By Sara Cabrejas, International Product Team
Does your organization have employees who are virtual and in another country? As the workplace evolves into a more global environment, the scheduling of team meetings, handling cultural differences and language barriers becomes more pressing. Whether you are a manager in Canada of a virtual employee in United Kingdom, or a similar situation, here are four considerations to take into account when managing an international virtual employee:
Always take into consideration the time zone of the employee
Although most employees are flexible, there aren’t many employees who would be thrilled to wake up at 3 am for a team call every Monday morning. When setting up meetings, schedule the meeting during a time that is convenient for everyone. Of course, at times, the virtual employee may need to join a call at 3 am; however, it should not become a consistent request, as no one performs their best work at that hour. To assist in scheduling meetings across time zones, there are many websites available to help.
Determine work hours and communication preferences up front with the employee
During the hiring process, it proves best to determine both the hours and flex hours an employee will be asked to work. This will guarantee a clear understanding upfront of any off hours that you are requesting them to work. At the same time, discuss the communication preferences of the employee and team. Some virtual employees may communicate better via email, while others may prefer to speak on the phone.
Depending on the nature and composition of the team, more often than not, a variety of nationalities, cultures, and accents will exist within a virtual team. Without the benefit of speaking face-to-face, at times the communication barrier may be more pronounced, as accents could become more difficult to understand while on a conference call. It is important, however, to keep in mind that your foreign colleagues may not be conversing in their mother-tongue and as such a degree of respect and understanding is warranted. Some options to address a language barrier are easily accessible to ease communication for all parties involved: using PowerPoint, sending out meeting notes beforehand, and providing an open forum for clarification of points that may be easily misunderstood.
When possible, have team meetings in person
Depending on the makeup of the team this may not always be possible, but having the virtual employee(s) meet with the rest of the team creates feelings of camaraderie and team unity. Providing avenues for face-to-face interactions will help improve group cohesiveness while also allowing a space to engage in conversations that may be too difficult to have via the telephone or email.
It is important to keep these four guidelines in mind when interacting with your foreign virtual employees. But at the end of the day, the different backgrounds are an asset to be maximized and a result of our increasingly globalized workplace, which benefit all involved. What practices do you follow when managing global teams?
Sara Cabrejas is a Sr. Business Analyst in the International Product Team, transferring from the US Implementation team in late 2015. Sara joined Dayforce in 2012 as part of the charter implementation team having previously worked for 18 years in Ceridian support, implementation and professional services.