With rapid developments in technology and virtual working becoming increasingly popular, the working world is constantly evolving. In a recovering economy, more businesses are looking to new horizons and starting to expand globally in order to reap the benefits of a worldwide market.
In fact, according to a recent international report published by BT, 80% of business decision makers believe that international expansion is essential for the success of their organisation. But venturing into international trade is not without its challenges, especially when it comes to getting a global workforce to work collaboratively. It is people who drive a business towards success so how can you unite your workforce across country borders?
From my experience of working in overseas markets, I have realised that issues with people working collaboratively in a team are not uncommon.
Having worked with an Australian bank to companies in Japan and Germany, it is evident that different nationalities and cultures have varying protocols and ways of working. While people from one nationality may prefer communicating solely over email, others may favour phone-calls or face to face meetings.
A group of people in one office in Latin America will have a completely different work etiquette to their counterparts in China. Yet if a team is working collaboratively, there is no reason to say that a cosmopolitan workforce encompassing a mix of cultures, languages and behaviours should be a hindrance to the success of a company. Quite the opposite in fact.
As a business leader, it is paramount that the first thing you do is to envision the ideal culture you want to create for your global company as well as define what the end experience should be for the user or consumer.
Ultimately, everybody must have the same mission and shared values in order to work cohesively and strive towards achieving the same goal. Once the ideal culture has been firmly established, you need to understand the building blocks that make up or contribute to that culture e.g. team dynamics, working strengths and competencies amongst others.
An audit using psychometric assessments can help management to understand themselves and their colleagues better. These assessments will uncover colleague strengths and limitations, their communication style, their value to the business, what motivates them, their basic fears and how they behave under pressure – all of which can affect team dynamics and contribute to the overall culture of the organisation.
Following an audit, you can evaluate how well the existing workforce dynamics support your ideal culture and identify ways to move your business closer to this ideal.
A thorough understanding of the current team dynamic will be a valuable asset to managers for recruitment in particular. You will have the insight to be able to identify prospective talent equipped with the right kinds of skills and working strengths that may be lacking in the existing workforce.
Following this staffing process, an employee engagement programme and training can be put in place to ensure everybody is aligned to a common vision. Regardless of differences in communication styles and working style, it is important that employees buy in to the organisations’ global values as these will ultimately unite them - creating a sense of camaraderie which will drive the business towards success.
Global expansion may also present you with the difficult task of effectively managing your people over vast geographical distances. Whilst business objectives and structure need to be at the forefront of your mind, you must not lose sight of your people’s needs when necessary face to face communication is a challenge. I have found video conferencing to be a useful tool when communicating with people across country borders as this synthesises some level of face to face communication and can help managers develop a closer relationship with their employees.
From the insight gained from psychometric assessments, managers will understand what their colleagues are motivated by and their preferred working styles.
They can then focus on each individual person, irrespective of where they are in the world, to make sure they feel valued and are in a role which allows them to reach their full potential.
The aim of a team audit is to create a sense of awareness, not only of yourself but the people you have an impact on so you can then adapt your management style to meet their needs. This way of working will ultimately lower staff attrition, promote career development and ensure a happier workforce.
When taking a business global, business objectives are important but without people you can’t hope to deliver them. Establishing the ideal culture you want to create is the first thing to get right.
Once you have envisioned this culture, it is a matter of deciphering how your existing workforce operates and identifying any gaps so that you can then bring the right mix of people together with the capabilities and working strengths to support that culture and drive your business forward.
By Rod Cornwell, International MD of Thomas International