Knowledge Management Institute

VIrtual Team Members - The Pulse of Distance Work

VIrtual Team Members - The Pulse of Distance Work

Sep 02, 2015   |  By
Dr. Cassandra Smith | Working at a Distance

The heart is a fascinating organ. It pulsates throughout the body, and you want the pulse because that means you are alive; The heart does the body work! The same applies to your business. VTMs are the bodies that do the work for your business and product success.

You might ask, what are VTMs? Employees are often geographically dispersed working on projects with their cohorts known as virtual work. The employees, Virtual Team Members (VTMs), are responsible for their job tasks that are often intertwined with coworkers. A good perspective as a leader or facilitator of virtual teams is to view distance projects from VTMs’ perspectives. Examining what that consists of can help foster efficacious virtual projects. VTMs are the pulse of distance work.

One of the reasons that VTMs are the pulse of distance work is because they are often the employees in front of customers—engaging with clients. If there is any ambiguity surrounding VTMs’ duties, this might impact your business and bottom line. VTMs might be classified as sales representatives, field workers, instructional designers, account executives, or any distance business contributor within your organization. The commonality is that they are employees working at a distance often engaging with others on shared tasks and often engaging with clients to promote a product or business service.  

Think About It

Here’s a virtual scenario to think about as a manager. You introduce a new product to your employees in the office. Your leadership team is responsible for presenting the information and literature to your VTMs. VTMs are to promote this new product to clients during business meetings. You (leader) send the information, likely by email. Perhaps you setup synchronous meetings, and disseminate a FAQ sheet. You might reason that you have covered your fundamentals and met your manager’s request. You might even follow-up with your VTMs to see if they are doing well promoting this innovative product.  

Now, consider this scenario. You are the VTM. You attended the required meetings about this new product. You read the literature, and you fairly understood the product; you are off to your client meeting. You arrived at your meeting ready to reveal the dynamics of the product with your client. Your client asks, “How is this different than what I am currently using? I have the accessibility, transparency, and customer management control benefits that you have discussed. Where is my value added?

The VTM is confounded. He understands the product but does not understand comparative data and how it corresponds to what the client currently has because leadership failed to personalize the product to each client’s needs or explained comparative data.

How did management/leadership miss the preparatory steps when it seemed that the preparatory steps were implemented? Did anyone speak with the VTMs, collectively, individually, to ensure that they understood the value added for their accounts? Or, did management place information on a slide presentation and deduct that all VTMs are good account managers; they must know how to sell; they got it!

The VTMs needed personal speaking points, an assessment of the products and the value to each client, a portable device with some ancillary information specifically for the client, and the VTMs needed to fully understand the product’s uniqueness.

How should these issues be assessed? The answer in a few phrases is to know your VTMs. Help them understand the business. Reach out to them. Do weekly calls so that everyone understands what the other VTM is doing. Send out comment cards/forms that VTMs must complete, even anonymously. Have VTMs discuss their field experiences.

Remember the Pulse

Isn’t it easy to forget that your heart is beating because you are busy going about your life? That sounds obtuse! But, until the heart flutters or you are fatigue and go to the physician to discover an irregular heartbeat, are you mindful of its purpose. Hopefully, this is not the reality of your experiences. VTMs are the pulse of the organization. They are the heartbeat that interfaces with customers. VTMs have layers that should be considered if you have virtual workers. Here are points to bear in mind:

  • Connection – Managers need to connect with their VTMs weekly or twice a month. Listening calls, not only more business promotions, can help VTMs feel comfortable and express what is occurring in the field. VTM to VTM connection is also a critical part of distance group work.
  • Synchronous – Having synchronous meetings to explain what VTMs are accomplishing and experiencing will allow them to freely be forthcoming and connect with the business. VTMs discussing on the call or webinar products and account instances aids an element of synchronistic communication.
  • Feedback – Providing feedback to employees and speaking with them individually to see if they understand the business, products, and are encountering any resistance are all worth management investment.

If you want to continually expose virtual workers to field assignments and clients, then do not forget about the virtual worker. Make sure that you have exhausted all possibilities to connect with VTMs - the pulse of distance work.


About the author:
Dr. Cassandra Smith is an author, educator, and course developer that has worked for the past nine years in higher education and in professional settings as a Trainer for a Multichannel Sales Business, Associate Professor, and Instructional Designer. She has taught adult learners in academic and nonacademic settings demonstrating the Community of Inquiry educational model, behaviorist, and constructivist frameworks in over 200 courses.  Smith’s areas of research include virtual team development and distance education pedagogy.

Website: www.workingatadistance.com
Twitter @CjdistanceEdu LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/drcsmith

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