Regardless of a company’s organizational structure, managing teams in different geographic regions can present huge challenges. Your organization must possess a top-notch communication strategy, and the team members should be results-driven, candid, and goal-oriented. Leaders should take steps to ensure each team is regarded equally, and that each member’s input is not only welcomed, but taken into consideration, particularly those in different time zones, cultures, and demographics.
As the most obvious of the issues, teams working in different global time zones can lead to missed deadlines, lapses in communication, and imbalanced accountability.
Meetings and work hours need to be flexible and overlap with all team members. Team members must understand this may mean working earlier or later hours to accommodate for the time difference. Be sure to establish a clear understanding of languages used during meetings, and identify key cultural differences to squash any frustration with minor miscommunications.
Differences in culture and communication can take a toll on teams working globally. Fast information is a prerequisite for day-to-day tasks, now more so than ever. However, Americans are more likely to respond quickly to a request even if they haven’t completed the project associated, while workers in India take their time to respond after fully and confidently completing the task.
Provide your teams the opportunity to mimic the casual interpersonal communication exhibited by colleagues working in the same office (better known as water cooler talk). Allow time for team members to chat daily or weekly and get to know one another as people, not inbox alerts. Schedule quarterly trips to get the teams together.
Lack of Empathy
When people have not met in person and are from different demographics, it’s easy to lack empathy and understanding when dealing with common business challenges. Again, allow time for your teams to get to know one another and provide some unstructured time for them to naturally build a relationship.
Build a recognition program. Acknowledging not only birthdays and special occasions, but also professional achievements, can tremendously improve team morale and overall productivity. Work to create a recognition program and consistently recognize and reward team members, and encourage them to recognize each other.
Whether communication is completely lacking, or there are too many channels, communication between global teams proves challenging. As teams settle into their respective offices across the world, effective communication becomes less of a priority and is often overlooked.
Analyze your organization’s communication tools, system, goals, and procedures. Are there too many channels involved that allow important information to be lost in the shuffle? Are your teams virtually ignoring one another? Simplify the process by picking communication tools that are easy to use, collaborative, and systematic. It’s never too late to audit your tools, especially now that new tools are being developed, released, and implemented. Don’t contribute to the clutter.
Working day-to-day with colleagues in different locations with different accents, environments, and cultures can lead to an ‘us’ vs ‘them’ mentality, creating a chasm between geographic teams. Such separation creates a perceived imbalance of power and leads to poor communication, accountability, and collaboration.
Incorporate output tracking and project management software to ensure no tasks are overlooked. Platforms like Mavenlink allow collaboration, file sharing, client communication, and Gant tracking. Hold quarterly or monthly reviews to gauge communication, collaboration, and productivity across teams. It is also important for the team to nurture their virtual relationships, whether through video chats or occasional face to face meetings.