VIRTUAL GENERATION IS TAKING THE LEAD
Gen V is here! What does it all mean?
The rapid development of new technology, the growth of globalization, and the increasing demand for knowledge and information have transformed a business environment into a new emerging paradigm, that is growing at the fastest pace and with high intensity; a workplace that has no boundaries, where individuals are able to work in different parts of the world, aided by the information and communication technology. Not only has the 21st century witnessed a significant increase in the number of organizations that have expanded their operations globally through joint ventures, alliances, and subsidiaries, but the push has also come from the need to become more competitive and innovative the need to access markets outside of domestic comfort zone, and the need to access intellectual capital resources and diverse knowledge from around the world. With the rapid advancements in electronic information and communication media, distributed work has become much easier, efficient, and cheaper. Therefore, organizations in this globally competitive economy, capable of changing and adapting by creating virtual teams of talented, knowledgeable, skillful, and experienced people can respond quickly and keep their competitive edge. Virtual teams present a large pool of new product know-how, which seems to be a promising source of innovation (Ebrahim et al., 2009, pp. 2653–2654).
Virtual teams often require a very good leader, who not only possesses interpersonal skills, but is also capable of bringing the team together, creating a stress-free, trustworthy atmosphere, and most importantly, making the team more effective. Thompson (2011) points out that managing such a team requires two sets of responsibilities. The first set focuses on the internal dynamics of the virtual team, by defining the tasks, selecting team members, and facilitating the team process. The second set, on the other hand, focuses on external dynamics by nurturing and expanding relationships outside of the team, which will assure that the team gets support from other shareholders as well. In addition, external dynamics also require the leader to navigate the organizational environment, in order to make the team more connected to the entire organization and getting rid of the feeling of isolation.
Companies are not only increasingly utilizing multi-organizational, multinational, and interdisciplinary partnerships, but also the need for improved and efficient communication is increasing rapidly. Product innovation, development, and production have become vital parts of an organization’s growth and expansion. We have to realize that this can no longer be achieved with a simple mindset and in a small conference room. Therefore, in this fast-paced, competitive, global world, the need to create virtual efficient teams has become more evident than ever. According to Forbes’s journalist Cheryl Conner, there are actually on average of 320 new businesses launched every month. This number adds up to 543,000 new U.S. companies launched every month. Therefore, in this fast-paced global marketplace, the need to create virtual efficient teams has become more evident than ever (Chinowsky & Rojas, 2003, pp. 98–100). According to Bergiel et al. management scholars agree that teams are in fact the primary unit of performance in any organization, and should be given a lot of attention and careful planning. That is why, coordinating the talents of team members, providing them with directions, and guiding them towards a specific goal, have become extremely vital for every organization.
The new era and the requirement for virtual, diverse teams, have emerged in the 1990s and have been increasing ever since. The business has become more multicultural, diverse, and global. That is why, more and more businesses are relying on technology, and not traveling to keep their global virtual teams connected. This is hardly surprising, considering the fact that corporations are making vast investments in internal communication and networks, and are slowly seeing benefits of their investments.
In order to get the best possible results from a project standpoint, we need to establish a good definition of what virtual teams really are. Therefore, according to Chinowsky and Rojas (2003, p. 98):”A virtual team is a group of people with complementary competencies executing simultaneous, collaborative work processes through electronic media without regard to geographic location.” Smith defines a virtual team as one that is separated by a specific mix of organizational and geographical distance and relies on various information and communication technologies to accomplish the tasks and make a project a success (2005, p. 293). Bergiel et al. state that virtual teams are in fact groups of people working together independently with a common goal across space, time, and organization boundaries using technology (2008, p. 100). Jarvenpaa and Leidner, add that a virtual team is an evolutionary form of a network organization enabled by advances in information and communication technology (1999, p. 791). To conclude, defining a virtual team, managing a virtual team, and finding a way to make the virtual team perform better, be more effective, cohesive, and efficient, is therefore crucial for all organizations, in order to get the most productivity out of their workforce (Gratton, 2007, p. 1).
Mclean states, that according to the survey performed by Axel in 1997, three-fifths of firms are using global virtual teams to undertake a variety of different projects, like product and service innovation (2007, p. 1). In addition, due to the highly competitive and technologically advanced global business environment, virtual teams have become a necessity. The mere fact that nearly 67 percent of businesses in the U.S. use virtual teams for various, more-demanding, global as well as domestic projects, proves their value and importance. According to Bergiel, estimates in 2001 suggest that in the USA alone, 8.4 million employees were members of one or more virtual teams or groups (2008, p. 101). Great virtual teams are nowadays considered a competitive advantage, which is one of the most important factors and helps us determine if the organization will survive in this brutal economy, or parish. We must understand how to create our competitive advantage, by focusing on what makes us better, and what gives us the edge in our customer’s eyes (Nilsson & Rapp, 2005, p. 3).
Having a competitive advantage has become one of the main focuses of all organizations, and is often also one of the main areas of research and development. In fact, an organization’s performance depends heavily on remaining competitive. In this fast-changing global world, the importance of having a competitive edge is increasing now more than ever. Organizations are investing a lot of resources in order to keep and expand their market share, by keeping their competitive advantage (Porter, 1985, p. xv).
To conclude, in this fast-paced world, technology has dramatically increased the success of geographically dispersed teams to work together on various projects. But, we must keep in mind that while technology can make things easier, it is still a human component that makes teamwork possible. We can have the best possible communication tools and software, but if the team members don’t embrace it and choose to work with it, the project will have a greater chance of not meeting its goals and failing. Teamwork is still a crucial component of virtual teams. Therefore, a virtual team consists out of people, who must work together, but who can’t frequently meet face-to-face because they work in different locations and different time schedules (Fisher & Fisher, 2011, p. 5). From Table 1, we can see interesting data and facts regarding virtual teams.
Table 1: Data regarding virtual teams, according to Hudson Research and Consulting
1. Bergiel, J. B., Bergiel, E. B., & Balsmeier, P. W. (2008). Nature of virtual teams: A summary of their advantages and disadvantages. Management Research News, 31(2), pp. 99–110.
2. Chinowsky, P. S., & Rojas, E. M. (July 2003). Virtual Teams: Guide to Successful Implementation. Journal of Management in Engineering, pp. 98–106.
3. Derven, M. (2014). Leading Virtual Teams. Hudson Research and Consulting, Inc., pp. 1–29.
4. Ebrahim, N. A., Ahmed, S. & Taha, Z. (2009). Virtual Teams: a Literature Review. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 3(3), pp. 2653–2669.
5. Fisher, K., & Fisher, M. (2011). Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams. McGraw Hill, pp. 1–224.
6. Gratton, L. (June 2007). Business Insight (A Special Report): Organization; Working Together…When Apart: As employees scatter around the globe, virtual teamwork has become crucial; Here are 10 rules for making it work. The Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition, pp. 1–4.
7. Jarvenpaa, S. L., & Leidner, D. E. (November-December 1999). Communication and Trust in Globla Virtual Teams. Organization Science, 10(6), pp. 791–815.
8. McLean, J. (2007). Managing Global Virtual Teams. Management Matters, p. 16.
9. Porter, E. M. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. Collier Macmillan Inc., xv-557
10. Thompson, L. L. (2011, 4th ed.). Making the Team: A Guide for Managers. Prentice Hall, pp. 1–450.
11. Smith, P. G. (2005). Book Reviews. The Journal of Product Innovation Management, 22, pp. 293–300.