Best Practices for Managing Global Teams

Posted on 1 May 2023 by IRIS FMP

Categories: Global Mobility

The success of a global business can hinge on its ability to manage its international workforce. The effective management of global teams is of vital importance to multinational companies and those operating in foreign markets. It even has benefits for businesses based in one country with international remote workers from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Leading a diverse global team has its challenges due to factors including language barriers, cultural differences, time zones, and payroll rules specific to each country. However, there are key best practices for managing global teams that will help you navigate through these challenges and put you on the right path.

How do I manage global teams?

It can be hard enough to manage a local team working together in the same office, let alone manage global teams made up of people from a variety of cultures and backgrounds spread all over the world. However, a growing number of businesses rely on a global workforce to succeed on the international stage.

The best global teams combine global business experience with in-depth knowledge of local markets. Rather than hinder an international business outlook, diversity within global teams optimizes opportunities for growth due to the variety of work experiences and strategic backgrounds that workers provide.

Of course, there are complexities around paying remote employees on an international scale and providing HR support for such a diverse workforce. In many cases, companies will choose to outsource global payroll and global HR functions so they can focus on growing their business and expanding into new territories.

Whatever solution is best for you, there are strategies all businesses can adopt to help them pull together their international workforce and run a successful global team.

1. Streamline your business onboarding

Wherever they are based, global team members must understand the corporate structure, values, and outlook of the business they represent. Understanding a company’s ethos, the way they operate, and the expectations of their workforce, is of utmost importance.

Team members may need to refer to sales targets, training processes, or even a mission statement to ensure they fully understand their role within a business. Therefore, it is vital to ensure all official documentation is up to date and easily accessible for new employees.

Smooth and efficient onboarding will also help new employees settle into their role, so take steps to make this process as easy as possible. A complicated, drawn-out onboarding process will only set new workers back before they have even started. Additionally, providing all the necessary support they need, from appointing mentors to helping them acclimatize to ensuring they know who to report to in the corporate structure, will deliver more positive outcomes.

2. Provide clear communication channels

Clear and effective communication is central to all business success, even more so for global teams due to language and cultural diversity. Team leaders must communicate with international workers and address all concerns in a straightforward manner that is easy for all to understand.

Using uncomplicated and jargon-free language will reduce the risk of misunderstanding that could occur due to language differences and varying levels of proficiency. It may be that English is not the first language spoken by a foreign section of your global team, so clarity is essential for effective communication.

There could also be cultural and social differences to consider. For example, some countries may be disapproving of workers speaking out during a meeting because there is a seniority protocol. However, global businesses can address these issues by encouraging open discussion around cultural differences and finding a way forward that is sympathetic to all employees.

3. Leverage accessible technology

The pandemic gave rise to an abundance of technology that supports remote working and effective communication. Choosing the right platform can improve communication among your global teams and promote closer collaboration on various projects and tasks.

It is important to research the software options that best suit the needs of your company and fall within budget. When doing this consider factors like internet access which may vary from country to country, and whether all team members have access to the same level of technology. Where gaps are found, it is important to address these urgently so that all workers receive the same level of support needed to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

Many of the best software tools for cross-border collaboration have common features including:

  • Chat functions and instant messaging.
  • Meeting arrangement functions.
  • Shared calendars for scheduling meetings.
  • Recording functions to share meetings with absent colleagues.
  • Digital registers for reviewing who was present at meetings.
  • Simple document-sharing functions.

Global team leaders may also benefit from project management software to keep track of task progression and which elements have been assigned to which workers. This software can provide support in the following areas:

  • Assigning tasks.
  • Discussing tasks and projects.
  • Planning future tasks and projects.
  • Tracking progress across a variety of tasks and projects.

4. Utilize scheduling for time zone differences

How does a US company arrange a meeting with international workers based in Western Europe and in a time zone many hours ahead? When team members are scattered across the globe it can be difficult to find a meeting time that suits everyone.

It is vital to find a way of overcoming these obstacles, especially if they threaten to delay projects or miss crucial deadlines. Therefore, keeping all team members engaged and fully participating in discussions will be hugely beneficial to any global business.

The simplest method is to arrange a time that suits everyone involved in a project and schedule a daily, weekly, or monthly meeting for that time. Then, use this valuable time to provide project updates, set new sales targets, and discuss issues and concerns arising within the team.

However, it is not always easy to pull everyone together from different corners of the earth, so suggest two or three meeting times and allow workers to pick the best one that suits them. In addition, let those workers know how they’ll be compensated when meetings fall outside their regular working hours, such as overtime payments or time off in lieu. In cases where a worker cannot attend any suggested meeting time, record the meeting and share it with them so they can review and add input at a later date. This will ensure project collaboration continues despite the varying time zones.

5. Set clear project objectives

Your global workforce should have full knowledge of your company guidelines, objectives, targets, and requirements. These should be clearly communicated before the outset so that costly misunderstandings can be avoided.

Leaders should then keep up to date with project progressions and identify areas where extra support is required. As we have touched on, project management software can be a valuable tool in this respect, and can be more beneficial than email, which carries certain risks. For example, what if you CC the wrong people or an important email ends up as junk? It could mean missing a deadline or project meeting or even duplicating work when it is not required.

Global teams require a project management system that facilitates discussion and ensures documents and relevant data are stored and shared in one place. When this happens, communicating with global workers becomes more effective and helps overcome any time zone differences, as all files are easily accessible all of the time.

6. Develop strong working relationships

Forming strong working relationships is vital for any business and especially when managing global teams. Leaders who check in regularly with their international workers will improve engagement and increase motivation. Now that international business travel is back following the pandemic, it is even possible to visit remote offices and locations for in-person discussions with colleagues.

Email allows us to discuss projects with global workers, but they can sometimes pile in your inbox and questions can be left unanswered, leading to disharmony. A video call works better and can lead to prompt action being taken when it’s required.

So, managing global teams can be a challenge for a multitude of reasons, but the access to the global talent it provides outweighs any drawbacks. Clear communication, the right technology, effective scheduling, and organized leadership, will help your business manage global teams and achieve international success.

Do you manage global teams? Need help with HR and payroll?

Whether you’re an established business abroad or working on your expansion plans, IRIS FMP will deliver a unified and cost-effective HR and payroll solution, so your global workforce is ready to deliver in new markets. We’d love to hear from you. Contact us now.