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Business models increasingly blend local workers and remote talent in teams brimming with talent. These geographically dispersed teams can present new opportunities in terms of communication, particularly when members of the talent pool operate at high levels of expertise.
Global work teams produce an unprecedented diversity of ideas, styles and approaches. If managers establish effective systems and practices, the vast experience within a team can be tapped to produce stellar results. Use these tips to help your team effectively navigate distance and time zones.
Craft Strong Communications
Today’s global team members may not ever meet, given that so much communication takes place via Skype, email or instant messaging apps. Choose team members who value communication and who are familiar with the Internet technologies they need. At the same time, select technologies that are reliable and accessible.
Without the casual interactions that take place when people are face to face, you must ensure that you establish effective virtual interactions. This may require some flexibility. For instance, a specialist in one time zone may be accustomed to communicating via email once a day, summarizing what they’ve done that day. Managers may have to ask them to instead communicate via an instant message app, multiple times daily, so that the team understands what they’re doing. The key is to frame communication in terms of team goals.
Bond Across the Miles
Though your team may be spread across multiple countries, you can still build a strong team dynamic. Workers need to feel like they’re part of a larger picture. Establish a team page or channel where team members can see internal news and where they can contribute to forum-style discussions; this is especially important if you have seasoned experts on your team. They’re accustomed to being part of the bigger picture. Hold regular town hall virtual meetings to help workers feel connected to the company and to one another.
Building a strong team also requires the basics: members need to hear regular encouragement so they stay connected. Managers should regularly check in with workers to be sure they’re feeling involved—especially important if they are not native speakers of the team’s primary language.
Agree to be Flexible
Working in multiple time zones requires give and take. If your specialist is in a time zone multiple hours away from yours, you may need to compromise on project deadlines and even on how you communicate. For instance, if you need to clarify critical details about a project, you may opt for instant messaging over traditional email. Once you’ve decided on a live chat, you’ll have to decide who will get up early and who will stay up late (tip to managers: let the remote worker decide). Such a schedule adjustment doesn’t have to happen often, but most workers will agree to it if you have fostered a respectful workshop relationship.
Managing a global team can be exhilarating; stay flexible and appreciate all that the diversity of a team offers. You’ll get great results.