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Summary:

Adding a new team member to a project or a company can take some work, but when that team is virtual, the process can be even more complex. I routinely work with other web workers on projects and every time we need to bring in someone […]

2683898610_9c13732d72Adding a new team member to a project or a company can take some work, but when that team is virtual, the process can be even more complex. I routinely work with other web workers on projects and every time we need to bring in someone new, there always seems to be some potential for something to go wrong. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add new web workers to your team — it just means that there are a few extra things to keep in mind as your new teammate is getting started.

  1. Decide on communication first. Lay out the ground rules on how your team should communicate. Is there a web site that you use to manage projects? Does your team stay in constant contact using an instant message tool? While it’s important to make sure that the whole team has access to the same systems, your new teammate is going to want to know what the best ways to get hold of people actually are. It can also make sense to explain who’s working from what timezone and other communication details.
  2. Plan time for getting up to speed. In a way, it can take more time to get caught up with a virtual team than in an office environment. I’ve seen a new team member get asked to review the last month’s worth of dialogue on a project management site — dialogue that is rarely recorded in an office. It’s important to remember the amount of information a new team member has to catch up on (or come up with a summary that will do the same job).
  3. Introduce your new web worker to everyone. Just because you may not be able to meet face-to-face it is no excuse to forget about introductions. It’s good to have at least an email introduction with everyone else working on the project or in the department, along with key players like the human resources department. Otherwise, there’s a risk of some confusion if HR emails your new teammate out of the blue, asking for a Social Security number or other sensitive information.
  4. Don’t forget about your existing team. Your team will want to know what the new guy is being brought in to do and how to interact with them. What does your new team member need to be copied on? What parts of the project do they need to see? For some teams, just getting everyone using the same communication tool (like an email list) can be enough.
  5. Prioritize for your new team member. When you work in an office, a new hire can get a clue quickly on the politics and priorities by watching interactions and non-verbal communication of the whole team. But when everyone is connecting virtually, it can be harder to pick up on subtle signals on issues like what really needs to get done first. Clearly stating these details can make the whole project move faster. We might not need to do this sort of thing in person, but it can be crucial when working with other web workers.

What procedures do you use when adding a worker to your virtual team?

Image by Flickr user aftab

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By Thursday Bram
  1. “It’s important to remember the amount of information a new team member has to catch up on (or come up with a summary that will do the same job).” I’m thinking that getting the extant group to create that summary would be a great milestone for the whole group. Also gives the group a chance to see if any org adjustments should be made given the new member’s skill set. Excellent list of steps – thanks.

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  2. Useful tips, the other thing I’d add is that for any team, expanding its size, even if done well per your guidance steps comes with significant cost. This because of the need for training and context for the new team member and the expansion of the communication nework, I explain in more detail here: http://strategicppm.wordpress.com/2009/10/02/team-size-and-performance/

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  3. It is critical that the Virtual Assistants that work for our company Todays Admin, http://TodaysAdmin.com have constant communication between one another in order to provide the best possible assistance for our clients. Thank you for the great read!

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  4. Kendra Buchanan Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    I would like to add shadowing. It’s important for the new team member to be eased into projects. They need to be included in all communications and meetings regarding projects they will be working on. This approach allows them to understand the culture and how team members and clients interact with each other.

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