Digital technology is changing the way businesses can run their operations. Geographic location is no longer a limitation for companies to hire talent from anywhere in the world. Organizations can use globally distributed teams to achieve their goals cost-effectively. In the post-pandemic world, permanent remote work is expected to increase. So, distributed teams are going to become the norm in many organizations.
However, globally distributed teams are also multicultural teams. When businesses operate across borders, they also operate across cultures. And the norms across cultures differ. So, companies with multicultural teams have to consider the differences in values, demeanors, and languages. Leaders and managers in these organizations need to understand how they can harness the power of their multicultural teams while meeting the challenges of a globally distributed workforce.
Organizations are figuring out the new norms of global teams. Using external talent is not a new concept. Companies outsourced work to contractors and freelancers even before the internet came into existence. But the improvements in network technology have made the process easier. What started as outsourcing of limited work has morphed into today’s distributed workforce model, where employees work from different locations worldwide. The unprecedented scale of worldwide remote workers is forcing businesses to consider the multicultural aspects of distributed work environments carefully.
Here are some tips for building a solid foundation for multicultural teams:
Multicultural teams bring diversity into the workspace. Diversity encourages creativity, hard work, and diligence. Team members challenge each other, which leads to more innovative solutions and better business decisions. But multicultural teams do not automatically guarantee creativity and innovation. The company culture has to embrace sharing and learning from people worldwide. Companies have to purposefully create a culture where employees can safely talk about the differences in skills, knowledge, and experience across countries and cultural boundaries. Depending on the cultural origin, employees might have different approaches to problem-solving or business strategies. A multicultural-friendly work environment encourages information and knowledge sharing.
When team members work in the same office space, they run into each other. They have face-to-face meetings and talk to each other while getting coffee. The chance meetings and conversations help team members build mutual trust and friendship. The relationships help create a shared sense of purpose. Remote work does not provide the same level of contact and team bonding. Furthermore, cultural barriers for people from different countries can increase the emotional divide. So, it is crucial that companies with multicultural teams actively promote communication, collaboration, and connectivity among employees.
Performance evaluation provides a feedback mechanism for businesses to understand the current performance levels of individual contributors and set expectations for the future. Companies use performance evaluation to assess the development and growth of their employees. Leaders must be prepared to use the right tools to provide feedback to each individual with consideration of the employee’s cultural origins. It is also important to remember that cultural origins influence communication styles. A cross-cultural feedback study conducted in Finland and Austria found that Finns are reluctant to give personal feedback, but Austrians do not mind providing individual feedback, even negative ones. Similar differences in assessment practices due to cultural communication styles and interpretations can generate unreliable data and make it harder to evaluate communication effectiveness across multicultural teams. So, businesses with distributed teams need to invest in educating employees about the multicultural implications of providing feedback. People managers in multicultural workplaces need the tools and training to provide data-driven, accurate, and effective feedback that is also culturally aware.
When multicultural teams are spread across multiple time zones, businesses can run operations around the clock and increase productivity. But setting up team meetings and workflows in various time zones is challenging. Team members have to wake up early or stay late to attend meetings and discussions. It can lead to employee fatigue and attrition. Companies can use asynchronous communication tools like email to decrease the number of meetings. If real-time collaboration is required, asynchronous communication will not resolve the issue. It is more efficient for projects with real-time collaboration requirements to choose employees from regions with overlapping working hours.
Globally distributed teams need to communicate and collaborate efficiently to be effective. Digital collaboration tools can provide the common ground to build relationships with teammates, provide feedback or manage project requirements. Teams can use virtual communication tools like Skype, Slack, and Zoom to share information and talk online. Tools like Teams, Confluence, Jira, Trello, and Asana can help with virtual project management. Distributed teams can organize virtual events on MEETYOO. The right tools will make life easier for multicultural teams.
As remote work and distributed teams increase, companies will have to pay more attention to the multicultural characteristics of the workspace. With distributed teams, companies benefit from shared global knowledge and expertise. But companies need to invest in the right tools and strategies to take full advantage of multicultural teams.
If you want to learn more about managing global teams, please feel free to contact Flugel today. Our experienced Delivery Managers and HR professionals are read to help.
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