More companies are building global teams (i.e., one that crosses international and/or continental borders). The benefits of having a global team include local market knowledge, around-the-clock operations, creativity and innovation, and diversity in your talent pool, among others. Despite the benefits, successfully building and managing a geographically dispersed team requires intentional and planned efforts. For a global team to work both efficiently and effectively, you must, at the very least, learn to accommodate different time zones and embrace different cultures. With the right approach, it is possible to successfully manage teams spread across different parts of the world.
At Jarvis, our team spans countries and continents and has for several years. Our workforce continues to expand globally and we’ve learned many lessons from building a global team. We’ve experienced what works and what doesn’t. Refining our processes has allowed us to be where we are now: successfully managing collaboration between Toronto and Sarajevo!
Here we share insights into how to successfully manage a global team.
Setting clear communication channels
One of the first steps in managing cross-continental teams is to establish clear communication channels. Team members should be able to reach one another easily, whether through email, instant messaging, or video conferencing. Whether it’s through Zoom, Slack, Google Meets, or different communication tools, team members need to understand how to get in touch when they need to collaborate.
Regular team meetings or check-ins are an effective way to ensure that all team members get what they need from one another. Keep in mind that you need to consider and accommodate time zone differences if you want to hold a meeting with team members across the globe. It’s important to prioritize finding a time that works for everyone despite time zone differences.
Establish clear expectations
In addition to communication and cultural sensitivity, expectations for each team member’s role and responsibilities must be clear. With global collaboration, you may experience less frequent touchpoints than if you shared an office. There are no water cooler chats or lunchtime check-ins when you are not working in a physical office together. Thus, expectations must be clear so that when team members are working independently, they are working towards a common goal. By providing clear direction and expectations, managers can help team members feel more confident in taking initiative and speaking up.
Implement and foster a flat organizational structure
Developing a flat organizational structure is crucial to the success of building a strong global team. In a flat organization, decisions are made through collaboration and input from team members, rather than just from a select group of individuals at the top. This organizational structure minimizes the number of levels between leadership and employees. The benefits of having a flat organizational structure are well documented. Flat organizations build a culture and environment where everyone’s ideas and perspectives are heard. This can result in better decision-making and improved team performance.
When team members feel comfortable speaking up, they are more likely to share their ideas and concerns. Embracing and promoting diverse thinking can lead to more effective problem-solving and innovation. Managers can encourage team members to speak up by creating an open and inclusive environment where everyone’s opinions are valued, and by actively seeking feedback from team members.
To further promote participation and the free flow of ideas, managers can use tools like brainstorming sessions, open forums or group discussions. To maintain a flat organization, managers must be active listeners and respond positively to their team members’ thoughts, ideas, or concerns.
Being mindful of language barriers and cultural differences
Language differences are important to consider when managing global teams. Even though English is the common language among many international teams, there might be team members whose primary language is not English. This can affect both communication and understanding. To overcome language barriers, managers should be aware of the different languages spoken by their team members and make an effort to communicate clearly and effectively with them.
It’s also important to be patient when communicating with team members whose primary language is not English (or the primary language of the business). You may need to repeat or rephrase information when two team members speak different primary languages. It can be helpful to ask a team member if they would like a written summary of what was discussed after a meeting so they can look back and confirm they understood correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask what a team member needs to make their job easier.
You should also be mindful of cultural differences. Each culture has its own unique set of values, customs, and communication styles, and it’s important to be aware of these differences to avoid misunderstandings. For example, some cultures value direct communication, while others prefer a more indirect approach. By being sensitive to these cultural differences, team members will be better able to work together effectively. You may also get to learn about different cultural traditions and can embrace them across the team!
Using the right tools and technologies
Utilizing tools and various technologies can boost the success of a cross-continental team. Fortunately, these tools have become increasingly powerful and are continually broadening in terms of functionality. By leveraging online collaboration tools, such as project management software or cloud-based storage solutions, team members can work together seamlessly, regardless of where they are located. These tools can help to facilitate communication, collaboration, and document sharing, making it easier for team members to stay connected and on top of their tasks. Zoom, Google Meets, and Slack are some of the top communication tools used to support virtual (and thus global) collaboration.
Building team cohesion
Despite the physical distance between global team members, team cohesion is imperative to a business’s success. Team cohesion is the “ability to effectively work as a whole towards a common goal”. With true cohesion, there is a sense of desire to work towards this goal. Having a cohesive team fosters things such as the ability to effectively communicate, reduced desire to micro-manage team members, and improved morale and workplace culture, among others.
Some ways to achieve team cohesion on a global team include planning virtual team-building activities, encouraging informal communication among team members, or celebrating team accomplishments together even though team members are far away.
The key to successfully managing cross-continental teams is to be adaptable, flexible, and open-minded. By embracing the challenges that come with managing a team spread across different parts of the world, you can create a strong and effective team that can achieve great things together.
- Set clear communication channels
- Set clear expectations
- Implement a flat organizational structure
- Be mindful of language barriers and cultural differences
- Use the right tools and technologies
- Build team cohesion
By following these best practices, managers can successfully lead global teams that embrace diverse cultures and successfully manage different time zones.
Director Of Talent Development
Amela manages Jarvis’ Talent Incubation Program, which identifies and develops high-potential individuals for technical positions in various Canadian organizations. The program also helps companies build a more stable and high-quality talent pipeline with an emphasis on diversity.
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Jarvis is a leading IT consulting firm headquartered in Canada that provides total talent solutions with ongoing partnerships across North America’s top financial institutions, cutting-edge startups, and major technology companies.
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