Covid has taught many companies some difficult lessons, especially internationally. All over the world, companies had to make quick decisions or they lost a lot of money, and often customers.
At that time, many companies required a lot of meetings and planning with employees, many of whom were from different countries. They had to make clear choices and complete difficult tasks in a short time. This included working with cross-cultural teams that had different responsibilities. Managing cross-cultural teams with employees is particularly difficult due to the many cultures, traditions, countries, languages and work ethic.
What exactly are cross-cultural teams?
Cross-cultural teams are made up of individuals from different cultures who have different life experiences. Conflicts and frustrations can be easily avoided if you quickly gain insight into the individuals in a team when companies do not take into account the underlying cross-cultural differences within a group.
The 88.3% of people who participated in the Research stated that interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds made them feel good.
Communication styles and individual frames of reference, among other things, can explain the differences. Members in certain countries are willing to work beyond the established working hours, even if they are working from home. On the other hand, employees in several countries are not allowed to work beyond the stated hours, except in case of emergency, and their mobile phones are switched off when they leave.
The communication pattern of each team member is another crucial distinction in an intercultural group. Some team members loudly express their raw feelings and ideas, while those from authoritarian cultures tend to think carefully before casting their vote. Let’s talk about the challenges of managing cross-cultural project teams.
The challenges of managing an intercultural team
According to statistics, culturally diverse teams perform 35% better than non-diverse teams. If you have a cross-cultural team and guide it in the right way, you may see increased efficiency.
Teams have become standard practice in planning, strategizing and executing business activities, but team management is still in its infancy. Moreover, when you let in an extra aspect of diversity, you run into several problems.
The following are the top challenges in leading an intercultural team from around the world:
Expression and communication
Cross-cultural teams need to communicate so that everyone is on the same page, which means learning how to balance the importance of context and simplicity. Everyone can understand English well and speak the same language, but specific expressions or colloquialisms can be misunderstood.
Communication conflicts are often visible in virtual organizations that do not interact face-to-face. For example, it could be a foreign virtual team or local virtual teams that need to work together and complete a task. In any case, both groups should make their email and phone conversations as clear as possible to avoid confusion.
Everyone needs to be in sync to stay on top of data and process flows. There should be no manual coordination of different information sources.
To work together and complete their tasks, each team member must have access to the right resources at the right time.
Communication is challenging with virtual cross-cultural teams as it is challenging to maintain a consistent level of interaction. Communicating effectively and quickly to share and access resources quickly is difficult.
In the first place, culture determines the working style of each employee. Some cultures prioritize individual contributions and encourage personal views. Some cultures are more authoritarian, with leaders determining the course of action and workers carrying it out.
The number of people we work with is one thing, but the personalities among them are quite different. It also applies to individuals with different personalities. Individualistic team members tend to come forward aggressively, while the not-so-individualistic team members blend in with the group and contribute less because of their distinctive styles. Despite the differences in work approach, it is critical to sort and optimize the performance style of each team member.
There is a good chance that part or group of the team shares the same cultural heritage. They can try to get the situation under control and persuade everyone on the team to go ahead. As a result, it can lead to unnecessary bitterness and an unpleasant work environment for other team members.
In an intercultural team, group dynamics can be an important issue. It can lead to divisions in political maneuvering and conflict within the group.
Usually, companies have a single-threaded motivation and reward system that is mainly determined by the company’s norms and values. It does not take into account the varied motivational elements of an intercultural team.
Employees’ reasons for working are diverse, depending on their individual goals and priorities. Tangible or intangible incentives such as increased earnings, bonuses, incentives, career advancement and recognition are some of the tangible motivators. On the other hand, there are intangibles like praise, job satisfaction, encouragement that motivate people.
It is critical to understand what motivates each person to effectively lead them toward achievement. The team members may be less enthusiastic and engaged at work if there is no apparent incentive.
Cross-cultural teams can present difficulties, but they can be treated with care and respect for other cultures. You need a framework that makes it easier to discern individual differences and use them to your team’s advantage.
It usually takes a clear understanding and acceptance of cultural differences to lead an intercultural team. Having a cross-cultural team is the best chance to learn about different backgrounds, develop new ideas and succeed. It’s time to see cross-cultural teams as an asset rather than an obligation!
Made possible by James RaussenManaging Director of SEA Solutions, he can be reached at: email@example.com