers and experts say that virtual teams can be more inefficient as compared to conventional teams due to inappropriate and inaccurate management.
In addition, many studies have also reported that teams that depend fully on virtual communication by replacing face to face communication may resist utilizing this mode of communication. Despite these limitations, many firms recognize the significance of the world becoming a global village and hence the importance of having virtual teams as one of their most valuable assets. Vance and Yongsun (2010) argue that the certainty of the virtual workplace draws attention to the need for modification in management mainly when the organization needs to comprehend some of the intrinsic issues that members face at the changeover from traditional team work to virtual team.
According to Gitman, McDaniel and Lawrence (2008), intercultural communication competence is a crucial precursor to trust in the perspective of team alliance. Through effective communication, virtual teams are able to identify the trustworthy members from the untrustworthy ones.
Intercultural communication thus becomes a big challenge for it entails different styles and structures. It is always perceived that because dissimilar cultures now and again demand very dissimilar etiquette, intercultural communication therefore is more multifaceted than communication among people of similar cultures. In order to be in a position to perform efficiently and build up security and confidence in cross cultural relationships, virtual teams require trust which in most cases is a major challenge (Vance & Yongsun, 2010). Trust is the significant enabling aspect and the adhesive of the global workspace. In a virtual situation, the issue of building trust is intensified given the cultural variation of the team members and the kind of technology utilized for communication (Levi, 2010).
A need to comprehend and explore the trust issue is thus essential given the fervent use of virtual teams in multinational corporations.
Training and Leadership Issues
In a working environment, learning is a requirement done with an aim of improving the output and credibility of the employees. The higher the tentative in the virtual work situation, the greater the requirement for learning to be implemented among the members.
Learning may be challenging for the team members that have no experience in working in a virtual atmosphere (Pauleen, 2004). Not only are they in need of learning how to utilize the technology for effectual communication, but they also require learning on the cultural backgrounds of their team members who are situated in distant places. Learning to build up instant or rapid relationship and trust is another major challenging issue which can be devastating and stressful. In such situations, the role of a leader may be to motivate the members’ learning practices.
If for example the leader desires a change in behavior, he should commit himself by supervising the members until he gets the results. But in a virtual situation, empowerment is the means to self learning. Pagani (2000) argues that “leadership on its own plays a crucial role in virtual workplaces, which assumes a special responsibility since the team members are all empowered” (p. 72). Another major issue results from the challenge of training the virtual teams. As a result of computer mediated technology becoming pervasive in current workplaces, there is increasing proof of unrealized or less-than-projected productivity achievement due to poor technology utilization and acceptance by users or the workers.
Hence, this situation requires corporations to train employees for technological competence. On the other hand people often resist any upcoming means of doing tasks which may lead to poor work performance. Organizing for the training and doing a follow up can sometimes be a very demanding and irritating task.
Managing a virtual team is a major responsibility all together. In order to do away with any present or arising problems, the team supervisors or concerned leaders ought to be attentive to such particular problems (Gitman et al., 2008).
In developing cooperation among the virtual team members the managers should be in a position to comprehend the distinction in cultures, which in some circumstances can be very demanding. It is the role of the manager to make sure that all the members in a virtual team are able to play their part and gain something from the group (Falkowski & Troutman, 2005). Due to differences in personality and culture some members need to be directed and guided on their tasks, while others work well under minimal supervision. A good example involves the teams from Japan, a country that depends on virtual teams and never minds to be pushed or guided. In contrast to this is the team from the United States, which to them independence is the order of the day.
However, to manage a successful virtual team, the organization requires eighty five percent workers and fifteen percent technology (Lipnack & Stamps, 1997). Most of the managers encounter a major problem of maintaining members’ connectivity and communication across the globe. Regulations and protocols on the other hand are necessary and vital for every member to submit to. Management’s reluctance is another major issue for virtual teams. Out of the fact that not all people prefer the model of team work across the globe, some managers especially from the developing nations may prefer a traditional model as opposed to a virtual corporation.
In addition, managers in a virtual organization may face a relationship challenge from their subordinates. The subordinates from these organizations are exposed to more freedom especially on the part of decision making excluding the input from their own managers. This may lead to distortion of the common purpose between the subordinates and the managers.
Through highly developed communication technologies, the virtual teams are establishing the capacity to collaborate, finishing assigned tasks while rarely, if never, coming together (Lenny, 2000). Even as several organizations in literally each industry look up to virtual teams for a range of functions and purposes, there remain unanswered questions with reference to the efficiency of such kind of teams, roles and responsibilities of team leaders and the kind of intervention that every manager can utilize to launch and maintain these teams. While many issues faced by virtual teams are identical to those of conventional teams, the problems are complicated by distance and time. The team leaders typically view that attaining commitment and alignment to the team’s goals are more challenging for virtual teams particularly those that may never meet face to face. Due to lack of face to face interaction and communication, virtual team members might not understand each other which may lead to conflicts and vices (Hayes & Ferris, 2004).
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