Managing The Challenges Of Global Teams
Konstantin Tsybulko is a top-performing Business Development Leader at iTechArt, a custom software development company.
Work from home (WFH) or remote collaboration has become a new normal as a result of the pandemic. Many businesses that were new to this concept have embraced it — and made a mess of it. According to my company’s 2020 report, “A guide to remote work in 2020 — and beyond,” about 61% of the 200 remote company representatives surveyed said it was difficult to adopt distributed workplaces.
I have worked with remote teams for 10 years and have mastered the challenges of this collaboration model. Read on to learn how my team and I nail those challenges today.
All About Communication
Low team morale, management chaos and unhappy customers are just a few things that poor communication can beget.
Now, every organization has its own idea of business processes, so don’t expect one-size-fits-all management advice from me here. But there is one practical way to improve collaboration for every team: a proper set of digital communication tools.
• Slack: to chat during the day.
• Zoom: to run daily virtual meetings.
• Monday: to centralize all communication between sales and delivery.
• Figma: to collaborate on and discuss visuals.
Engaging as they are, these tools can be time killers that take your team into discussions far off the job. But don’t fret: treat those discussions as important parts of teamwork that allow people to get used to each other and blow off some steam.
Why Speaking A Common Language Is Not Enough
Global teams are made of people with different cultural backgrounds, and this can be tricky.
Here are just a few examples. Some cultures tend to be direct when they’re talking about goals and problems, whereas others may choose to go the roundabout way. When some cultures fail to support small talk, others may consider that rude. Some use silence as a way to refuse things, while others use it a “yes.” This list can go on and on.
So what do you do to get all those different people to work together toward a common goal? Nothing revolutionary: create a corporate culture. It should factor in the cultural differences, promote respect across the team, emphasize diversity and help everyone stay on the same page.
Once you’ve done so, bolster this culture through workshops and other corporate events. Remember that managers should have it down pat because they work as moderators and role models for the team. We arrange inclusion-themed training for our managers to achieve that.
Taking Chances With Security
You may create security loopholes if you play fast and loose with your distributed infrastructure. But you don’t need to do that.
Set up security policies when you’re moving work online and make sure that every team member follows them. This is the groundwork to lay early. Fail to do that, and all other measures could be meaningless.
Speaking of more specific steps, here is what you can do:
• Create a software/hardware update schedule and follow through with it.
• Enable all team members to work via a virtual private network (VPN).
• Identify sensitive data and the data that can be used to attack your system and keep it encrypted.
• Use two-factor authentication across your business accounts.
• Use firewalls to protect your network.
• Use password managers to avoid occasional password leaks.
There are even more targeted security measures that you can take. To identify them, you will need to look into your distributed collaboration system.
When Physical Distance Becomes Mental
Managers might overestimate commitment issues with remote employees. After all, the water cooler chat in your office serves as a universal retreat from intimidating tasks.
Research from Buffer and AngelList showed that 70% of remote workers surveyed are happy with the amount of time they work from home.
This is not to say that the problem does not exist. Commitment issues pop up both in the office and at home — they are just two different types of problems that require different approaches.
The good news is that sometimes it is easier to spot uncommitted employees when they work remotely than in the office. Things like that show in an environment you’re not physically supervising, and you can work through them.
By no means can you fix every case of low commitment. What you can do, though, is run activities like regular sync-ups between departments and team get-togethers (yes, Zoom parties) to encourage employees to exchange their experiences.
Left To Their Own Devices
Remote employees may feel isolated at times, which can hurt your business.
When employees struggle to strike a work-life balance, when they feel cut off from the grid, and when they are anxious about whether they have all the data required for their job, team productivity might suffer.
To prevent this from happening, you need to join hands with your employees. Consider the following measures:
• Set up business hours and keep corporate communication at bay outside of those hours.
• Celebrate your company’s milestones together via video conferences.
• Be clear about your goals and provide honest feedback.
• Keep all the materials for each project in the cloud so they’re accessible around the clock.
Finding The Time That Works For All
Different time zones alone can ruin a project. If you want your global collaboration to improve, check out what we do to achieve similar experiences:
• We have at least a four-hour overlap between team members. This is usually enough to check in with each other on the current agenda.
• We have someone who can quick-fix a problem online around the clock.
• We stick to agile methodologies for planning and execution to adjust to changes fast.
Global Teams That Work
You will have to find a way to handle the challenges of remote collaboration — because this trend is likely here to stay. It began before Covid-19 and may not end when the lockdown is lifted.
Improve your communication toolset. Create your corporate culture. Spell out your security policies. Run more online get-togethers. Identify working hours that are comfortable for everyone.
If you manage to do all that, you will equip yourself for the competition in the years ahead.