Efficient collaboration is at the core of making a team greater than the sum of its parts, and in theory, it’s simple.
However, once you start scaling up to the global level, there are all kinds of stumbling blocks that make things pretty difficult — not least different time zones and cultures.
That’s why we’ve put together our 10 keys for global team collaboration to succeed working across borders. It’s a guide that will go into the tools, techniques, and training that all the top multinationals adopt in their company ethos.From how to share ideas and build trust to launching vast international projects, we’ve covered it all, so if you’re heading to the global stage, read on.
The first port of call for strong global team collaboration is unity within your team. Especially important when part of your staff is working remotely, building a company culture that makes people feel part of something is essential. Aside from reducing turnover and keeping morale high, an inclusive ethos and connected teams is a huge productivity booster.
When working across borders, you need to find ways to represent each culture you’re working with. Rather than having an HQ in a major city and expecting everybody to conform to your priorities, try making a mention of local festivities on an international intranet. This way, you can include those in far-flung places, while putting the spotlight on them so your teams can get to know each other.
On a more work-focused note, transparency is paramount to creating a strong company culture. By being honest and open with your international teams, you can build trust across the company — one of the building blocks of a successful business.
As much as you should happily accept the diverse cultures in your company, for global team collaboration to work at its best, you need to set ground rules that work across your country. The larger an organization, the stronger the structure it needs to work efficiently. We’ll look at three key areas where you should set expectations for international teamwork.
It’s hard enough keeping your teams aligned around the same goal when you’re in the same office. That means, when you work with global teams, it’s even more essential to work towards clear, justifiable goals. When there are disagreements about priorities, you can always return to your foundational goals to back up your decisions and to help the company as a whole.
Standardized assessments are integral to holding individuals and teams accountable — and if you can make them anonymous, even better. By using the same, structured approach to assessment across the board, you avoid suspicions that someone is being treated unfairly, while maintaining standards of performance.
In the same vein, conflict resolution is an essential, but tricky part of global collaboration. Every culture has slightly different approaches to dealing with disputes. Therefore, to keep things running smoothly in the long run, it’s crucial for every employee to understand your standard process from the onboarding stage onwards.
Small businesses may be able to get away with each individual using a range of different tools. However, when it comes to global team collaboration, you simply cannot be flexible in this regard.
Starting from a security standpoint, if you can’t monitor what email provider someone is using in your office, how are you ever going to keep tabs on someone on the other side of the world? Therefore, a secure, cloud-based service is the way to go. Every employee has password-protected access and your system administrators receive alerts with any suspicious behavior.
Anybody looking for productivity should also be looking towards cloud-based business tools to power their organization. With all your team’s personal information, work, and communications going through the same platform, you’ll never have to go on a wild goose chase for that lost email someone is sure they received. Similarly, when you have one base for all your business tools, you can save costs, manage your data easily — and you’ve only got to remember one password!
Until now, we’ve focused mainly on the efforts you need to take to make sure you can work with global teams without them falling apart. But there are so many advantages to global team collaboration too!
With input from people all over the world, you’ve got a golden opportunity to discover how to streamline your processes and adopt innovative best practices. Drawing upon the hive mind is one of the simplest ways to get the edge on your competition — so you’ve got to know how to take advantage of it.
Closely linked to your company culture, you need to create an environment where every single person in the organization feels confident enough to speak up. This may mean training your managers to encourage suggestions, or offering public praise for useful contributions.
We would highly recommend creating a knowledge base to store all the resources, guides, workflows, and more that can make your departments efficient and each individual self-sufficient.
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You want your international teams to gel, but it’s easier said than done when they’re in different time zones and with different cultures. However, you can put frameworks in place to encourage your teams to get to know each other on a more personal level.
Remote workers value efforts to add a social element into proceedings, and it’s pretty easy to set up. During the onboarding process, you can get a feel for your employees’ hobbies and interests and match them up with each other. Then, create workgroups and repurpose them for social groups on the company intranet. You’ll quickly start seeing bonds form through shared photos and memes.
When you strengthen the social side of your teams, global team collaboration becomes far easier. With people on first name terms, there’s no hesitancy when asking for a favor or working across borders.
The last thing you want when leading projects is scattered information and each individual doing their own thing. That’s why you need a cloud-based project management tool that allows you to meticulously detail your instructions, deadlines, and resources. When you plan your projects professionally to begin with, you significantly reduce the possibility of losing control of your scope, deadlines, and budget.
For greater efficiency, you can refine a workflow in one office that can be saved and used as a template across all your global offices. This will ensure a uniform approach for all your teams across the world. With failsafes at every stage, you can be safe in the knowledge that your company is working in the same way, regardless of location.
Like all aspects of your international team collaboration, it’s crucial for each of your team members to have training in how to use your software. Then, with everybody on the same page, you can launch your workflows and start working efficiently and productively.
Underpinning every other point on our 10 keys to succeed working across borders, having multiple communications channels — and using them in a smart way — is the bedrock of global team collaboration.
As we’ve previously mentioned, you should train your teams to keep all communication around a task on the relevant card in your project management software. The thinking behind this is that everybody associated with the task receives every single update, and nobody has to trawl through old emails looking for instructions and information.
Instant messenger is a great tool for international teamwork as it is asynchronous in nature. This means that your project lead in Japan can send a message to their designer in Austria, who will receive it when they begin their day. When working in different time zones, quick but asynchronous communication like this trumps direct channels such as video calls. However, as we’re about to see, video calls certainly have their place in global team collaboration.
Although most modern companies are trying their best to move away from meetings, it’s a bit optimistic to think that we can get rid of them for good. Indeed global team collaboration necessitates meetings to explain concepts and projects, but also to create connections between teams. Video conference calls are now part of daily life all across the world and are the best option for building working relationships in global businesses.
However, internationally connected teams have the roadblock of time zones, which, if not managed carefully, can isolate those in certain regions. One way of combating this is to share the burden of those company-wide meetings — if those on the US West Coast have to wake up especially early on one occasion, then the Australians can make the concession of staying up late next time.
Clearly though, this isn’t an ideal option. So, while you want as many people to attend meetings as possible, most conference call apps will allow you to record those announcement meetings so everybody can be up to date the following day.
Throughout these keys, we’ve been almost exclusively looking at how to streamline the inner workings of your company. However, you’ve got a bunch of clients out there who are effectively paying your salary, so it’s time to turn our attention to them.
With efficient global team collaboration, you’ve got an unbelievable opportunity — running a 24/7 business. Whether it’s customer service, community management, or sales, well-organized international team collaboration can keep your company on the go at all times.
This does require excellent internal communication strategies to be put in place, however. For example, your customer service team in Taiwan must be using an identical CRM as their counterparts in Turkey in order to collaborate successfully. The result is free-flowing information, with every agent ready to solve issues at a moment’s notice.
Global team collaboration is not an exact science, and it takes a lot of fine tuning to get right. Far from being something that should lead you to give it up all together, with a commitment to improvement, you can have a well-oiled machine running in no time.
One easy way is to analyze your projects. Are there any tasks that consistently take longer than expected? Time to ask the right questions and iron out the answers. Although this may seem a mammoth task at the beginning, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all your small changes will quickly add up to meaningful change.
As well as these reactionary measures, when you work with global teams, you can run risk management exercises to defeat any issues before they even arise. Setting realistic expectations about your projects and providing mitigating solutions will help you keep your work on track. And, with a track record of what works and what didn’t save in your analytics log, you can make increasingly informed decisions moving forward.
When it comes to international team collaboration, planning, simplicity, and communication are everything. If you want to join a platform that gives you it all, sign up to Bitrix24 for free and get started today.