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Driving innovation with remote cross-cultural teams

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Driving innovation with remote cross-cultural teams

The world we live in has transitioned to having no borders when it comes to hiring and employing efficient workforce from anywhere across the globe. Many organizations have teams that span different offices, time zone and continents; making cultural diversity a normal facet at every workspace.

Running a remote team has many an advantage and a few challenges to boot.  Even routine work turns out very differently. Managers have to introduce new ways to be on top of company culture, staff engagement and driving innovation when everyone works from multiple locations.

Acceptance of cultural diversity and an inclusive outlook are hallmarks of high-performing companies. 

Here are a few tried and tested tips to strengthen your cross-cultural team.

Embrace the Cultural Differences

Cultural backgrounds are as diverse as names. Acknowledging that each individual has their own identity and culture, and accepting them within the team is the first step at optimizing team performance.

Cultural diversity can be of different ways. Differences in norms, values, languages, behaviour and belief may just be the tip of the iceberg. An important step in accepting other culture is to understand those differences inorder to navigate the ways of proper interaction.

A way of easing your team into understanding the subtilities of diversity is to encourage open discussion about cultural background and expectations from fellow teammates and the ways of communication and workstyle one prefers. Even informal platforms and activities can be organised to come out and share more about the person's culture.

All the major challenges present in the rapid increase of cross cultural teams can be offset with the right mentality towards other culture. Sensitivity and acceptance in the workplace should be easy to foster as long as the groundwork for understanding and collaboration are endorsed.

It is also good to keep in mind that cultural diversity allows for newer and broader perspectives on doing things. A cross cultural team harbors creativity, opportunities for innovation and learning from each other. A workspace should embrace the differences and leverage the best of what all the employees have to offer. 

Establish the Team Dynamics

Every team depends on its constituents. A cross cultural team, just like any other, needs the right make-up and set of rules and norms to function well. Standard operating procedures, frequent and structured reporting and meeting, file formats and templates etc. should be well considered beforehand. Keeping to such norms improves the ease of collaboration and inturn helps optimize the team performance.

It is important to have enough flexibility to report norms that are detrimental to team output and to fix them when they don't work well. Team feedback is always to be considered as they'd have ample ideas to overcome a problem at hand.

Developing team identities, in the case of cross-cultural teams, enculcates a shared goal and vision which can unite the team and help them function better. Each individual's role should be defined with respect to the common goal inorder to reduce misunderstanding and to let them know that their contribution matter. Also, having such clarity makes it easier to address team performance as a whole, setting the right expectation from each individual involved.

Communicate with more words

When it comes to culturally diverse tams, the diversity muddles and widens the gap of communication as refences and norms don't hold ground from individual to individual. If interacting with a team member, it is totally normal for your words to cause a misunderstanding.

Simple language and frequent checking for information gaps works best in cross cultural teams. This not only makes sure that everyone is on the same page and that communication stays effective, but also cultivates an environment where it is okay to ask questions and clarify doubts.

Build a Collective Culture

Building culture takes time. Building it right, even more so. The points above, done right can help build trust between individuals within a team. However, for teams to feel safe to collaborate, the right enviroment should be nurtured.

Respecting differences, following through on group norms, and having a common goal helps build unity within a team.

Face-to-face or if possible, real life interaction can further strengthen the connection and efficiency of a cross-cultural team. There are certain nuances that are not touched in mails or direct messages that happen during a face to face connect.

If budget allows for it, you could always consider a team building session or a retreat with the entire team. Having a shared experience helps deepen understanding and acceptance.

Conclusion

The major factors for better efficiency and morale for a cross funtional teams work just as any other team would. Acceptance and inclusiveness decide how well an idividual feels treated. No two cultures are the same and none is betterly unique than another in it's own right. It is always a great idea to motivate understanding, connection and inclusion, no matter how different the people accomodating the team may be.

Hashil Parambadan

IIM Alumni, Senior Growth Hacker and Digital Marketing Specialist

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