Most companies had to pivot during and because of the pandemic. From working on-site, remote work became the norm. The shift widened the net that the company can cast, thereby hiring employees and contractors located in a different region, country, or continent. The options increased, and so did the differences in culture and perspectives. Team meetings across the world are virtual, making it harder for business leaders to address cross-cultural communication effectively at times.
A skill necessary for leaders is cross-cultural communication which is critical in conveying their messages to everyone in their team, especially in a virtual setting. The way each team member communicates may depend on their culture.
To understand this better, let’s have a look at the difficulties of remote cross-cultural communication.
1. Broadband & Internet connectivity
Unfortunately, not all countries have fibre optic internet available, so expect and be flexible to these limitations. As a leader, do your best in giving your team members the tools that will allow them to gain access to better connections and, at the same time, be more understanding when they experience issues.
2. Formalities in work culture
Some countries prefer to maintain casual in their manner in the workplace. However, not all countries are like this. Some prefer to use Mr. and Ms. when addressing someone unless they know each other. As leaders, you should know how to meet their comfort level while balancing inclusivity.
3. Nonverbal and verbal communications
Nonverbal and verbal indicators are harder to interpret via virtual conferencing. Increase that difficulty level when you factor in team members with different body language interpretations because of culture.
While certain hand gestures and eye contact are acceptable and common in other countries, it may not be the case for others. Progressive countries forego formal salutations, but other countries may find it disrespectful.
As leaders, you must be aware of these to communicate effectively with your larger team.
4. Varied time zones and work hours
A common issue for a global team is how to find a shared meeting time when people are working at different time zones. Informing your team members of your expectations regarding working hours will prepare them.
But as a leader, you must also be mindful of everyone’s time zones. Receiving an email from a manager, particularly during off-hours, might compel the members to respond.
How can we improve on cross-cultural communications in a virtual setting?
1. Inform your team members of the meeting’s agenda and ask for input beforehand
Please consider that cultures vary, and some may not be comfortable speaking up during a meeting with other team members present. Address this by sending out the meeting’s agenda early and asking them to send in their questions and comments prior.
2. Not all calls should be mandatory
With differing time zones, some team members will be joining either much earlier or later than your time. If they do not need to be seen in the call, joining the call via phone can suffice. Doing this will also lessen broadband lag.
3. Understand how culture impacts everyday business operations
Business leaders must understand how these cultural differences can impact operations. Why not converse with your team members to get to know them and their preferences. Knowing how and where they function best will allow leaders to create a workflow that encourages everyone to be productive. Please remember that an inspired team member will work harder and contribute more.