Transcending boundaries of all kinds, the modern and global workforce is nothing if accustomed to unfamiliar, foreign markets. As firms invest in foreign markets, global expansion tends to encourage team diversity and a greater depth of skill and expertise. Yet, for all its perks, managing an international team is not without its challenges.
As companies in the USA, Southeast Asia, and other territories spill over borders through critical investment opportunities, global employment is a changing force. Specifically, this global “spill” of US businesses in overseas markets is an intentional maneuver at remaining competitively relevant. The real acceleration, however, has taken place in the digital economy, which has even renewed global mobility as the pandemic becomes more manageable.
For those overseeing geographically dispersed workers, poor or weak communication could be your greatest risk, which will worsen employee engagement. Keeping overseas teams engaged and managed is no easy task.
What, exactly, are the key lessons for firms managing a global workforce? Better yet, what are the secrets to global team communication and management?
Global Teams Trends
The forecasts regarding a global workforce have been largely favorable. This promising trend was supported by the Harvard Business Review when it noticed how increasingly firms are embracing global workers.
Subsequently, this builds a richer foundation for teams to infuse worldly expertise with local knowledge. Global teams can help a firm become more competitive in promising markets like Southeast Asia or Europe.
However, the success of a global team is predicted by how effectively its management can anticipate, adapt, and respond to risk. The most acknowledged challenge, for example, is ensuring regular and effective communication never becomes compromised by these global expansions. Other widespread challenges, like time zones or limited resources, are also difficulties to consider.
For a business’ HR operation, it must approach global team management and communication with a compliant and effective strategy. To take full advantage of a global workforce, ensuring it can remain productive, engaged, and focused is mission critical.
What, exactly, are the greatest risks to global communication?
In summary, the greatest (often anticipated) risks for businesses going global include:
- Disrupted, broken, or irregular lines of communication between team members (and management).
- Not investing in new technology and embracing it as a resource conducive for team productivity.
- An uninvolved HR operation with little strategy and lacking critical compliance knowledge.
Tips to Improve Global Team Communication
Managers should plan to focus on communication as a key driver for their global teams. No matter the distance, when they can achieve effective and clear communication, then a team can overperform.
Regular meetings, even if virtual, can facilitate communication, teamwork, and collaboration. This is an important learning opportunity for team members to exchange and share ideas, information, and knowledge. Communication is all about participation – getting your team members to interact frequently and share their unique insights can open your business to better outcomes.
Communication, however, feels like broad advice. What can managers do to pull teams together despite the distance?
Here are a few solutions to help bolster global team communication:
1. Bringing Teams Together from Afar
According to Neeley’s aforementioned report, “Global Teams that Work”, the trick to getting distanced co-workers to align and build trust is not necessarily about communication, but rather minimizing “social distancing”. This describes how managers should focus on bringing teams together and making the distances between them seem smaller and less oppressive.
This can be achieved through shared goals, regular contact, creating moments to share and participate, and by building up trust and knocking down barriers. A balance of these traits can be helpful for teams that are spread out over countries.
2. Understanding Cultural Differences
Whilst tackling barriers to communications will be, for many managers, a high priority. Bringing global teams together is also about understanding any cultural differences, as well as embracing the nuances between employees and their preferences for working. Within the global community, cultural differences might allude to anything from diverse values, attitudes, to a working ethic, and everything in-between.
Fostering inclusivity should be a top priority, which can be achieved through an informed understanding about how cultural differences can leverage your team. Misunderstandings about the cultural nuances within global teams can limit communication, rather than leverage a team’s sense of connectedness and shared values.
3. Take Advantage of Communication Technologies
The tools that facilitate global team communication can either reinforce a team’s productivity or hinder it. Video conferencing, for example, is a richer form of communication because it is more intimate. Email or phoning, however, may appear easier, but it is at the expense of being less personal.
When managing global teams, consider how communication technologies can keep remote teams connected and engaged. It is helpful to mix the kinds of resources that your teams use – everything from emails, sharing platforms like Microsoft Teams, to video conferencing. The right resources can enhance the various ways your team communicates and shares its ideas, knowledge, and expertise.
Companies that embrace new technology in the workplace are investing in opportunities for communication. Specifically, many managers of global teams are increasingly favoring “over-communication” as the most effective way to distribute business news and goals across its dispersed teams.
This might look like a company news thread, widespread emails, or all-inclusive meetings.
Increasingly, businesses are spying promising opportunity from faraway markets. Global teams are a key means of securing more functional expertise, which gives a firm a competitive edge over foreign markets. Yet, the benefits of a global team can be outweighed by the challenges of facilitating its effective management and communication. Withdrawn or stilted global teams are the product of firms with dispersed teams that struggle with navigating the various boundaries of the wider world beyond their business.
Working with IRIS HR Consulting
With the promise of new markets on the horizon, businesses will need to anticipate the challenges and grab at the opportunities of global expansion. This is not always easy to navigate without the expert consultation of global HR specialists like IRIS. If your operation is expanding, make sure you have the right partners to help deliver you to these new markets.