SHRM: Virtual Teams Utilized by Nearly Half of Organizations Surveyed

July 13, 2012

SHRM: Virtual Teams Utilized by Nearly Half of Organizations Surveyed

Alexandria, Va. – Nearly one-half, or 46 percent, of organizations use virtual teams according to a survey released today by the Society for Human Resource Management.

The survey also shows that organizations with multinational operations are more than twice as likely (66 percent) to use virtual teams compared with those having U.S.-based operations (28 percent).

Comparisons by organizational sector show government agencies are the least likely (nine percent) to utilize virtual teams while publicly-owned for-profit companies are the most likely (50 percent), closely followed by privately-owned for-profit organizations (46 percent).

When asked why organizations use virtual teams, more than half (53 percent) of HR professionals whose organizations use virtual teams reported the need to include talent in different geographic locations. Roughly one half (49 percent) also cited the need to boost collaboration.

Of those organizations that use virtual teams, nearly four in 10, or 39 percent said their organization utilizes virtual teams to improve productivity. Another 39 percent also utilizes virtual teams to minimize travel costs.

Nearly the same number—37 percent—said virtual teams are used in order to collaborate more across global business unity because work projects are becoming more global.

“When virtual teams work, their productivity can be impressive, but getting them to function can be a challenge” said Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s survey research center. “Improved technology may help facilitate the use of virtual teams.”

When asked to identify the most successful teamwork behaviors observed in virtual teams, HR professionals who use virtual teams responded with these top three:

  • 72 percent--said brainstorming solutions for problems or issues
  • 68 percent--said setting goals for team initiatives and projects
  • 63 percent--said developing plans for team initiatives or projects

Virtual teams are not without challenges.

A little more than half—51 percent—of HR professionals who use virtual teams said building team relations is an obstacle that prevents them from being successful. Nearly half (49 percent) cited time differences as an obstacle to success. Nearly one third (32 percent) noted the distribution of work to be a challenge. Nearly one quarter (26 percent) cited differences in cultural norms while 25 percent said leading virtual teams is a challenge.

The survey includes responses from 379 randomly selected HR professionals from SHRM’s membership.

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About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at



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