RW3 CultureWizard survey finds 40% of virtual teams underperform

According to a study released today, 80% of corporate managers work virtually at least part of the time and 63% are members of global virtual teams.

The key factors that impair productivity are: cultural differences, communication styles, time-zone differences, language and a lack of face-to-face contact, according to the Virtual Teams Survey Report 2010 – The Challenges of Working in Virtual Teams, conducted by RW3 CultureWizard, an intercultural training consultancy specializing in online intercultural training for global business managers.

Michael S. Schell, CEO of RW3 CultureWizard, said “We were stunned to learn that only 60% of participants on virtual teams considered them to be as successful as they could be. We can’t imagine that this degree of satisfaction would be acceptable in any business endeavor. Inasmuch as virtual teams are such a fast-growing component of business, and global collaboration is critical to success, the organizations with the most effective teams will be most successful. Making virtual work more effective must be top-of-mind for every business leader.”

The survey identifies three challenging areas: time zone and language difficulties, communication styles and cultural differences.

Time Zones and Languages: 81% indicated time zones presented the greatest general hurdle to virtual teams, followed by 64% who found language (accents and dialects) to be a barrier.
Communication style: 94% said the inability to read non-verbal cues is very challenging, and 90% stated the absence of face-to-face contact interfered with the ability to build a relationship (which is perceived as a challenge facing virtual teams). In addition, 81% said being virtual made it more difficult to establish trust and rapport.

Cultural differences: 80% said that virtual teams slowed down decision making, 77% were hampered by different leadership styles and 76% felt the method of decision-making was a challenge.

“Apparently, collaborative technology has outpaced the ability of global virtual team members to work effectively across cultures,” says Charlene Solomon, executive vice president of RW3 Culture Wizard. “Companies need to be aware of the influence of culture on work styles and to develop procedures to assure intercultural effectiveness. They need to establish specific rules for respectful interaction that are already assumed to exist among members of more conventional, co-located teams where all of the participants are all from the same culture. They also need to pay greater attention to team structure and must carefully monitor and adhere to the work rules they have created,” she added.

“The good news is that there is training available to make virtual teams more effective,” concludes Schell. He explained that the new study was prompted, in part, by the growing number of collaborative software options that facilitate virtual work and make it commonplace for teams of people from around the world to work together – often without ever meeting in person. According to Schell, RW3 CultureWizard is using the findings of the survey report to develop and fine tune the components of its Virtual Team Tool – a training initiative to help organizations improve communication skills among virtual team members.

RW3 CultureWizard has made a copy of The Challenges of Working in Virtual Teams available online. Please click on the link above.

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