Managing a remote team is understandably complicated. Varying time zones and technology challenges are barriers. A lack of in-person water cooler chats can take a toll on a team morale. Then add a healthy dose of diversity, and you may be facing a steep learning curve.
Diversity is more an evolving path than an ultimate destination. These four efficient cross-cultural strategies can help your remote team evolve together.
Many remote teams lean more toward collaboration rather than a boss-employee model, which for most, is a desirable approach. Still, a team without a leader [or many leaders] is like a ship without a captain. From accountability to time management to talking to clients, a leadership structure is vital. When it comes to cross-cultural remote teams, the organization is even more critical. Each culture has varying customs, conventions and language differences, so a clear organizational map is an asset.
Knowing who they need to answer to – or who can assist with resolving a specific issue – not only feels reassuring for your remote team, but it also helps workers orient themselves within the company culture.
Developing a team identity can help unify your remote workers in their goals. You can start with an organizational mission statement that is purpose-driven and resonates with every employee on the job. Unifying your employees with a stable company or team identity helps them feel like part of something bigger than themselves. Clear boundaries and expectations are beneficial, and allow staff members to measure their efforts against company-wide metrics.
The same team identity should also highlight each member's participation and contributions. When workers feel valued, they are more productive and happier, so appropriate recognition is a crucial part of your management toolkit.
You can also use empowerment to spur motivation among team members. After all, the more control and input your remote staff has, the more likely they will continue collaborating effectively. Confidence in their role with each project – and their place in the organization – help empower employees. This is true whether you are focusing on how to hire a Swift developer or onboarding administrative support personnel. Outlining the expectations for each role is a helpful step.
Transparency and openness in communication have the potential to shape the future of work. Indeed, communication is vital for effective teamwork. But far-flung coworkers may have a hard time getting on the same page.
Notably, if your team features workers of varying backgrounds – with differing native languages – efficient communication may be more challenging. Many organizations stress the importance of keeping channels open among teammates on projects. Clear intentions and a positive tone can help overcome communication challenges.
Specific strategies can also help confirm understanding between team members. One study found that 46 percent of cross-cultural team members used open questions to ensure comprehension when sharing information. In that same study, 96 percent of respondents agreed that multicultural work is beneficial.
It is also worth exploring the language capabilities and confidence of your team. One study found that employees who were non-native speakers perceived a loss of status in comparison with their native-speaking peers. While organizationally speaking, no change occurred, the employees' confidence suffered. Workers with lower fluency levels felt more anxiety and concerns over job advancement. If your team features non-native English speakers, this is noteworthy.
Understanding what they may be feeling helps tailor your management approach.
Nonverbal cues can also impact coworkers' interactions in remote scenarios. The lack of in-person gestures, facial expressions, and body language can mean difficulties with sentiments like humor. Fortunately, positivity is one of the least-misinterpreted emotions. Thus, it is a reliable fallback when in doubt.
The benefits of diversity is substantial, including increases in creativity, innovation, product/service range, professional growth, and profits. Still, handling diverse teams takes more preparation and effort.
Simply making blanket statements about how great diversity is it is not enough.
As the Project Management Institute explains, "not all diversity issues are the result of deliberate, conscious attempts to victimize those who are different from ourselves." Becoming aware of unconscious biases is the first step in embracing diversity.
The PMI recommends strategies like implementing positive psychology to reach an "optimal" level of collaboration. Approaching diversity and inclusion as a win-win rather than me-versus-them is another noteworthy point in PMI's discussion.
A broader view of diversity – one that spans race, language, regionalism, family status, education, and age – is also necessary for a more cohesive and accepting remote workplace.
Implementing a new approach might require thinking on your feet. But another option is to incorporate remote diversity training into your business model. Investing in training for a large team is a significant expense, but the benefit of a more open-minded and collaborative team is irrefutable.
Diversifying your team – both in terms of geographical location and personnel – is one of the best managerial decisions you can make. Despite the challenges, investing in cross-cultural strategies can help your remote team thrive. As the future leans toward even wider diversity and more intensive global collaboration, your company could forge ahead.