Guest Blog from Asset College
In this day and age, there are few companies out there who don’t have some workers overseas or clients from across the pond. But when we work in a global team, we need to consider how cultural differences can affect the workplace.
What is a global team?
Do you have a team member in another country? A contractor from another culture? Does your company regularly liaise with another organization or a client who speaks a different language or comes from another country?
If you do, then you are working on a global team. Working with team members in another country has become much more common in recent years. While we’ve had the technological capacity to work remotely for a long time, it’s only been a few years since technological solutions have been widely implemented.
Working on a global team has so many wonderful benefits, if you can hire anyone from anywhere, your pool of potential employees is much larger. It means you can find the best possible talent for the position, and you can get local expertise and knowledge when expanding into a new market.
How can cultural differences affect the workplace?
Cultural diversity in the workplace is a wonderful thing, it can lead to growth for the company and a stronger vision for the future. But in a global work environment you can easily make a faux pas. In western culture especially we are often willfully ignorant of other cultures. That’s why it’s so important to manage cultural differences on your global team.
Five proactive strategies for managing cultural differences in the workplace
Managing and leading a culturally diverse team can feel intimidating but don’t worry, we’ve put together five actionable strategies for you to adopt.
1. Educate your team and yourself
Be proactive in your approach to learning more about their culture. It is not the responsibility of your culturally diverse team members to educate you on their culture. Make sure that you are putting in the time and effort to educate yourself and your team members on appropriate practices, body language and customs.
2. Get to know everyone
Take the time to get to know everyone on your team. Make sure your company is creating clear and informative team profiles including a head shot and anything important to their identity to ensure you’re being respectful of them. For example, this could be their religion, cultural holidays, prayer practices they need to follow or pronouns.
3. Consider Language and Cultural differences
For a team member who has English as a second language, a slang term can derail a meeting and cause major communication issues. Avoid slang, idioms and sayings that might alienate team members of another culture.
Consider and research appropriate body language and other cultural differences. For example, one study found that in some east Asian cultures prolonged eye contact can be interpreted as aggressive.
4. Cater for Different time zones
If you have team members working from different time zones you need to be reasonable in your expectations and your team planning. Don’t expect someone who is on the other side of the world to work all night so they can be ‘on’ when you’re in the office.
Likewise with team planning and meetings it’s important to consider the team members in different time zones. Try to set meetings to a reasonable time for all the staff involved. If a staff member is in a different time zone and it’s late afternoon here when it’s morning there, set the meeting for the afternoon.
5. Embrace Flexibility
When you have a culturally diverse team, whether the team member is local to your area or overseas it’s important to be flexible. If your team members are in another time zone, be flexible with their working hours and meeting times. Also offer flexibility with working days, different cultures follow different work weeks. Not every country works 9-5 Monday to Friday, if they get their work done, it doesn’t matter when they do it.
Make sure you’re giving them cultural holidays off as well. This can be hard to know without clear communication but that’s why it’s so important to create a work culture where everyone feels comfortable bringing up discussions.
It can be challenging to guide your team through cultural differences and communication challenges but the rewards of leading a global team far outweigh the difficulties. Just remember to be respectful, take the time to learn and be clear and open in your communication.
About Asset College
Asset College is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO # 31718) delivering quality training Australia wide, with a large network of industry-skilled training partners. We deliver over 50 nationally recognised qualifications, accredited courses and short courses. Asset College successfully engages offshore teams to bolster our workforce capability, providing quality training and efficient service for all students.