By Laura Smith, Vice President of Global HR, Digital Intelligence Systems, LLC
Creating a team environment in which everyone feels included and valued is a moment by moment task for today’s managers. And when team members who work from home or in globally dispersed offices are added into the mix, team inclusion can look quite different than it did even five years ago.
The previous post in this blog series,“Dispersed Teams: Communication Guidelines to Keep Channels Open Around the Globe,” discussed ramping up a company-wide communication strategy to support on-site and off-site teams.
Once this strategy is established, managers can focus on building total team inclusion. If a manager is sensitive to the needs of each team member and pays special attention to employee dynamics and cohesiveness, success will follow. But a few things should be understood: inclusion begins locally, is customized nationally, and is adapted to meet the needs of those dispersed globally.
Here are a few strategies for managers to consider when figuring out how to make sure team members, no matter where they are located, feel valued, included, and poised for personal growth and team-wide success:
Create Networking Opportunities
Whenever possible, teams should be brought together so they can get to know each other on a personal level. Remote employees can sometimes feel like they are floating about in the corporate culture. Occasional all-hands events create vast opportunities to put a face to a name and to develop positive team dynamics. Where in-person gatherings are not possible, video conferencing tools can be utilized to great effect.
Networking opportunities also give managers the opportunity to observe the various communication styles of their employees and how they interact during group conversations.
Know the Audience
Seasoned managers understand the importance of discovering how to effectively communicate with each employee on the team. While this is more difficult if an employee is remote, there are non-visual cues that can give insight into successful communication, whether the employee is an introvert or an extrovert.
For instance, an introverted remote employee might not actively chime in during a video or conference call—but when spoken to one-on-one or consulted via email, freely contributes ideas and input. Extraverts tend to express themselves regardless of the communication medium and engagement isn’t as difficult. If an extraverted manager is working with an introvert, they should try to listen more and talk less.
While understanding a remote employee’s communication profile is time consuming, the benefits of creating cohesive team communication have a direct impact on morale, productivity, and overall success.
Understand Communication Nuances
Communication nuances displayed by remote employees are difficult to ascertain when they can’t be directly observed. Everyone’s demeanor, tone, and mannerisms play into how their communication is perceived, but these may be lost when employees are only heard and not seen.
To more accurately understand the nuances of dispersed team members, managers should set up individual calls with remote workers after team calls to get a read on their perception of the discussion. Drawing this information out of an off-site team member shows them that the manager values their opinions and improves engagement during full team video or conference meetings.
Promote Sensitivity to Cultural Communication Differences
It isn’t uncommon for team members in one country to throw around a well-known, culturally acceptable phrase and have its meaning entirely lost on members sitting across the globe. This can be awkward and can cause apprehension among those remote workers when it comes to participation.
Taking the time to understand some of the communication norms of employees based in another country, as well as being sensitive to time differences and holidays that differ from a U.S. schedule, shows sensitivity and a step towards making a globally-placed employee feel understood.
It is also helpful to conduct ongoing training to promote the understanding of diverse backgrounds and the acceptance of diverse thought.
Corporate culture will continue to further embrace the reality of globally dispersed, diverse teams, and managers who take the extra time to master inclusion will jump to the front of the line when it comes to career advancement.
Learn more about dispersed team management in the following upcoming blog posts:
- Topic 3: Culture. For teams dispersed globally, understanding cultural nuances, time differences, and holiday schedules is important.
- Topic 4: Structure. Showing consistency and structure by holding weekly meetings, individual check-ins, and conveying clear expectations and objectives.
Laura Smith is the vice president of global human resources for Digital Intelligence Systems, LLC—a global services and staffing firm based in McLean, Va., with more than 33 offices worldwide. Smith has more than 25 years of human resources experience and maintains the HR certifications SPHR and SHRM-SCP. She has also been named toStaffing Industry Analysts’ Global Power Women in StaffingListfor the last two years.