This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center

Summary
Virtual working situations have become the norm for global companies looking to acquire top talent in a global marketplace. Previous research on virtual teams has mostly focused on differences between how leaders of virtual teams and traditional teams use specific communication methods. These studies have found that communication frequency, predictability, responsiveness, clarity, and mode (e.g., Skype, Zoom), are individually important in virtual team effectiveness. However, none of these studies investigated how the combined use of these communication practices affects team performance. To address this gap, the authors of this study looked at how leaders’ combined use of communication tools and techniques affects virtual team performance. Additionally, this study examined how trust impacts the relationship between leaders’ use of communication tools/techniques and team performance. Finally, this study reports on organizational alignment issues between employees’ perception of their team’s performance and objective performance results reported on the organization’s balanced scorecard.

Method
Through an online survey, the authors analyzed the responses of 399 virtual team members of a large, global human resource consulting and outsourcing company. The respondents were matched to one of 68 teams. Teams included in the survey had to have at least 50% of their members working virtually to be included. Participants worked in the U.S. (64%), India (34.3%), and Canada (2.7%). The sample had an age range of 21 to 54 years (average age of 35.5 years). The length of employment at the organization ranged from 3 months to 27 years, with an average of 7.67 years of service.

 Key Findings

  • When team members believe that their leader’s communication tools and techniques are effective, they perceive their teams to have a higher overall performance level.
  • Trust was found to strengthen the relationship between leadership’s use of communication tools/techniques and employee perceptions of team performance, such that when the trust was higher, the team’s perception of its performance was higher.
  • A gap was found between how employees perceive their leader’s communication effectiveness and the leader’s ability to drive subjective vs. objective performance results through communication.
  • This points to larger concerns that leaders in the organization may be communicating effectively overall, but not effectively communicating the performance measures most important to the organization.

Implications for practice
Organizational leaders and communication practitioners should 1) pay close attention to the five tenets (communication frequency, predictability, responsiveness, clarity, and mode), particularly for virtual management, 2) refrain from overly complex and confident language when communicating organizational objectives, to ensure that what employees think is valuable is aligned with what the organization needs, and 3) build trust with employees by showing genuine interest in team members, demonstrating integrity, and providing timely responses to communication requests.

Reference
Newman, S. A., Ford, R. C., & Marshall, G. W. (2020). Virtual Team Leader Communication: Employee Perception and Organizational Reality. International Journal of Business Communication, 57(4), 452–473. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419829895

 Location of Article
This article is available online at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2329488419829895   (abstract free, purchase full article).

 

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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