US employers are experiencing one of the most significant labor shortages in modern history, and, thanks to the Great Resignation, that’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Because sourcing top talent has become so difficult, many business leaders are expanding recruiting efforts outside their geographic area—and sometimes outside the country.
At the same time, many businesses that faced financial difficulties throughout the pandemic have been acquired or merged with larger competitors.
As a result of both trends, plus the continued growth of remote work, some organizations are learning how to work with global teams for the first time. And, as anyone who has ever worked with a company through the infancy of its globalization can attest, it can be a little bumpy.
From language barriers and cultural differences to time zone hurdles, managers of global teams have many new challenges to navigate. The good news is, it’s well worth the effort. In addition to growing your talent pool, cultivating a diverse workforce also brings on a broader range of perspectives—which drives innovation and helps businesses gain a foothold in new markets.
But fostering a successful global team takes time and effort. Today, we’re sharing a few tips on how to work with global teams.
Clearly Communicate Goals and Expectations
Communication is essential to leading an effective global team—especially when it comes to project management and setting objectives. It’s vital everyone understands what’s expected and agrees to a timeline. No one should have to assume how they or their colleagues are spending their time or which items are a top priority. Collaborative tools like Google Spreadsheets and Asana are a great way to share goals in one place.
Make Use of Common Platforms
Some team members will be working the same hours while others may be ending their workday as their coworkers are just signing on. This is why it’s crucial you leverage platforms that allow people to work in real-time or asynchronously. Slack, Trello, and Microsoft Teams enable global teams to collaborate whether they’re in different buildings, different cities, or several time zones apart.
If employees have an ad-hoc call or in-person conversation, encourage them to share details of that communication via collaboration platforms. This way, everyone is on the same page, even if they’re not in the same geographic location.
Establish a Schedule to Talk With the Entire Team
One of the biggest obstacles for global teams is identifying times for everyone to meet. Depending on time zones, you may need to make team-wide meetings a rare occurrence, but you shouldn’t forego them entirely. After all, employees need face time to bond, build rapport, collaborate, and share knowledge.
To make the most of your time together, create a framework and never schedule a meeting without a concrete agenda. And select a tool like Zoom or Google Meet that makes video calls easy to manage from any location.
Meet in Person As Early and Often As Possible
While video conferencing is a nice substitute, there’s nothing quite like having your team meet face-to-face. A team retreat can allow everyone to get to know each other in a more natural environment and support more productive communication in the future. Of course, with the ongoing pandemic and travel restrictions, it may be a while until in-person team events are safe and feasible.
In the meantime, focus on supporting a virtual culture. That means ensuring your team is welcoming and inclusive, developing a comprehensive and supportive onboarding process, and collecting regular feedback. It’s also a good idea to publicly recognize employees’ achievements via Slack or MS Teams and encourage team members to give props to each other.
Virtual get-togethers and regularly scheduled team meetings can go a long way toward helping people feel more comfortable reaching out to one another—even if they’re halfway around the world.
Build Trust and Create Connections
There are many reasons someone may choose to leave a position—but they’re a lot less likely to do so if they like the people they work with and communicate with them regularly. This is why it’s critical you make a concerted effort to connect with each member of your team.
- Take time to get to know them, their interests, goals, career aspirations, and any challenges or obstacles they’re facing.
- Ensure they feel comfortable coming to you with any questions or concerns, and show you’re willing to listen without judgment.
- Ask questions about the topics you know are important to your team and make sure they know feedback is welcome and valued.
Additionally, help create connections among everyone on your team. You can do this in the following ways:
- Create a virtual community that supports cross-cultural collaboration and listens to each others’ ideas with an open mind.
- Seek to defuse conflict and encourage each team member to speak up and contribute.
- Practice transparency to build trust and model other behaviors you’d like to see team members display.
Make Resources Available To All Members
One of the best things you can do to ensure your global team is efficient and effective is to ensure everyone has access to all the resources they need to succeed. By leveraging a knowledge management platform, you can ensure all employees have access to the same knowledge, regardless of where they’re working.
This way, team members can self-serve resources, so they don’t have to rely on colleagues being online at the same time when they have questions. A knowledge management solution helps employees feel empowered and keeps projects moving forward.
Listen Carefully for Cultural Insights
Ask your colleagues to let you know when their holidays are, what hours they normally work, how they would like to communicate with you, and of course, how the company can present itself in the most favorable light locally. Try to learn as much as you can about the local culture, and encourage your team to take an active role in training you in the best ways to work with them.
As you and your fellow leaders learn how to work with global teams, you’re bound to hit a few stumbling blocks. But, regardless of the setbacks, it’s important you put in the time and effort to support diversity and collaboration. By following these tips and implementing a knowledge management platform, you’ll be well on your way to developing a highly successful global team.
This blog post was originally published in March 2015. It was expanded and updated in January 2022 to reflect new information and best practices.