Based in the Netherlands, Africa Juice is an example of a new kind of company made possible by the telecommunications revolution. Africa Juice invests in juice production facilities, farms, and infrastructure in Africa in order to import juice from fruit grown both by local farmers and their own growers. They split their staff between executives in the Netherlands office and farmers, manufacturing, and production in Ethiopia. Africa Juice serves as a prime example of the opportunities for growth and innovation available for companies that take part in global projects.
The Challenges and Opportunities of Global Projects
Whether it’s a team of contractors, full-time employees, or a combination, global projects incorporate teams located in countries outside of a company’s home country. In order to ensure efficient collaboration across all locations, a company needs to get every member of the team moving in the same direction through constant communication and a detailed work plan. However, management problems may still arise with teams operating across multiple countries.
These challenges typically fall into four categories: Language barriers, time differences, cultural differences, and financial controls. Language differences can often impede communication and hinder a company’s ability to work efficiently, especially if a business uses technical or business jargon that is specific to a country or region. Time differences add more challenges to scheduling team meetings when a team’s local business hours do not overlap. Cultural differences between countries lead to expectations from employees that affect how they view their workplace, co-workers, and managers, as well as their compensation and benefits. Currency rate fluctuations lead to constant uncertainty and challenges for companies when handling global projects.
Despite the challenges present, there are many reasons companies should consider utilizing this practice. For instance, by taking part in global projects, companies get access to a diverse team that can create a competitive advantage in global markets. Teams made up of local talent give companies insight into the culture and expectations in a local or regional market. These diverse teams can build on local innovations to augment a team as well as bring in new perspectives to improve upon the work a team is able to do.
Building a Team for Global Projects
When building a team, especially one operating in a foreign country, managers must ensure they fully understand local labor laws. Some countries have unobtrusive labor regulations, making it for easy employment and compliance, while others have heavy employee protections and benefits. Before entering a market, companies need to take the time to do research and familiarize themselves with legal and cultural expectations present.
As they bring their business into new countries, many companies choose to forego hiring regular employees in order to utilize independent contractors. Typically, this can ease the team’s local regulatory burdens, cost less than regular employees, and are easier to hire for a short-term project without incurring the costs and protections afforded a regular employee. However, companies who choose this need to be aware of the risks associated with hiring a contractor. Many countries have strict rules about what constitutes an independent contractor along with legal systems that tend to side with the worker in disputes. Misclassification can add huge legal fees and settlements and waste company time. In order to maintain compliance with contractors or any kind of international employee, companies need to make a long-term plan that keeps foreign laws in mind and considers how each employment option will affect their goals going forward.
After making a decision regarding how a company will hire global employees, companies need to come up with a strategy for managing a project from beginning to end. With any global project, companies need to formulate an exit strategy before entering the market. From employment status to how much it invests in its employees, an exit strategy will affect many of the decisions a company will make throughout the project and can determine whether or not a company’s operations are compliant. By putting in the effort to plan a hiring, entrance and exit strategy that keeps a country’s unique requirements in mind, companies are in a better position to manage compliance with global projects.
Managing Global Projects
Communication is key for companies that aim to manage global projects well across multiple countries. The Harvard Business Review emphasizes the importance of structure, process, language, identity, and technology in order to keep lines of communication open for all team members. Structure addresses problems created by perceived power imbalances among a team, focusing on making every team member feel valued and empowered. This idea focuses on creating a process that builds empathy in the team by asking for feedback on routine interactions, creating deliberate time for disagreements, and adding unstructured interactions to fuel empowered communication.
Language fluency can create communication barriers among a team as well. To overcome this, project managers should ensure that the most fluent speakers do not monopolize the conversation. Cultural identities affect how team members interact with each other and expect to be treated, meaning that international team members will regularly perceive interactions in a completely different way from those in a domestic office. Rather than assuming everyone is aligned, it is important for project managers to constantly ask questions with their team members to make sure everyone is on the same page. At the same time, project managers need to encourage their team to feel comfortable asking questions for clarification, further explanation, or repetition so they can feel comfortable going to their team for help. Good communication practices can also help the team learn to trust each other, even if they don’t work in the same office or country.
Finally, global projects need to ensure labor compliance in each country they operate in. This can be done through regular compliance audits. Even if a team is small, regular checks can save both time and money. Utilizing a global employment solution, like an International PEO (Professional Employer Organization), allows HR functions to extend to global locations in order for companies to ensure compliant operations overseas. With this type of employment solution, companies can get peace of mind that their employees’ needs are taken care of so they can keep their focus on achieving the goals set out for their global projects.
Whatever the reason for exploring global projects, companies can benefit from this short-term practice if they are able to approach it correctly. From hiring, entry, and exit strategies, to the importance of compliance and communication, companies that are able to capitalize on the opportunities available and avoid challenges are those that take all of the above into consideration when managing global projects.
There are many benefits to building a global team and taking part in the growing popularity of global projects. If you want to try this practice for your company, reach out to the experts at Velocity Global. We can show you how our International PEO solution makes it easier to get into new markets efficiently and compliantly so you can begin working on your global growth goals faster.