A whopping 89% of offices today work with global virtual teams. While working on a culturally diverse team is highly rewarding, it can come with some initial challenges.To build a positive work environment and avoid crucial items getting lost in translation, it’s important to focus on effective communication. Every remote company requires top communication to promote respect and productivity in their culturally diverse teams.
As you work to build an inclusive, culturally diverse remote work environment, here are six tips from our experts at Nexton to streamline the process.
1. Keep an open mind
From misunderstandings to cultural barriers, there are many situations that remote team members may find themselves in when trying to facilitate cross-cultural communication.
One of the most common intercultural communication issues team leaders may face is not being open-minded about how they communicate with their team or understanding how a team member's culture shapes the way they work.
Some cultures may have more structure, with more meetings and follow-ups, while others may have a more relaxed work environment where they have more freedom to work on their own terms.
The key to effective communication is being open and receptive to the fact that our culture shapes how we work, collaborate with others, and receive feedback and instruction.
Exercise #1: Make a mental list of all the ways your team is diverse, including factors such as generation, work experience, education, personal background, nationality/ethnicity, language, political systems, time zones, etc. It’s no wonder communication can be so tough!
2. Make space for understanding & learning
Open-mindedness comes from understanding the different backgrounds and cultures that your remote team members come from. But when you work remotely, you aren't in the same room with your team every day.
Therefore you may not get the chance to interact with each other as you typically would in a physical office. For this reason, it's essential to make space for these interactions to happen. Moreover, because you're building a remote culture, you should emphasize boosting meaningful interactions and good communication.
Who doesn't love a virtual cocktail hour or an event that takes the pressure off and gives everyone a chance to be who they are? Host virtual events that celebrate different holidays or traditions, such as Chinese New Year. Show interest and get everyone involved in learning about one another.
Exercise #2: In addition to planning virtual team-building events, try hosting “virtual office hours” where team members can stop by, ask questions, and engage in small talk. This will help teams understand their differences and get to know each other better.
3. Get on the same page for expectations
While working remotely, it's hard to get a sense of what's considered offensive or inappropriate to someone else who’s part of a different culture than our own. It's important that everyone feels respected and valued for their differences.
For instance, in many cultures, the workday may not start until 10 am, whereas, in others, the workday begins at 7 am. Some may stay at their laptops to have lunch, while others take an hour's break to a local spot.
Differences such as these are important to talk about as everyone should aim to be on the same page regarding work expectations and responsibilities. The more you understand how others live and work in their culture, the more you can identify which approaches to take to develop positive cross-cultural communication.
Exercise #3: With your team, create a Team Charter that defines all expectations for performance and daily work, so that everybody’s clear from the get-go. By doing this together, you can talk through any cultural differences and ensure the Charter sets everybody within a shared workplace framework.
4. Assess your approach to feedback
Moreover, team leaders should consider how different cultures give and receive feedback and instruction. For example, there are cultures that are very straightforward in their approach, while others can be more reserved and maintain a more professional dialog.
Providing feedback is essential to any team's growth, success, and productivity. It will give your remote team a foundation to understand their part and aid them in working toward their goals both in their careers and personal lives.
Exercise #4: Feedback can be tricky, no matter the cultural background. Try scheduling monthly 1-on-1’s with your team members in order to build your relationships and provide frequent, ongoing feedback. This will allow you to tease out any culturally distinct attitudes and make feedback a regular task instead of a nerve-wracking occasion.
5. Brush up on your people skills
Let's face it: communication skills are something we can all improve, especially when it comes to global teams. Some ways to boost your people skills include:
- Empathy: One of the greatest ways to achieve better communication is by practicing empathy. Empathy can be a very effective solution to help break intercultural communication issues.
- Active listening: Listening to understand genuinely is more effective than listening to respond. In addition, active listening promotes more effective communication and productivity. When you take the time to listen to others, it can build trust between you and your team members and create a stronger foundation for effective communication.
- Cultural awareness: Be aware of where you and your team members are coming from. Becoming culturally aware may take time for a team that is new to remote working with global teams. Still, with the effort of the team leader and other senior managers, you can build a remote company culture that celebrates cultural diversity.
Exercise #5: Implement the LEARN acronym in all projects and activities: Listen, Effectively communicate, Avoid ambiguity, Respect differences, and No judgment. Teach it to your team members and try to follow it in order to improve your relationships. In particular, avoiding ambiguity can be helpful for teams where members come from a wide range of backgrounds.
6. Leverage tools to smooth communication
Thanks to virtual communication tools, the expansion of remote work has been less strenuous. Without these tools, global communication and collaboration would seem a very tall feat.
Big-name tools such as Zoom, Google Suite, Slack, Trello, Asana, and more have already revolutionized remote company culture. For your culturally diverse remote team to succeed, you should capitalize on these types of tools.
Exercise #6: Think about your team’s pain points – what isn’t working when it comes to collaboration? Now check out NoHQ’s stellar list of remote work tools. It’s likely there’s a tool here that can take your team collaboration to the next level and ensure clear cross-cultural communication.
Ready to work with culturally diverse companies?
Having a global mindset and the curiosity to understand differences can only improve how we communicate with each other. There's always room to create open cross-culture communication and collaboration within our remote teams, whether in person or through our computer screens.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to be a part of a culturally diverse company, maybe it's time you get out there and start searching! Check out Nexton for great remote opportunities at top companies worldwide.