As the modern business economy becomes more and more globalized, both large and small companies alike are expanding their bandwidth across the world. And the increased trend in telecommuting has now made it possible for organizations to hire employees from nearly anywhere in the world. This diversity is an asset for businesses tapping into foreign markets, but it also requires a distinct and flexible system of management.
As the president of a digital content marketing firm, who travels internationally for business and whose team is located both in the U.S. and abroad, I know firsthand what is needed to establish connections within a global workforce. The strategies below equip me to navigate cross-cultural nuances with success, and they can enhance your own leadership and influence in business too.
Foster a Cohesive, Unified Business Model.
The most effective teams share common goals and operate under the same company values, so it’s important to make sure that employees recognize and align with the unique culture of your organization. Promoting one consistent business model strengthens your workforce in multiple areas, suggests Forbes Magazine. These benefits include giving each team member a sense of identity and solidarity which boosts collaboration, forges relationships and leads to a higher retention of skilled, dedicated talent.
But Create Space for Cultural Differences.
While an integrated business culture is necessary, it’s also worth noting that different countries have their own methods of functioning in the workplace. On a global team, there are diverse languages, customs, worldviews and points of reference, but these barriers can be overcome with an effort to respect and understand one another. The Harvard Business Review warns against “us and them thinking” because this constructs an “otherness of distant colleagues” that undermines the group dynamic.
Make Face-to-Face Interactions a Priority.
Strong relationships are the lifeblood of successful companies, so you need to connect with and invest in your team members. This can be difficult when they’re based on other continents, but you will need to spend time with them in person when it’s feasible. In office settings, camaraderie forms organically in the breakroom and at team-building events, but when employees are scattered around the world, you have to bring that sense of community and engagement to them directly.
Use Video Conferencing When You Can’t.
When traveling to meet with your team isn’t realistic due to budget or schedule constraints, take advantage of the many options for virtual communication. While not a substitute for personal interaction, this software makes it possible to exchange face-time with employees straight from a computer or mobile device. Some reputable video conferencing platforms are Zoom (which my own team uses), GoToMeeting and Cisco WebEx. Just keep in mind the time zone differences when utilizing this form of contact.
“We have many people who work at our properties that are native to Jamaica. But we also have several other employees who hail from around the globe. We recognize that many have different holidays, different languages and sayings. The cultural diversity actually helps us with problem solving many times—since people have different perspectives to offer different solutions,” said Richard Burrowes, Senior Director of Operations at Rose Hall.
View Diversity as a Strength Not a Challenge.
Finally, make a point to recognize how much you can learn from people whose experience of relating and being in the world doesn’t match yours, then encourage them to share this unique knowledge and perspective with you. No matter the geographical distance, each team member has ideas, expertise and creativity which can benefit others in the group—and the organization as a whole. So create a framework that invites an open transaction of dialogue, brainstorms, questions and intercultural education.
I love conducting business in all types of international markets, and my career has taken me from the global healthcare and nonprofit sectors to worldwide media outlets to my current role in digital marketing. In each of these industries, the significance of building connections and recruiting talent overseas has been reinforced to me. The strategy is embracing our similarities, appreciating our differences and finding unity in both.