One of the latest research reports shared a staggering figure of 42.3 million workers in the US employed with multinational enterprises.
This is not a surprise anymore! Big multinational firms like Microsoft and Google have been working seamlessly with global teams. Yes, working with international companies often entailed employees traveling to other countries for off-site projects.
Nevertheless, global team culture has always been there and is not going anywhere.
When the pandemic changed our work environment from a corporate location to a remote location, managing teams in different time zones became easier.
The new standard social distancing protocol of 2020 compelled companies, big or small, to run their businesses effectively from remote locations. Yes, the concept was unpopular, and only a handful of companies encouraged virtual networking between teams.
It took a catastrophic event like the 2020 pandemic to show how effectively companies can handle their global teams via virtual platforms.
These virtual platforms bridged the gap between members in different countries, compelling employees to travel less to work in global teams.
Frequent traveling has nearly ended for many global employees.
But, global teams span multiple countries, cultures, languages, and time zones.
Bringing people from different countries to a single platform and making them work together as a team is an arduous task for management.
Working with people worldwide undoubtedly brings many new opportunities to the table. They bring along many unforeseen challenges as well. Such as…
Challenge #1 – Building relationships is difficult.
The lack of face-to-face contact can lead to trust issues and hinder healthy relationships between employees and employers.
Of course, companies indulge in team hurdles and frequent team calls to foster the same culture in a virtual workplace or between members in different time zones.
But building trust takes time and depends entirely on the members in question.
For example –
If you are working in a global company, you must build trust and work in synergy with team members in different time zones.
When the team is assigned a project that requires assistance from different groups honing different skills, you should trust them to get the task done and delivered on time.
Conducting team meetings virtually to discuss the project and assign every individual a specific task, and then staying in communication to ensure each person is meeting the requirements without facing roadblocks can help deliver each project’s objective in a synchronized manner.
Each member trusts the other to deliver the right results, as expected. Or help those who are struggling to overcome the challenges.
In short, you have to build and foster a team spirit. That helps to build trust in each one of you.
You trust them enough to share every detail of what you have covered with the rest of the team so that you all are on the same page. Or share your work as an example to someone struggling with the same, believing the latter will not steal your efforts.
Challenge #2 – Lack of complete control.
In simple words, we can say, Out of Sight, Out of Mind!
Or shifted priority from virtual work to real work.
Working from a remote location or a different time zone can lead to confusion regarding the timely delivery of priority tasks with quality.
Often, employees prioritize tasks assigned to them by someone sitting next to them in the office over tasks allocated by someone physically far away.
Or, in remote working, managers and team leaders cannot control how their team functions or delivers allocated tasks. Therefore, virtually monitoring your team is not humanly possible.
Here, trust and personal responsibility can create all the difference.
Each team member should take ownership of the tasks and be accountable for what they deliver.
Also, they should have enough faith in the rest of the team and believe each one will cater to their roles.
Delivering a single project entails the entire team working together in synergy. The team should understand that providing the expected roles by any member can ensure the delivery of the whole project is completed on time. Or the project might fall apart if the team fails to coordinate and collaborate.
The lack of trust between members and the lack of accountability in each of them will lead to chaos and confusion. That will affect the project and the loss of a client.
For example –
At Project 10K, when a project comes to the creative team, tasks are divided and allocated to individuals responsible for those tasks.
Each one is accountable for their roles and takes full ownership of their tasks.
Do you know what the best thing about Project 10K is? The entire team works remotely and pans globally.
These two qualities are essential and should be fostered across every company’s vertical and horizontal length that has a global team to manage.
The challenge of retaining control over the team has its remedies too!
Managers need to specify how important the task is and the priority of the job allocated to the team. It relies on the members to understand the task’s urgency and complete it before they pick the next one in the pipeline.
Secondly, managers should give leverage to the employees to work the way they like to.
They are not schoolchildren. They are professionals.
So, it is important to trust their sense of accountability and allow them to work as and when they feel like it.
As long as the team sticks to the delivery date and time, managers should not question their ways, given that the standard quality is maintained.
Again, such an arrangement can run smoothly when the employees also understand the gravity of the situation and are accountable for their roles in the company.
There’s a proper way to help global teams work together in perfect synergy, even when they are oceans apart.
Here’s a list of tips to help companies avoid roadblocks while working with a global team.
Tip #1: Develop and nurture a global mindset.
Management should be aware of the cultural differences that might arise while handling a global team.
Hence, fostering a uniform culture and adopting a global mindset is imperative to allow a seamless working environment in the company. In addition, being globally aware helps you build strong relationships between teams and run the show successfully.
Allowing employees to work with others living in different countries on cross-functional projects will develop a global mindset in the team.
Also, encouraging employees to master soft skills like cognitive complexity, cosmopolitan outlook, self-assurance, diversity, intercultural empathy, interpersonal impact, and diplomacy will make them excellent global team players.
Tip #2: Reduce cultural nuances.
Cultural idiomatic sayings and colloquialisms lose their meanings in translation.
Spelling differences, tone, approach, and minute differences in languages can be misinterpreted and misconstrued.
This is quite the challenge management faces while handling employees in different countries. However, language and cultural differences cannot hinder the smooth functioning of cross-functional teams.
It depends on the company and its ability to find a middle ground to overcome such roadblocks.
For instance, avoiding using phrases in your speech or presentations is best if you need help understanding specific words.
And there are a few nuances to consider, such as differences in units of measurement.
These small nuances can lead to interpretation and clarity in the global team.
Tip #3: Respect their cultural holidays.
Companies running within the same time zone or geographic location take time to celebrate national holidays together.
But, when you bring the whole world together on a single platform, practicing different cultures or celebrating other cultural holidays becomes challenging.
Cultural inclusiveness can be fostered only when every person celebrates the others’ national holidays together as a team.
Sharing a post wishing the respected members their national holidays doesn’t work. Instead, companies can arrange for events or a few hours of fun by bringing everyone in front of their cameras and celebrating each holiday together.
Tip #4: Acknowledge your team’s achievements.
This particular point applies to global teams and companies that work in a single workspace.
Acknowledging achievements boosts your team’s morale and motivates others to perform better for future recognition. However, some employees prefer private acknowledgments too!
So, you must understand each employee’s preferences because their culture directly impacts them.
Understanding cultural differences, respecting them, and fostering the same in the company will help the management to maintain synergy between members living in different time zones.
Tip #5: Encourage social gatherings.
The team that works together wins together. Also, the team that plays together stays together.
Companies can break the monotony of daily work schedules by allowing employees to interact and socialize outside work. The feeling of belongingness should be there.
Otherwise, employees will feel cut off from one another.
In a virtual setup, the feeling of cut-off is more pronounced.
Not getting an opportunity to meet and greet your fellow teammates or have a candid conversation over a cup of coffee does hurt them.
Allow team meets outside office hours should be encouraged. So also annual holidays. Such activities work as incredible ice-breakers and develop a good rapport among teammates.
The bottom line is…
Organizations will have different challenges and roadblocks while handling a global team. Yes, the challenges mentioned are common, but the solutions can also differ!
It depends entirely on the management and how they handle their global team efficiently. However, reaching a middle ground can be one of the easiest ways to address cultural differences.
And a lot depends on the team members too! How they accept the culture change and adapt to the transition smoothly and quickly.
But, working with global teams is a reality. So, figuring out a middle ground for every foreseen and unforeseen challenge will help companies better manage their teams.