By Nicole Sahin
May. 20, 2019
For managers who are building or inheriting teams in today’s fast-paced, digitally enabled business environment, things are far more interesting, productive and creative. But that doesn’t simplify managing a modern global team.
Most enterprise companies now do business overseas, and they employ teams that span many boundaries: cultural, functional, geographic and global teams are becoming more of the norm. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, worldwide employment by U.S. multinational enterprises increased 0.4 percent from 42.1 million in 2015 to 42.3 million workers in 2016 (the latest year available).
The good news is that people typically enjoy working on global teams. Based on data from a 2019 “Global Employee Survey” conducted by my company, professional employer organization Globalization Partners, 72 percent of people said they like to be part of global teams but like them even more when they feel listened to and treated fairly. Also, the flexibility in work locations lets companies hire the best talent anywhere in the world, and the diversity that comes from global teams can be a huge benefit.
But there are challenges that generally fall into three types: communications, logistics and culture. Communication issues are no surprise, but if not tended to can snowball to become serious problems. Also, the same diversity that brings new ideas into the mix and inspires us can cause conflict and disagreement, or misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
What does it take to succeed in managing a global team? It rolls up to two kinds of activities: establishing good systems and establishing trust.
Establishing good systems means following the laws and knowing the customs in the places where your organization does business, taking the time to understand how your team will need to work together and then acquiring the technology to support it. It also means communicating with your team — in a firm, clear and inclusive way — to help them adhere to those systems and use those tools. Here are some best practices.
It’s a lot easier to build processes than trust, but you will need both to be successful. In terms of establishing trust, global virtual managers don’t get the benefits of managing by walking around that local managers get, so you’ll have to make up for it in other ways. Here are a few.
As more companies continue to enter the global game, they will need to make it a priority to build and nurture a local team, set them up with compliant, equitable systems, demonstrate an understanding of local culture, and establish communications practices that make them feel valued and heard. If not, they risk losing the much sought-after international employees that can be so hard to find.
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