Welcome to the Global HRD Featured Guest Speaker Blog Series. The purpose of this series is to introduce the topics and guest speakers from the Global HRD track of the ASTD 2014 International Conference & Exposition. This week’s featured guest speaker is Jennifer Hofmann, presenting, “Creating Highly Functional Virtual Teams.” We have asked her to answer a few questions to help our community members gain insight into some of the content she will cover at this year’s conference.
What is the topic of your presentation?
This presentation will cover the best practices of creating and maintaining effective virtual teams. I will share examples from my experience with my own virtually based organization to share what I feel are the key items to do and consider when forming virtual teams.
Since its inception in 2000, InSync Training has always been a virtual organization. In 2013, with a team of more than 50 professionals working all over the world from their own homes, InSync was featured in Inc. magazine as the 10th fastest-growing education company in the United States—and it’s all because of virtual teams.
Why is this topic important for L&D professionals?
As companies grow and change with technology, the probability increases that a professional will participate in or lead a virtual team. It is important to be prepared for the changes in order to be successful.
Besides working virtually, team members are learning virtually. These two skills go hand in hand. If we can teach our participants how to learn in a virtual format, they also will become better virtual team members.
This being said, organizations are still wary of team members that work virtually—cautious of the need to keep people close especially during times of change. But virtual teams do work if everyone is willing to contribute to its success.
What will be the top three takeaways from your presentation?
1) It is important to use the appropriate and available technology to minimize the distance impact.
2) Communication must happen on a regular basis, and team members that "don’t fit" need to be identified early on.
3) It is important to find a cohesive group of team members that are independent, but also interdependent.
What is your experience with ASTD or the ASTD International Conference & Exposition?
I have been attending the annual ASTD International Conference & Exposition as a speaker for more than 15 years, and I always find it full of energy and motivated individuals. I always try to take advantage of the networking opportunities and talk to people in the hallways. The informal opportunities are what make the program exceptional.
What do you expect to get out of this year’s event?
For me, 2014 is a year to learn about training issues that are “outside my box.” I am going to look for topics that I usually don’t explore and find ways to apply them to virtual learning.
What are some suggestions you have for attendees to get the most out of their experience at ASTD 2014?
Be fully present—you never know where the most impactful learning will come from. Maybe it will come from a keynote speaker or maybe from that stranger sitting with you at lunch at the expo.
Also, if it turns out a topic isn’t for you, have a second choice lined up. This is your personal opportunity to learn, and as a speaker, I want you go get the most out of it.
About the Speaker