How to Effectively Manage a Global Workforce

Some say the planet is shrinking. The truth is over the last few hundred years, human population growth has been exponential. In more recent years, we’ve developed transportation options and communications technologies that allow people and cultures across the planet to connect, breaking down barriers to make way for a more aware and integrated society.

This trend is only likely to become more pronounced as the spread of ideas begins to break down the walls of nationalism and a truly global community is born. For businesses, this shift has created opportunities to expand and move into new markets, but it has also proven somewhat problematic. It turns out that goals, ideas, and ways of doing business don’t always translate on an international scale.

Plus, the logistics of managing multiple overseas offices can be complex, to say the least. In other words, there are a lot of hurdles to leap for businesses that tackle the prospect of taking their operations global. That said, effectively managing a global workforce is possible with the right approach. Here are a few strategies to consider.

Tolerance Training

Most countries strive to instill a sense of national pride in their populace. From a young age we learn the national anthem and the glorious and victorious history of our country. Unfortunately, the byproduct of such learning can be a sentiment of superiority.

When a company creates a global workforce, feelings of national pride and superiority can create a hostile work environment and stifle productivity. You need to take steps to ensure an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding prevails.

All employees should go through a training course in tolerance that stresses the value of a diverse workforce and the benefits of sharing ideas and personal insights. This is especially important for those at the management level who may find themselves working with teams of employees in another country.

Understand Local Differences

There are plenty of hoops to jump through when setting up shop in a foreign country. Once you get through the legal battles over licensing, regulation, taxation, and labor laws, to name a few, you still have to deal with the potential problem of understanding cultural norms and attempting to integrate workers into a preexisting corporate structure despite those differences.

For example, some countries still value male contributions over those of females. In such countries, placing a woman in a position of power could prove problematic. Even if the woman is capable and qualified, male subordinates may simply ignore the directives of a female superior.

In some cultures, saving face or upholding the appearance of competence and success is important. In such cases, workers may over-promise and under-deliver. Overcoming these issues in order to reconcile corporate culture with local culture can be a massive undertaking, and one that companies should be aware of. Hiring experienced consultants to ease the transition can be a major boon.

Fill Leadership Positions

Not everyone is cut out for management, and expansion on a global scale requires skilled managers to lead the charge. Ideally, those in management positions should have some experience working overseas, or they should be natives or residents of the country.

More important, however, is having a skillset that includes good communication, organization, perceptiveness, flexibility, and vision, among other things. A leader must be able to convey directives in a clear and concise manner, as well as listen to employee concerns and ideas and adjust accordingly. A leader must have the ability to motivate, and on the global scale, adapt motivational techniques to suit the local culture.

Integrated Information Systems

From a logistical standpoint, it’s important to have everyone working on the same system so that workers can share information, companies can track and analyze data, and uniform standards can be implemented across all offices and facilities. Computer networks need to span the globe, providing secure access and communications capabilities to all employees.

This entails not only compatible software and systems, but also global technical support. With hackers breaching the defenses of companies large and small, network and computer security is an important part of any modern operation. Businesses that spread to other parts of the world need to ensure their employees are trained not only to do their jobs, but also to assist in managing security concerns so that the company can flourish.