The Future of Global Work

In the past month, I’ve focused on new workplace trends in the new year. I’ve been especially intrigued by the implications of continued flexibility at work. In my last blog, I focused on one possible outcome: the implementation of the four-day work week. Another likely effect is continued global expansion. I’ve written before about strategies for managing remote teams, but this blog is different. Here, I’m focusing specifically on the implications of hiring and working with people internationally. I’ve included some best practices for organizations and individual employees to navigate this new normal.

The Current Context

At present, the trend towards globalization is already taking off. As remote work has become increasingly common, technology has evolved to meet its needs. Software like Pyrus now supports collaboration across different countries and time zones. This creates global opportunities for increased diversity in the workforce. Organizations can now look for top talent, expertise, and markets across the globe. 

This HBR article examined the implications of internationally diverse teams based on the authors’ research. It identified something the researchers called “contextual diversity.” This isn’t about personal traits like age, gender, or race. Instead, it’s focused on the context people know. For instance, people in different countries are familiar with different economic and political systems. This kind of diversity on a team boosts creativity and benefits problem solving.

However, bringing international colleagues together also comes with its challenges. For example, there’s no single global standard for how to treat employees. Organizations need to develop the ability to understand the unique legal landscape in each country. One recent example that highlighted this issue was a mass layoff at Google. The company couldn’t notify some international employees right away whether they’d been let go or not because of other countries’ policies. This is just one way that global expansion complicates business. However, given the significant benefits, it’s worth learning best practices for making it work.

Hiring International Candidates

This article on hiring internationally and this article from the Forbes Business Council present several important considerations. Some should come before any hiring even starts. For example, it’s important to develop a global employer brand. This means making efforts specifically to familiarize people around the world with your organization. For instance, the Careers page on your website should provide useful information for international applicants. Social media accounts should be relevant to a global audience. Consider this: if you saw a job opening in your organization from another country, would you want to work here?

Once you are hiring, consider logistics. For instance, it often makes sense to outsource to a global payroll company for organizations with employees in many countries. This minimizes the risk of mistakes when it comes to legalities and currency conversions. In addition, hiring international candidates might mean sponsoring work visas. Even for primarily remote employees, it may be worthwhile to cover travel costs to bring teams together at conferences or annual events. These are all practical considerations for expanding to a global workforce.

Finally, you can develop a set of policies to most effectively identify great international candidates. For example, assess their language ability through early interviews. You need to know that your employees will be able to communicate effectively. You can also ask about previous experience working across cultures. In addition, follow the interview best practice of assessing employees’ compatibility with the team you’re hiring for. Finally, try to assess candidates by objective metrics as much as possible. This will reduce the effects of cognitive biases on hiring decisions.

Building a Global Brand Through Culture

Once you have employees in other countries, and to support further expansion, work on your culture. This article on company culture and this compilation of advice from various HR leaders can get you started. Some ideas relate to professional development for the organization’s employees. Start at the top. Leaders should be familiar with different cultural norms and practices of the countries where they’re hiring. This will help all employees identify with the organization. You don’t want anyone to feel like an outsider. Of course, managers of global teams will likely need more intensive training. Make sure they’re comfortable navigating potential challenges that might arise from cultural differences.

hands reach for one anotherNext, consider how you impact your triple bottom line. This starts with Corporate Social Responsibility. Ensure that you treat all employees fairly. Listen to legal counsel and engage knowledgeable Human Resources professionals. Going further, think about their communities. To avoid becoming an exploitative presence in a foreign country, be sure you invest profits generated by global communities back into those communities. In a similar vein, don’t do business with suppliers and other companies that don’t represent your boundaries. You don’t want to become known for exploiting the natural or human resources of another country. This really ties back to educating leaders. Informed leaders should be aware of key global issues and stay responsive to them.

Working with International Colleagues

Of course, we’re not all making executive decisions for our own organizations. What can you do if you’re just an employee who’s suddenly working with international colleagues? This Forbes article offers advice from one professional’s personal experience. He suggests an open-minded and curious approach to other business cultures. For instance, some countries tend to normalize more direct communication. Others prefer to be less direct out of an emphasis on respect. Find out what your colleagues’ expectations are and work with them. Recognize that you can learn from their experience, not just share your own.

In addition, this HBR article identifies several key traits of employees who are most successful on global teams. First, they have a certain mindset about navigating cultural differences. Stay optimistic and don’t get bogged down in the obstacles to emulate this mindset. Know that hiccups along the way will be worth it when you can succeed as a team. To foster good communication, look for common values between you and your international colleagues. That common ground will help you work together well. And don’t just do so when you have to. The more you seek out interactions with other employees around the globe, the more you’ll learn. As your organization expands, so will your network, your knowledge base, and your comfort level with navigating a global team.

Global Communication Is Key

If you take nothing else from this post, remember that communication is key. Finding a common language, especially culturally, will go a long way towards making international collaboration succeed. As this article about communication on global teams points out, English is typically seen as a lingua franca. However, it’s not perfect. Most English speakers use plenty of idioms, slang, and abbreviations in their day-to-day communication. That can be challenging for international colleagues to understand. To get around this issue, try to use Global English, a kind of plain language. Global English is specifically meant to simplify and clarify your communication. That will be a huge benefit for any global team.

And of course, take advantage of technology that makes this communication possible. When your teams collaborate through software like Pyrus, you can get more done without the misunderstandings. With clear workflows and asynchronous communication capabilities, Pyrus has what it takes to link global teams together and move work forward.