By Paula Sparks

Technology has changed the rules of business. As new advancements are made, seemingly every day, it continues to increase the ability and necessity for organizations to adopt a global view for their businesses and their workforces. While this is exciting for all the opportunities it brings, it also creates additional challenges for leaders trying to create a cohesive culture in which their employees work.

Multinational Corporations (MNCs) are common today with offices in every region of the world. Often the country the company is based in determines the culture, etiquette, norms, and mores. However, over the past few years, the pandemic has caused shifts in workforce dynamics, and employees now have more flexibility on where they live and how they work. These shifts occurred rapidly when the pandemic forced change, and leaders are still trying to determine the most effective ways for their organizations to move forward. For instance, some companies have maintained more flexible work arrangements even citing job postings as remote work only. Other companies have reinstituted “office days” where employees need to return to the workplace for face-to-face meetings if they want to keep their jobs.  

With the increase in remote work positions, leaders and individuals have already had to accommodate new norms and ground rules to be productive, including conducting work through video calls, less face-to-face contact; using IM or Slack to reach out to people they can usually see around the corner or down the hall.  

And, with the shifts that have made remote work possible, the talent pipeline has opened on a global scale. Physical location is no longer a major factor in hiring for many positions. With this new mindset comes new norms and a more complex organizational culture.

If you were to assess how globally minded you and your company are, how would you rate yourself and the company on a scale from 1-10 (1 low, 10 high) in role modeling behaviors?  Although most companies feel they are global, they may not have the actions that show that being global truly matters.  

Let me give you an example. I had the opportunity to live in India to set up training operations for a Fortune 500 company. Before I left the US, I did a 360-personality assessment so I could understand potential opportunities for personal development.  Already knowing that I am a very direct person, I wasn’t surprised to read numerous comments about my approach to others. This important feedback allowed me to pivot when I moved to India and began working with my team to build up the training area. 

It was uncomfortable at first. But here’s what I learned by listening and paying close attention:

  • The pace felt different
  • Relationships were super important
  • Conversations about cricket and Bollywood movies became part of everyday opening meeting conversation
  • Getting to know the person first was the most important way to get work done
  • Taking time to build relationships, and understand what was important to the team was crucial in moving forward on implementation.  

Here’s the irony?  These things are actually a big deal everywhere in the world, yet we often give permission to push forward and not build relationships, justifying time restraints.  

I remember being in the classroom teaching others how to teach. One of my students named Mughda came in early that morning and I asked her what she would like to see more of in her conversations with people from other countries – especially the U.S.

The response was surprising yet very enlightening.  The conversation went something like this:

Mughda: You Americans! 

Me: What about Americans?

Mughda: You send an email – “Mughda, do this, do that… there is no please, no thank you in the message.” She continued talking about how people don’t care to get to know her – they just want work done.

Me: What would you rather see?

Mughda: I would like to see, “Dear Mughda, I hope you are doing well. I need your help with this project. Please do the following… And end with Kind Regards.”

That whole conversation only took a few minutes, but it changed the way I have done emails ever since; ensuring that I include the person’s name at the top – some sort of greeting – making the request in the body of the message – and ending with a cordial closure.  

This is only one example of being more mindful in the workplace. Creating a strong foundation for a successful global workforce that is adaptable, inclusive, and capable of thriving in diverse environments requires us to consider many facets of our business in a different way. Here are just a few things that must be addressed to be successful:

  • Cultural Awareness:
      • Understand and respect cultural differences
      • Promote cultural sensitivity and awareness among team members
      • Provide cross-cultural training to foster better understanding
    • Questions to ask yourselves:
        • Are we paying attention to the needs of other cultures? For instance, do we understand and address that some cultures are more relationship-oriented than others? Do we start our meetings by asking our global workforce something about upcoming festivities or traditions? Do we consider potential office closures and celebrations that are meaningful to all of the cultures included in our workforce?
        • If I am based in the United States, am I making an effort to learn greetings in other languages? Even using good morning, good afternoon, please, and thank you goes a long way to build the relationship.
  • Communication:
      • Establish clear and open communication channels
      • Use technology for real-time collaboration (video conferencing, messaging apps)
      • Consider language barriers and provide language support if necessary
    • Questions to ask:
        • Are we mindful of too rapid a speaking pace in conversations when there are multi-lingual translations taking place for the other participants? 
        • What kind of jargon are we using that does not have meaning or translation? (sports analogies or slang come to mind)
  • Remote Work Policies:
      • Develop and communicate clear remote work policies
      • Ensure access to necessary tools and resources for remote employees
      • Implement cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive information
    • Questions to ask:
        • When decisions are made, is everyone included in the process of conversation and able to voice any concerns over implementation?
        • Do we have the appropriate technology to provide seamless and secure global operations?
  • Diversity and Inclusion:
      • Embrace diversity in hiring practices
      • Foster an inclusive work environment that values diverse perspectives
      • Implement policies that prevent discrimination and promote equality
    • Questions to ask:
        • What level of centralization/decentralization seems appropriate? Are we using the 80/20 rule with the adoption of new processes or ideas? 80% common, 20% flexibility by country
        • Are we considering similarities as well as differences? What similarities can we build upon to strengthen culture across the world? How can we leverage differences to strengthen our overall outcomes?
  • Flexible Work Arrangements:
      • Accommodate different time zones with flexible work schedules
      • Allow for variations in work hours to accommodate global team members
      • Consider hybrid work models that blend in-office and remote work
    • Questions to ask:
        • Are we holding meetings at times that are convenient for us, but not for others in different parts of the world?
  • Global Compliance:
      • Stay informed about and comply with international labor laws
      • Ensure adherence to local regulations and standards
      • Have legal and HR support familiar with international employment laws
    • Questions to ask:
      • Are we addressing nuances between countries in our onboarding processes? (e.g., EU laws on what can/cannot be talked about)

Creating an effective global culture takes a lot of thought and work, but doing so will benefit your employees and your organization. If you need help getting started, let’s talk. As an organizational effectiveness consulting company, we will come alongside you to provide tools and resources to help identify and solve your most difficult organizational and leadership challenges. Contact us for a no-obligation, free consultation by clicking this link: Innovative Connections or calling us at 970-279-3330.

Our mission is to give voice and action to an emerging future. As a partner in your success, we would love to help you find your voice, see your vision, and imagine what the right action could be for you, your team, and your organization.