Today, more people are collaborating across different countries, time zones, and cultures, than ever before. But the fact remains that this can be difficult for many businesses who are implementing remote teams for the first time.
While cross-cultural collaboration can make for some interesting misunderstandings, it’s also an excellent way to increase innovation, as team members from a variety of countries, religions, and backgrounds all bring new ideas to the table.
So how do you overcome this challenge and ensure you’re managing remote teams effectively so you can reap the benefits of cross-cultural collaboration? Here are some tips to help:
Cultural diversity is a beautiful thing, and it can manifest itself in a variety of different ways, from language to ideas, behavioural differences, to communication challenges. It’s important to acknowledge the cultural differences within your teams, so you can more easily navigate those differences together and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Geert Hofstede has a useful Culture Dimension Model which is helpful here. The model narrows down six different value perspectives between cultures:
This model is an excellent starting point, and you can take a look at the world maps and explanations to understand what drives different cultures. This makes it easier to adapt your communication and working styles when building cross-cultural teams.
One of the best ways to help team members connect and understand their cultural differences is during a team meeting. This can be achieved remotely through an informal group call. Ask everyone to share some information about their culture, background, and expectations around work and communication.
Now you can establish the rules and norms for your teams. These will often be standard operating procedures for updates, timeliness of replies to emails, the frequency of remote meetings, and responsibilities for each team member.
One of the biggest considerations will be around feedback. In Western cultures, it’s quite normal to receive direct feedback. However, in many other countries, managers are more reserved here. While you may be used to telling someone exactly what they need to improve, someone from another culture may feel as if they’re being attacked if you call them out during a group call. Ask each team member how they like to receive feedback. This could be over the phone, during a daily call, or in a private email.
Native English speakers tend to assume that someone speaking English can understand them perfectly. However, it’s easy to miss nuances and subtext or misunderstand expressions or sayings.
Email can make this even more confusing, as there is no body language to help, and it can be difficult to understand the specific tone. Use clear, simple language when you’re communicating and encourage this amongst all team members. Be sure to cultivate a work environment where questions are encouraged so team members can clarify when necessary.
Remind all team members that cultural backgrounds impact all employees’ communication styles and behaviours. Taking extra time for clear communication will help make cross-cultural collaboration easier and more successful for everyone involved.
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