Managing a diverse workforce is a challenge. Managing a diverse team over the Internet is even more difficult. It is important to understand the challenges you will encounter while leading a team of diverse employees from different regions.
Diversity is Beneficial for Your Brand’s Bottom Line – But Must Be Managed Carefully
Heterogonous workforces tend to perform better. According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quintile of racial diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their competitors.
“More diverse companies, we believe, are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns. This in turn suggests that other kinds of diversity—for example, in age, sexual orientation, and experience (such as a global mind-set and cultural fluency)—are also likely to bring some level of competitive advantage for companies that can attract and retain such diverse talent,” writes Vivian Hunt, McKinsey & Company Managing Partner, for UK and Ireland.
Nevertheless, Hunt and other experts concede that there are challenges that companies will encounter while managing remote, diverse teams. Here are some tips to prepare for them.
Be Mindful of Wording that May Be Misconstrued as Offensiveness
Humor and sarcasm come second nature to most Americans. Many other countries share these traits, but they use different phrases. You need to be careful using non-literal terminology with remote employees in other countries, because they may not be familiar with them and take offense.
Try to be as direct as possible and use terms that have universal meanings.
Use a Dependable Project Management Platform
Managing projects over email or video conferencing is nearly impossible. According to a study conducted by Visual Planning, 95% of the most successful companies use project management software. The figure is even higher among companies that employ remote teams, because it is difficult to manage a remote workforce without it.
Scheduling employee’s tasks and deadlines is crucial when you have different backgrounds working in different countries to accomplish a singular goal. Using a project management platform allows managers to keep their finger on the pulse of every project across different organizations within a company to ensure it gets done on time.
Understand Different Communication Styles from Around the World
Be careful about imposing your communication style on all members of your team. You need to be sensitive of different communication preferences of people from different cultures.
Richard D. Lewis, a linguist and the author of When Cultures Collide, has done extensive research on the different communication styles from other countries. Lewis states that American businesspeople tend to be very direct and place their cards on the table during negotiations with clients or meetings with coworkers. They tend to be much more confrontational than other cultures. Even their neighbors in Canada tend to engage in a more relaxed environment and focus on the pros and cons of different solutions, rather than debate in an adversarial manner. In Eastern Asian countries such as China and Hong Kong, workers tend to be more sociable and less confrontational at first at first, so it takes time to work towards a resolution.
Take some time to understand the nature of each employee’s communication style and be sensitive to their needs.
Plan Around Work Ethics of Various Cultures
The United States places a very strong emphasis on working long hours. Most other countries don’t share this perspective. In Denmark, the average workweek is only about 35 hours. They also tend to take longer vacations than their counterparts in the United States.
The morale of your remote workers in other countries will suffer if you place unreasonable expectations on them. These expectations need to be reasonable by their standards, rather than yours.
Gauge Each Worker’s Abilities and Hold them to Reasonable Standards
While workers in other countries tend to work fewer hours than their coworkers in the United States, they tend to be very proud of their abilities. Take the time to carefully assess their skills after welcoming them to your team. They don’t want to feel underrated, so hold them ambitious standards they can live up to. At the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm them by asking too much.
Manage Your Remote Team by the Platinum Rule
Diverse teams tend to outperform their homogeneous counterparts. However, you will need to follow a different leadership style. Understand their perspectives and try to lead accordingly.