Building or growing a global team is an exciting time for businesses. Today’s fast-paced business landscape allows for immediate digital connection across time zones. The instant connection provided by cloud-sharing, video conferencing, and direct messaging apps gives international teams the flexibility they need to be successful in a global marketplace.
However, just because the technology is in place doesn’t mean that communicating across global teams isn’t without challenges. How can you ensure that your team communicates effectively across borders? Read on below to learn how to establish efficient processes that build trust and empower your employees.
1. Create Centralized Communication Channels
The first step in creating an effective communication policy for your international team is determining which channels work best for your employees. Tools help the efficiency and productivity of a team, but finding the right tools is just as critical as using them.
Take steps to determine the ways your team communicates best.
- Talk to your team before establishing centralized communication channels. Do they prefer email, chat, project management tools, video conferencing, or phone calls? Your team may prefer several different mediums for different types of communication, so it’s essential to get their opinion on what will work best across the board. Once several options are selected, implement a trial run with your team to test the various tools.
- Make transparency a priority. Because your employees are working across different time zones, they need to be able to pick up after another team member leaves off. Ensure the tools selected for your team allow for a transparent look into each person’s progress on any individual task.
Once you select and test the right communication channels, determine the frequency needed for your team. Consider how your organization shares updates on projects and individual tasks, how often, and who you must include in communications for different initiatives. Establishing strong communication requirements ensures there are no dropped responsibilities between your domestic and international teams.
2. Navigate Time Zone Differences for Your Global Team
For global teams, time zones and real-time collaboration are a significant challenge. So, how do managers create a collaborative team environment without the requirement of daily, real-time meetings? The first step is to develop an understanding of working styles and communication preferences.
- Establish a fair meeting cadence. Your remote team may have to come in early or stay late to participate in collaborative meetings. Schedule meetings for the convenience of your supported employees, and keep meeting times consistent.
- Set weekly agendas. Make sure to set an agenda for each meeting that includes priority talking points from all teams. This allows everyone to prepare for a productive meeting.
- Use the proper medium for collaborative touchpoints. Video conferencing is the proven medium of choice for international teams. It allows coworkers to physically see each other, connect, make small talk, and follow all side conversations that often take place in meetings.
In addition to finding the right meeting times and cadence, balancing the department’s workload fairly between domestic and international teams is another step to successfully navigating different time zones.
- Watch out for imbalanced workloads. This includes scheduling employees to manage live-chat channels during their off-hours or attending after-hours meetings.
- Define responsibilities and highlight unique skillsets. An international team comes with innumerable benefits, one of them being diverse skill sets. Celebrate those differences by confirming that each employee’s job responsibilities reflect their unique skills. This ensures that duties are divided fairly, but also allows individual employees to make meaningful contributions in-line with their abilities.
3. Don’t Forget to Consider Culture
You have a culturally diverse team, and it's important to celebrate that diversity. An international team with different regional skillsets is an asset to any company. As a manager and employer, it is your job to highlight, honor, and, most of all, respect the cultural nuances of your team.
- Give your team opportunities to showcase their culture. Culture is a significant aspect of your team, and giving your employees opportunities to display it will go a long way in terms of morale and understanding international teammates.
- Understand the local laws. Your global teams have different mandatory holidays than your domestic one, and you’ll need to provide adequate coverage for both groups during these times. Rely on your internal HR department to help you identify mandatory holidays across all teams.
- Consider how communication differs between regions. Employees from a culture with a more dominant approach to discussions likely express themselves in a direct way. However, if your team consists of a mix of dominant cultures and team members with different cultural norms, this contrast can result in ineffective and potentially harmful communication styles. Establish a reliable communication process that addresses cultural differences to mitigate these risks.
- Encourage empathy in conversations. The best way to teach your team to navigate different communication styles and cultural nuances is to practice compassion. Set the standard as a leader by always giving the benefit of the doubt and using kind, clear, and succinct language across your teams. Your employees will mimic your communication style and consider it the standard.
4. Communicate Your Process and Stick to It
By now, you’ve determined which tools and mediums your teams will use to communicate. You’ve established time-zone expectations. Your communication plan celebrates cultural and regional differences, and you’ve set the standard by communicating efficiently and empathetically with your team.
All that’s left is to:
- Present your communication plan in an open forum where all team members ask questions, give feedback, and engage. Following the meeting, present your formal written communication plan to the team along with expectations and examples.
- Continuously assess your process. Just because you’ve put in the work to establish a communication process doesn’t mean the work is over. Create regular checkpoints with your employees to ask feedback on how the policy is working for them and implement any relevant changes based on their input. Processes keep a team performing effectively and efficiently. However, an established process can always be improved through pulse checks to determine continued effectiveness.
Let Your Communication Policy Do the Work
As your company moves into the global marketplace or grows within international markets, you need to celebrate and nurture your international teams. Establishing reliable communication processes, developing centralized communication channels, and understanding the cultural nuances of your global team creates happy and productive employees that feel valued and trusted.
Are you considering international expansion for your team? We can help. Talk with one of our experts today.