Today’s globalized work world is full of people from various backgrounds and cultures. Whether your company is international or focused on a single location, your workforce probably reflects that same multiculturalism.
This diversity can be your organization’s greatest asset if you embrace it and make the necessary effort to consider its unique challenges and advantages as part of your people strategy.
It all starts with middle management. As the ones your people interact with every day, middle managers are fundamental to your workforce’s strength. To ensure employee engagement and satisfaction in today’s global, remote, and hybrid workplace, it’s up to HR leaders to provide middle managers with the support and training they need to handle the multicultural workforce and its challenges.
Challenge #1: Communication
Whether your workforce is 100 percent remote, entirely in-office, or somewhere in-between, a high percentage of your communication is probably happening digitally. There’s no denying that an online conversation doesn’t create the same automatic sense of connection as you can find looking at somebody who’s sitting across from you. So how can you leverage tech to keep your people and teams connected?
What to do:
First, choose the right tech for your teams. When you’re searching, remember that whatever tech you select will need to support digital conversations with minimal technical hiccups, including emails, chat software (Slack, Google Hangouts), video (Zoom, Microsoft Teams), and more.
As a best practice, check-ins between team members and managers should take place at least once a week, complemented by weekly or bi-weekly team meetings, if not more. As an HR leader, it’s up to you to ensure that managers have the skill set they need to easily navigate your communications tech stack and help team members adjust to new apps.
Challenge #2: Language barriers
While communication can’t happen without the right tech to support it, it can’t happen at all if people don’t understand each other. Yet, in diverse teams, it’s likely that not everybody has the same native language.
What to do:
On top of choosing a universal language for group meetings, emails, and other communications, managers also need to know how to handle it when things get lost in translation or tensions arise due to miscommunication.
Ensure that managers have the training necessary to guarantee that current team members and new hires have a language in common, as well as the ability to mediate miscommunication conflicts sensitively and inclusively.
Challenge #3: Time zone etiquette
When you have teams spread across multiple time zones, syncing up for meetings can be one of your team’s biggest challenges. In addition to supporting teams in scheduling meetings and check-ins at appropriate times, managers should be able to encourage boundaries and appropriate work-life balance without micromanaging.
What to do:
One of the most important things HR needs to do is support managers in setting and communicating time zone boundaries, ensuring that nobody should expect their colleagues to log into meetings at unreasonable hours. Additionally, managers must respect people’s working hours no matter where they might be based, avoiding sending messages when they might disrupt someone’s personal time.
Encourage everybody to schedule emails to arrive during the recipient’s working hours. Likewise, encourage people to reply to messages only during their own workday. One idea is to have teams note their time zones in their email signatures or Slack profiles to avoid confusion.
Challenge #4: Differences in workplace conduct and expectations
In addition to bringing different languages to the table, people from different cultures will have different expectations and work styles, including everything from workplace dress to religious observances to what is considered late or on time when showing up to a meeting. Managers must be aware of and sensitive to these nuances and ensure that team members are, too, when collaborating and interacting with one another.
What to do:
Providing cultural awareness training for everyone, from C-level executives to managers to team members, is an absolute must. It’s also a good idea to train managers on local regulations as they may apply to team members.
Additionally, an HRIS or HCM can be an invaluable tool in codifying workplace standards and codes of conduct. You can also use this HR tech to make these documents easily accessible to your global workforce, ensuring they’re all on the same page when it comes to your organization’s norms, values, and expectations.
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Challenge #5: Maintaining the company culture across continents
You’ve probably invested a lot of time and effort into carefully building the company culture that best fits your organization’s needs, goals, and values. But what about making sure the culture applies across every site in every country your company has offices and team members?
What to do:
To ensure that global teams are coherent and effective, HR must support all managers in internalizing, championing, and supporting the desired culture. This includes:
- Keeping things transparent with all people, no matter their location.
- Communicating a solid vision and mission that applies to everyone working at any site around the world.
- Ensuring processes and workflows support team members at every site.
- Using communications tech and HR systems built to support these initiatives. These can function as centralized people data hubs that support multiple languages and clearly visualize workflows and structures.
Working globally? Totally.
Happily, the ongoing discourse about the importance of prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace has led many organizations worldwide to become increasingly multicultural. But it isn’t enough to hire people from different backgrounds and countries. Once they are part of your organization, it’s critical to ensure the company meets the needs of your diverse workforce.
To effectively manage an international and diverse, multicultural workforce, HR leaders must proactively equip managers with the tools and training they need to respond to the challenges inherent to global expansion.
The bottom line? Establishing channels for clear, respectful, and regular communication across time zones for your multi-national teams is critical. It’s key to instilling a globally-minded and sensitive company culture at each of your sites and smoothly navigating any bumps in the road.