Managing remote teams is no mean feat considering all the challenges that come with working from dispersed places. As a manager, you have to deal with challenges ranging from communication hurdles, difficulty in tracking progress, lack of trust, troubles using technology, and even lack of visibility among others. Moreover, when your team is spread across different nationalities, the issue of language and cultural differences makes it even harder. However, with the right strategies in place, you can easily manage your team and drive results across the entire organization. Here are nine tips to help you manage your international team effectively and efficiently.
Set clear expectations
If you are to set up your team for success, being clear on what you expect is paramount. Never assume that every other person thinks the same as you when assigning tasks. Your definition of success could be totally different from that of your employees. Keep in mind that your international employees could be working in different time zones. Finding you for clarifications could mean waiting several hours for you to be available to give answers. Clarifying what you exactly mean can help you avoid frustrations as well as save time, enabling your team to meet deadlines as expected.
It is very important to have the whole team on the same page if you are to maximize productivity. Moreover, that can be possible with regular communication. That is why you should make virtual meetings a priority. Use the time to inform the team about new developments, clarify doubts, listen to the challenges that they are facing, and track progress among others. To do this effectively, choose communication platforms and teleconferencing technology that works for each team member. Additionally, put into consideration the difference in time zones and select a time that is favorable for everyone.
Leverage the help of management tools
You can find a variety of tools for international workforce management to make your work and that of your team easier. For instance, collaboration tools can help the team manage tasks, communicate progress and share project files. Another tool that you can use is video remote interpretation in your meetings. This helps break the language barrier where you have employees who speak different languages. In addition to giving them the opportunity to get information in a language that they can understand, it also communicates inclusivity and value for your workforce.
Document employees’ schedules
Rather than speculating what your employees could be doing at a particular time or when is the right time to communicate with them, seek to understand their schedules. Encourage your employees to document their schedules on your collaboration pages. This makes communication and scheduling meetings easy, especially when working in different time zones. However, it is important that employees are honest and transparent about their schedules if documenting them is to realize the purpose in the first place. Let your employees understand that people are wired to work differently. No one should be intimidated to fortify his or her schedule to match another individual who seems to be working more than the rest.
Have structures in place
Teams working remotely thrive in structure and predictability. That is why it is important to create a team rhythm. Have a clear timetable for meetings and agenda so that your employees know how to prepare for them. For instance, you can have meetings every Monday to share the week’s goals and on Thursday to track progress and address challenges. However, be mindful of the time zones when creating these structures. You can rotate time meetings so that the inconvenience of being too early or too late doesn’t affect the same employees.
Working in isolation can get lonely, and might affect productivity negatively. Regardless of which corner of the universe your employees are working from, you have the task of bringing them together. Make use of virtual happy hours, online hangouts, and celebration sessions to help employees socialize outside work. This gives them the opportunity to learn from each other and build a culture of empathy and care regardless of their cultural differences. Additionally, it enhances teamwork, which is essential for increasing productivity.
Find ways to improve engagement
Keeping employees engaged is key to driving productivity and increasing retention rates. However, it can prove daunting when managing employees who are spread across the globe. You have to find creative ways to do this. One of the best ways you can adopt is by providing resources for development and growth. For instance, you can empower your team with what they need to take up online courses. Sponsoring employees for an online project management program is a good place to start. Besides increasing engagement, it can equip your team with the essential skills necessary for handling tasks more efficiently.
Be culturally sensitive
Besides minding the time zones, you should also be sensitive about cultural differences when managing employees from different cultures. Make an effort to learn best practices when it comes to different cultures. What are the different communication styles? How do different cultures perceive punctuality, greetings, and more? This way, you will be able to avoid cultural nuances that might annoy your employees during your interactions with them. Additionally, extend the same training to the rest of the team to build a culture of respect and understanding for one another.
Foster a culture of trust and honesty
On top of considering other cultures, you should not neglect your company culture. It is very important to create an environment where everybody feels safe and comfortable to be free with the rest of the team as well as the leadership regardless of their cultural backgrounds. In such an environment, team members feel comfortable giving feedback and sharing ideas. It also makes it easy to accept constructive criticism from others. This results in a more innovative and productive team.
Managing international remote teams presents its own set of challenges. It can be a little overwhelming, but it can be done with the right strategy and tools. However, while there is no one size fits all strategy, finding what works for you and your team makes work easier. Make a point of trying the above-listed practical tips in managing your international team and adjusting where necessary to fit the needs of your team.