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Geographical barriers are not as relevant as they used to be in the world of business. Thanks to technology, companies are increasingly hiring internationally. This has been more relevant than ever, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The upside from this transformation is that businesses can hire from a bigger talent pool. We are better connected because of videoconferencing, and many aspects of our working lives are easier. But this new way of working doesn’t come without a flip side. As companies hire from around the world, communication issues, time zone, and cultural differences are all challenges that must be overcome to manage international teams successfully.
As a manager, how do you ensure everyone on your global team has their eyes on the same goal?
To set you in the right direction, we’ve compiled a list of the seven top ways to successfully manage international teams.
1. Define Team Structure and Core Corporate Values
While your team members may be remote geographically, clarity about team structure and corporate values is essential to bridging that physical gap.
Ensure your team has access to a corporate structure chart so they know who they report to.
Have your corporate values easily accessible. Explain how these feed into the work your team does.
Each team member should know their own individual goals and targets. Set up one-to-ones for this early on so your employees start off in the right mindset.
Advise your team of your management style and leave the communication lines open for feedback.
Above all, it’s about clarity about your company’s values and how you can achieve them as a team.
2. Use Tools and Tech to Manage International Teams with Ease
Take advantage of free and low-cost tech to help you manage international teams with ease.
We’re all familiar with video conferencing, which is great for connecting with team members near and far. But don’t forget about all the other organization and communication technology to make remote working hassle-free.
A shared calendar app — easy to find as part of your email or project management software — makes organizing meetings a breeze.
Project management tools make planning and tracking tasks easy. Team members can check off when they’ve completed an activity and leave notes for colleagues, too.
Team tech doesn’t have to be complex but will make a world of difference to the effective functioning of your international team.
3. Acknowledge and Discuss Cultural Differences
Be aware of the cultural differences between your team members and turn this into an opportunity to learn.
For example, if team members observe different religious or cultural holidays, invite them to share information about them. And be accommodating when they ask for time off to celebrate.
Understand that different cultures have different ways of working. Don’t get too hung up on these unless they impact your team negatively. Be open-minded and prepared to adapt to other ways of working if you can see an advantage for the team.
While time zone differences can pose challenges, trust your team members to work independently during office hours that suit them.
Language doesn’t have to be a barrier. Agree on the common language and support any team member who has a gap in their knowledge.
4. Break the Ice and Bring People Together
Use “icebreaker” activities on your video conferencing for team members to get to know one another. For example, try the “Recent Photo Story” game. Get participants to show the third most recent photo they took on their phone and tell the story that led to the picture.
Ask team members for the most useful app on their phone and to share why with the group. Or mix it up by asking for their go-to recipes or best time-saving tip.
Party games in work meetings may sound frivolous, but they raise your team’s energy, helping them bond and putting them at ease.
5. Actively Engage in Diversity Initiatives
To know how to manage international teams successfully, you must actively engage in diversity initiatives.
As well as participating in diversity training for managers, find ways for your team members to do the same.
Mix up your teams so that members get the chance to work with people from different cultures. They can get to know each other and learn different ways of doing things.
Understand the impact of different time zones, languages, and faith backgrounds.
Establish an equality and diversity task force to ensure everyone has equal opportunities, no matter who they are or where they’re from.
Not only will initiatives benefit the individual, but they will also bring a host of rich rewards to your company, making it stronger and more cohesive.
6. Ensure All Team Members Can Participate
No matter where in the world they are, all your team members should have the same opportunities to participate.
If you only have one team meeting per week according to your time zone, you’ll find it won’t be a good time for everyone. So, create strategies such as offering two or three team meetings and allowing employees to choose which one suits them best.
Communication strategies are important, too. If some team members lack fluency, ensure that meetings and documents are conducted at a level they’re comfortable with.
Inclusion, engagement, and participation are all key to managing remote teams successfully.
7. Minimize the Language Barrier with Translation
If you are managing an international team, you may be dealing with many different languages. How can you get the best out of your team in this scenario?
Minimize the language barrier by getting your company’s training and internal communications documents translated into your employees’ languages.
Not only will you make a personal connection with remote teams, but doing so helps avoids misunderstandings and the feeling of exclusion.
Additionally, you should consider the very real risk of failing to achieve legal compliance. If you don’t provide company communications in employees’ own languages, they may not understand their role, its safety aspects, and their own legal obligations.
And in some countries around the world, employees must be supplied with company communications in their native language by law.
Commit Global provides translation services in over 80 language combinations. We understand how important translation is to your business and pride ourselves on delivering quality language solutions to fulfill your needs. Get in touch to find more about how we can support your business by providing accurate translations of your key documents.
Converting Challenges into Rewards
Managing international teams successfully is a balancing act. But once you get it right, you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of benefits. Collaborating with people from different backgrounds automatically means that we are exposed to new ideas. This injects creativity and innovation into the working environment.
By following our simple suggestions, team leaders can embrace the benefits a multicultural working environment offers, converting challenges into rewards for the individual employee and for the future of the company.