How to successfully collaborate while working on an international team
A guide to successful communication with your team across the globe
As a leader of your company, it likely hasn’t escaped your notice that having a remote team can reduce office expenses and encourage productivity. Not to mention that an international team brings with it the kind of diversity that is proven to have a tangible impact on innovation and profits.
Yet, having your team dispersed across the globe can make it difficult to ensure each member can collaborate and communicate in a way that results in success for the company, their colleagues, and themselves.
Therefore, it’s in everyone’s best interests that you put strategies in place that give everyone in your company the best possible chance of success.
Having staff scattered across time zones means you don’t automatically have the strategy planning advantages that in-office teams tend to enjoy. Indeed, strategy meetings in remote circumstances often suffer from a lack of engagement.
In a lot of cases, employees work on other tasks during the actual meeting. To avoid this, you must try and recreate a collaborative, engaging workspace virtually.
Plan out pillars for an agenda for the meeting so there’s a focused framework. Then use a shared tool, like a virtual whiteboard, to give a platform on which your team can start brainstorming strategic ideas around the pillars. Assign different colored sticky notes to each member of the team to create clarity around who is putting effort into collaboration.
Remember that strategic planning is rarely a one-and-done situation. There may even be staff in other time zones who have not been able to make the meeting but should still be given opportunities to collaborate. Make it clear that the shared document or whiteboard is open to additions for some time, and discuss these during follow-up sessions.
It’s also vital that you take time to keep the meeting notes organized and available to everybody so that each disparate member of the team knows the current strategic status and the route forward.
Providing clear minutes of each session, including innovative ideas and which members of the team contributed to them, can both clarify the roadmap and keep staff enthused about their role in strategic success.
Though remote operations certainly offer advantages, that doesn’t mean to say that it’s always easy for everyone involved. Your staff will experience common challenges of working distantly from one another, but it is also likely that they will have independent hurdles that they have to overcome. Therefore, you need to make sure there is a focus on improving accessibility.
This begins with making certain that each team member has access to the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively. A single, shared communications application is one of the essential tools any distant team needs.
Additionally, a part of your onboarding discussion should include checking in on your employee’s internet access and computer hardware to ensure regular and clear communication in the future.
Even making certain that employees have tools to separate their office and home lives—a desk and organizational equipment—can make a difference to their effectiveness as a remote team collaborator.
Perhaps most importantly, engage in conversations with your team about what elements they find personally challenging from an accessibility standpoint. Their distance makes it your responsibility as a business leader to offer accommodations for those with differing physical, mental, or learning abilities so they can contribute.
As much of their activities will be online, make certain that your tools are geared toward web accessibility. Make sure that your tools include easy navigation, high contrast colors, and compatibility for screen readers.
Making efforts to regularly talk to your team about their challenges not only helps to make them more productive but also demonstrates that you care about their ongoing wellbeing.
Your employees’ well-being, successful collaboration, and communication are also almost entirely dependent upon close teamwork. Understandably, this isn’t always easy to pull off when they’re not all sharing the same space. However, interpersonal issues that arise among teammates can go unnoticed and unaddressed for a long time, and this can prove destructive to effective productivity, and the general well being of the team as a whole.
The earlier you can spot and address discord, the easier it will be to nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. The key is to encourage team members to engage and find empathy with one another. Contrary to popular belief, physical distance doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder, and can actually cause emotional distance and feelings of isolation instead. Create a regular open forum where employees can discuss their concerns and find solutions together as a team. This can be via a monthly video meeting or just an open chat channel on your communications app.
When you check in with each staff member individually on a weekly call, make sure you make relationships part of the conversation. Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling about the group, and gently identify problematic elements. Keeping everyone talking, sharing, and listening to one another is a key to empathetic communication. It can help everyone understand that their feelings are validated and their problems are solvable.
Successful collaboration and communication are the cornerstones of remote teams. It’s not always easy, but when you engage everyone in strategic planning and place a focus on accessibility, you give them the tools to function together effectively. With empathy and the right tools, everyone can happily remain in remote life, and stay stronger for doing so.