We live in a connected digital landscape. As a business leader, this doesn’t just mean that you have access to more customers than ever before — it also allows you to reap the benefits of a global talent pool.
You can engage with workers from a diverse range of backgrounds, each with individual perspectives that can inform your operations and advance your company as an innovative competitor in your industry.
In order for a global team to be successful, though, you need to focus on the two C’s: collaboration and communication. Without these, your diverse remote workforce can very quickly descend into chaos.
This is difficult, though — particularly when your staff may be spread across multiple time zones. This is why you need to put strategies in place that help make your business a virtual space that is not just practical for your planet-wide workers, but also a company that they want to keep contributing to.
Commit To Clear Scheduling
When your team members are spread across the globe, it is given that they aren’t all going to be working or even awake at the same time. This already presents an immediate issue for both communication and collaboration. How can they be expected to work productively together if there aren’t opportunities for them to engage with one another in real-time? The key here is to take a flexible but clear approach to scheduling.
As a business leader, you must keep track of the various different time zones that workers operate within. Seek to understand where the overlap in working hours occurs, and make sure that the times for collaborative tasks and meetings are scheduled during these. Don’t simply take the approach of reviewing which time zones have the most workers in and assigning key communications for those periods — this can lead to other workers feeling disconnected and unfairly treated. If necessary, take the approach of organizing scheduled meetings or events to favor each worker’s time zone on a rotational basis.
If you have a particularly large spread of time zones across your employee base, it can be wise to split these into separate teams. However, the key is to make sure that all members of the department are fully aware of what their colleagues’ working hours are in relation to their own. Encourage staff to utilize applications such as Time Buddy that can help them keep track of their colleagues’ time zone, and schedule one-to-one meetings or messages for a time that is most convenient and practical for everyone.
Provide The Right Tools
A global team does not tend to use the same tools as those inside a single office. There is some effort to bridge the gap — utilization of cloud applications among them. However, for the time being, you need to put some effort into ensuring you use tools that are suitable for global collaboration and communication.
When your multiple workers are all engaged in a common collaborative project at different times of the day, it is vital to make certain that they all have access to planning materials. After all, you want them all to be able to contribute their best work and ideas to the team.
During brainstorming and project reviews, give them access to shared online whiteboards. These are live documents that can be added to and updated by all members of the team when they are online.
Keep this process organized by assigning color-coordinated, digital sticky notes to each member of staff, so that all colleagues’ ideas can be explored equally and to encourage innovation and even competition. This approach also makes it clear to you as a leader who is engaging in collaborations and which members might need more encouragement.
However, it’s also important to note that the concept of tools is not just limited to software or applications. You also need to make sure that you and your team have access to knowledge that can help them be more effective remote communicators and contributors to projects.
Talk to your team about how to set up a dedicated workspace to separate work from home, and even processes that you personally use to keep organized. Make it clear how taking breaks and getting exercise helps to keep everyone healthy and productive for the team’s mutual benefit. Be open with them about issues they might be having and even encourage the team to be instrumental in finding solutions together as a collaborative unit.
Facilitate Social And Cultural Elements
Collaboration and communication in global teams do not only benefit from techniques that are directly related to their working tasks. To fully commit to their position as a geographically distant but close-knit team, you need to encourage them to gain an appreciation for each other as human beings.
For some businesses, there is a tendency to encourage remote workers to share coworking spaces in their area so that they get to spend some time in person with other remote colleagues. However, this isn’t as practical with a global workforce. Instead, you should set up dedicated social time or events where possible during the workday so that it doesn’t impact employees’ work-life balance. This can just be a weekly video call to chat, perhaps share some news with one another.
Some team-building games can also be useful, but it is more important just to get them to talk, to share something of themselves, and to build trust in one another. This can help to feed into the imperative for cross-cultural understanding. The cultural norms in business can differ significantly across continental borders, particularly when it comes to discussions between authority figures and workers.
Without each member having an understanding of their colleagues’ cultural traditions, there is a risk of inadvertent insults or even discrimination that will negatively affect collaborations. As such, you need to not only research the standards of each employee’s region but also encourage workers to talk to each other about their own cultures. If they can learn from each other, they can also forge stronger bonds.
A diverse global workforce has the potential to benefit your organization — but you need to make it practical for these workers to collaborate and communicate. Take time to create fair and clear scheduling, and give them the tools they need to work together successfully. Just as important is a focus on helping them to understand each other socially and culturally, and draw closer together for mutual success.