Building Trust On Virtual Teams

63 million Americans work from home at least one day a week.  45% of the existing workforce in 2016 said they would take a lower paying job for the flexibility of being able to work from home.  Telecommuting has become a competitive advantage in attracting top talent.


A positive relationship between employee and manager can contribute to motivation, loyalty, and job satisfaction- all of which can improve retention rates and increase bottom line profits.  85% of employees leave their jobs because of their relationship (or lack thereof) with their manager.


Opportunities for connection are of concern for managers who want to build virtual teams that last.  One of the key characteristics of successful remote team management is a strong sense of shared trust between managers and employees.


Managers of virtual teams must trust that team members will:

  • Prioritize action items effectively
  • Follow through on daily activities required to meet long-term goals
  • Share information with one another
  • Remain motivated
  • Raise concerns as they develop in a remote work environment


Typically, trust is built through:

  • Past experience with that person (“Is this person reliable and dependable?”)
  • Shared goals with that person (“Are our actions aligned?”)
  • Confidence in that person’s skills and abilities (“Can this person get the job done?”)

Managers can build trust by establishing a shared sense of purpose.  Team members must align around strategy, communicate effectively, and collaborate openly.  Top of mind is how to build successful working relationships among team members, and how to establish and increase productivity as the team achieves its collective goals.


Some managers establish a mission statement with shared values and guidelines for interaction.  Clarity in communication helps define the team with a unified purpose and will help avoid any common misperceptions that could erode trust.

Managers of virtual teams need to pay special attention to communicating how decisions will be made, how and when team members should be in contact (either individually or as a group), and how goals will be measured.


Virtual teams need a manager who provides clearly defined direction and removes ambiguity from the process.  Each team member should have clarity around the definition of their role, especially when working remotely.

These three elements help build trust amongst virtual teams:


  1. Timeliness. What constitutes a timely reply to an email?  Do emails with certain subject lines take priority?  What is the “end of the business day” for teams across different time zones?  Establishing expectations can help the team benchmark communication performance.  The goal is to get teams to trust that teammates will reply in a timely manner to emails, voicemails, and deadlines.
  2. Completeness. Are responses to requests sufficient?  This includes deadlines, next steps, or specific instructions for follow-up.  Managers can provide templates for instances where they feel responses are inadequate.


  1. Consistency. Consistent quality, timing, and interaction build trust with virtual teams.  Teams work best when they can count on one another to regularly deliver superior levels of performance.


Awareness and data can help.  Behavioral assessments help managers of virtual teams understand each team member’s motivational needs and behavioral drives to assign roles and responsibilities, manage expectations, and drive the team’s performance over time.  Ultimately, the assessment can help managers identify if an individual is a good fit for the job, the virtual team, and the organization.


Behavioral assessments help managers uncover natural drives of team members, make strategic decisions about how to assign work, identify preferred modes of communication, and gain insight into how to support, coach, and motivate the team.

Assessment data can help demystify high performance for both individuals and teams.  In addition to understanding the individual, behavioral assessments can also inform group dynamics and help ascertain the behavioral culture of the team.  Group analytics enable managers to clearly see behavioral trends to help define high performance, facilitate productivity, reduce conflict, and improve group synergy.