Sandra Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Worldwide101 (www.worldwide101.com), a virtual professional services company, which provides Admin and Customer Service for companies worldwide. Born and raised in France, Sandra has traveled extensively as a Project Manager to Asia, Australia, North America, and parts of Eastern and Western Europe. During her career she has worked as Operations Manager for companies such as Regus and BuroServices, with a focus on supporting small businesses as they scale. Setting an example of the efficiencies gained working virtually, she manages her entire team on four continents, on a virtual basis.
As new technology and clever applications continue to shrink the globe and bring people closer together than ever before, more and more organizations both large and small are expanding their workforce geographically.
Just as it brings customers closer to businesses, it also brings staffing options closer to employers, letting you take advantage of a global community to source the best virtual workforce for your company, wherever they are located.
Three things that will help you make the best out of your global team:
- Make the most of the difference in time zones with multinational staff who can solve productivity issues
- Embrace different cultures and languages for a diverse problem-solving team who bring fresh perspectives and unique ideas to the table
- Look to the globe to source the best staff for your business… and your budget!
Working across scattered time zones: transforming ‘bad’ into ‘good’ with a global workforce
Are you exhausted trying to stay in touch with customers, partners, and suppliers in far-flung time zones? No matter how technology shrinks the globe, there will always be the need for real-time communications and someone will have to be available when they would rather be sleeping. Here is where you can really make the most of having global staff.
For example, we have a client in Montreal with customers in North Africa who solved the time zone problem by retaining a virtual professional service team in France. Not only is his team in a similar time zone, they speak the same language as his customers which is really beneficial for better customer service. In addition to being able to provide his customers with better support, they’re also able to respond more quickly because they operate in similar time zones.
Culture and language
Your strategically positioned global team can help you navigate the ins and outs of a multinational business. Aside from addressing the regulatory, financial, linguistic, cultural, and geopolitical nuances inherent in a multinational operation, your multicultural team will also enhance customer service by reaching customers in their own language and culture.
A global workforce can be a real advantage to an organization, contributing higher levels of innovation, insight and creative problem solving because of varied cultural perspectives. It’s great to get people contributing with interesting ideas, clever solutions and remarkable insights that wouldn’t ordinarily be available to you if everyone was thinking the same way in the same location.
But, this kind of team synchronicity doesn’t come automatically. Language barriers form the most obvious challenges working with your global team, but they’re not the only problems. Subtle differences in norms of behavior, communication styles, values and other cultural differences can result in misunderstanding, conflict and delay.
To glean the best from your global team and global customers, make sure that leaders understand cultural differences and spend time helping team members appreciate what each one brings to the group. Taking time to work on team behaviors and relationships is good for any team, but is crucial for a global team and will pay off in productivity when the team begins to work together with improved efficiency.
Staff selection and management
The world is your oyster when you want to find the perfect team for your business and your budget. There’s no need to find people in the same town as you, and there’s no need to relocate the perfect team members either. There’s even no need, in many cases, to have a central office and equipment as more and more virtual professionals work from their own homes using robust communication and productivity tools like desk.com and cloud documentation.
Whether in staff selection or ongoing management, take deliberate steps to slow things down and over-communicate. Although face–to-face is always the best way to build a relationship with staff members, videoconferencing also enables participants to pick up nonverbal communication cues. Build time into formal and informal meetings to allow for a little fun and to get to know each other better. These informal exchanges build rapport and tend to happen naturally when staff is co-located. To get the same results with your global team, be intentional about creating time and space for informal communications to flourish. It is worth the effort: studies report that dispersed teams, when carefully staffed and developed, provided good processes and tools can perform even better than co-located teams!
 Siebdrat, Frank, Hoegl, Martin and Ernst, Holger (2009). How to manage virtual teams. MIT Sloan Management Review, July, 2009. Accessed April 18, 2012 at http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/2009-summer/50412/how-to-manage-virtual-teams/.