As technology pushes us into the future, the global market is changing rapidly - and with it, the way we communicate with our new global workforce has to change.
Mobile Work is the New Norm in the Global Workforce
By 2020, the mobile workforce will grow to more than 105 million remote employees – nearly three quarters of the total U.S. workforce, according to IDC. As technology enables more work-from-anywhere arrangements, many employers find themselves managing a geographically diverse team with employees spread across coasts, countries and continents.
Conferencing and collaboration tools are becoming go-to facilitators for workplace communication, whether colleagues are across the office or the country. But when you’re trying to foster camaraderie and productivity among people who live miles apart, it’s even more important to be strategic about how and when workplace communication happens.
3 Key Considerations for Managing a Global Workforce
1. Be Mindful of Time Zones
With team members spread across multiple time zones, it’s helpful (and fair) to set clear standards for scheduling meetings. When possible, try to avoid holding brainstorms and important client meetings if it means asking a colleague to dial in at an unreasonable time like 5 a.m. or 10 p.m.
Since some meetings will inevitably conflict with at least one employee’s time zone, managers may want to create a rotation so that the same people aren’t constantly dialing into calls outside of their normal business hours.
2. Facilitate Meaningful Small Talk
One of the most challenging aspects of managing a distributed team is replicating the close bonds that form between people who work within the same four walls.. Technology can’t always replace the value of in-person communication, but there are ways audio and video conferencing platforms can help recreate the magic.
Managers must make it a point to carve out “unstructured time” – a few minutes for small talk and spontaneous conversation about work, weekend plans or last night’s Westworld episode – at the beginning or end of team check-ins. Prioritizing opportunities for virtual bonding unites teams regardless of location or culture, paving the way for stronger, more productive working relationships going forward.
3. Establish Etiquette for Tough Conversations
Difficult conversations about raises, internal conflicts or performance feedback are inevitable whether your team sits next to each other or works across three time zones. In these scenarios, the right communication platform can be the difference between a meaningful conversation or an awkward encounter.
Collaboration apps, chat and email may be fine for letting a colleague know you want to schedule a few minutes to talk about a sensitive topic, but not for airing your grievances. For almost any serious discussion, video conferencing should be remote teams’ go-to channel. Video gives employees the benefit of reading each other’s body language and making eye contact, ensuring both parties are engaged and understood.
The keys to successfully managing a global team aren’t that different from managing a traditional one: be mindful of each other’s work styles, foster strong relationships, prioritize clear, open communication. With a few small tweaks and the right technology, remote employees can ignore the distance that separates them and focus instead on doing great work together.