Here's why communication really matters when you're working in a multi-cultural environment.
By Tyneille Wyatt, MediaDev
So, you’re excited to start your new position in a cool and dynamic international team. This includes a couple or many countries around the globe, which means different time zones and varying cultures and practices. So how can we connect it all together as one holistic team, on the same path, and maintaining familiarity and connections as colleagues and international neighbors?
Communicate, reach out, use initiative
It seems to be mentioned so often, but communication really is the core of all solid relations. Whether you are new to your team or a veteran, always keep in contact with your colleagues and other departments as often as you can.
Introduce yourself, learn about who they are and what they do. Tell people what you’re up to and ask them questions about their work. Reach out to share resources and help one another. Recognize others for their work or assistance no matter what level they are in the business.
In today’s world of endless communication methods, there’s really no reason why the company can’t use social media and project planning platforms such as Skype, Slack, Asana, teleconferencing (to mention a few), in addition to traditional emails and phone calls.
Flexibility and understanding
Be ready to adapt to different business hours and time zones between countries. Sometimes you may have to adjust your schedule or organization methods in order to cater to key communication and meeting times in other countries. Be careful and considerate with time zones when coordinating training or meetings between many countries -- don’t send emails and requests to co-workers or subordinates that are many hours in front or behind and expect an immediate response or action with urgency.
Awareness of cultural differences that impact work ethics
Business practices and communication methods vary between countries. It may be acceptable to gain a final decision and strategic position after one or two board meetings in the USA, but in certain European countries they require multiple meetings and like to take more time in the decision making and planning process before obtaining a final decision.
Some countries will not speak to authority in the same way they will to co-workers, whereas others are open in opinion and business conversation regardless of someone’s authoritative level. Being late for a meeting or work is seen as very disrespectful in some countries, whereas for others it’s the norm. You may not be able to adapt your style to all cultures, but by being aware of the differences you will be more accepting and less frustrated when it comes to teamwork and management.
Maintain executive and management connection to the team worldwide
If you are in an executive or high level management position, this point cannot be stressed enough. Your team needs to see your existence, your presence, receive updates on company projects and milestones. They need to meet you! Even if by teleconference at first until you can make your way across the seas to meet them in person.
The company’s visions, goals, and attitudes must come strategically from the top! This maintains a streamlined direction and vision. Your team need to know, see and feel the presence of their leader and understand where they want to go.
Ensure that corporate activities and company training are available for all teams and countries where possible. If you have a lot of expats working in a particular country, ensure that they are included in events such as family days by having them join a local family. Or provide them with a local mentor/go-to person for help, advice and adjustment.
Sharing is caring! Share resources, successes, projects, learnings, training, information, international policies or country-specific legal/business news, photos and reviews from corporate events. People love to see and be up to date with what’s going on in the business.
It’s more personable and visual for employees and they are going to feel more inclusion, recognition and value for their work. This can be done with social media postings, international meetings every month or quarter, company-wide quick updates, work events or company-wide challenges, or a centralized resource pool and memo platform. Stronger cohesion will be established with more sharing and collaboration on a global level, exterior to our own team bubbles.
Be open, learn, accept, adapt and have fun! Immersion in an international work team is a truly beautiful experience!
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