4 Tips for Managing Multicultural Teams
Since the rise of the internet and remote working, US organizations have faced a new wave of complexities related to the management of multicultural, global teams.
While unlimited access to talent has clear benefits, employing people from different cultures and asking them to work together under typical US business conditions is a challenging process. Managers need to understand their employees on a cultural level while effectively communicating their expectations to maximize productivity and foster a culture of diversity and innovation.
Here we’ve prepared a few tips to help with that process and bring out the best in your diverse, international teams.
Preparation is Everything
One of the most crucial things in any business is preparation, especially when managing employees on a global scale. Start by ensuring all managers have the appropriate conflict management training, which gives them the tools to deal with any tension within a team.
It also pays to learn about different cultures from the people you employ. Familiarize yourself with your team members with some simple “getting to know you” exercises or invest in structured, external training on different cultures if necessary. These approaches are especially beneficial if you employ lots of people from the same culture.
Finally, prepare prospective employees on how your company works as early as you can. During recruitment, tell people as much as possible about the company culture and what you expect. When a new person joins your team, training on different aspects of the company, and US work culture in general, will also be beneficial.
Create the Culture You Want
Organizations are responsible for creating an environment where employees feel comfortable performing their tasks and being themselves.
In the US, parents and teachers encourage their children to voice their opinions and make themselves heard from an early age, but this isn’t true in many countries globally. In some cultures, actions speak louder than words, so it might be disrespectful to make suggestions to a superior in a work environment.
If you want engagement from your staff, you have to create an environment where they know exactly what you expect from them, including what is acceptable or frowned upon. Set examples as a leadership team, giving employees a first-hand experience of what to do. People from non-US backgrounds will find this helpful because they can follow your lead and feel more comfortable about their actions.
Creating an employee handbook is also strongly recommended. If you do this, you can set out exactly what you want from your team in a clear, easy-to-understand way.
Allow for Two-Way Communication
Two-way communication is a great way to improve your business. When employees have a channel to share their ideas and provide honest feedback without fear of judgment or punishment, your company will gain vital insights that help shape business strategy.
Make it as easy as possible for people to tell you how they feel and vice versa. Some easy ways to encourage two-way communication are regular one-to-one meetings between managers and employees, open communication platforms like Slack, and all-hands meetings.
An all-hands meeting brings everyone in the company together to hear a high-level analysis of growth and progress. These types of sessions allow leadership teams to update staff, celebrate achievements, boost morale, and most importantly, open the floor to questions.
If you have an all-hands meeting once a month or quarter and allow staff to engage, it will boost two-way communication, make everyone feel heard, and help your company progress. You can identify problems and make improvements while making everyone in the company feel included, no matter their culture or location.
Get Social, Despite the Barriers
Businesses should try to get to know their teams and encourage people to get to know each other. It would be great to take everyone out for drinks or a meal, but if your staff come from every corner of the globe, this probably won’t be possible.
Managers can engage with their staff personally by scheduling one-to-one calls that include some personal conversation. Ask questions about the employee's culture, interests, and life outside work.
If you learn anything new on the cultural side, maybe you could share that knowledge with the rest of the company.
Remote social events are also an excellent way for teams to interact and learn more about each other. We recommend basing them around something like a quiz or wine tasting.
When people feel connected, they are more likely to go the extra mile for each other—nobody wants to feel like they are an external freelancer that is just there to do a job. Invest time in building strong personal connections and relationships within teams and your business will benefit overall.
Companies with multicultural teams have a tremendous opportunity to grow quickly and enjoy the benefits of a diverse workforce. Ultimately, it’s about learning, training, and creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable speaking their minds.
To summarize, and to add a few extra thoughts, here’s a quick list of methods that we swear by at Zventus when managing our multicultural teams:
Establish methods for managing conflict
Ensure everyone has a platform to share their voice/ideas
Prepare teams to work with each other with cultural training and coaching
Establish the rules of engagement: look for cultural differences that could cause friction and address them in advance.
Depending on the culture, set the ground rules for US business culture and global best practices for working with US companies.
Learn from your employees. Ask questions about their cultures and working styles. Integrate that knowledge into your training regime.
Teach people that it's okay to ask questions. It creates trust and comfort, which are some of the most important things to establish.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.
Marisol Munoz is head of Human Resources at Zventus, she is a leader with 7 years of experience in operations and leadership. She partners with our clients to help hire the talent they need to drive their business forward.
Zventus provides staffing solutions, management consulting, and outsourcing services that grow the bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about our global staffing solutions or the benefits of virtual recruitment, get in touch by contacting us here.