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How To Manage A Global Workforce

Having a workforce of employees located in various places around the globe is a business norm that has recently gained traction in the business world. This new concept is fuelled by the recent advancements in technology that have made remote working possible, breaking the distance barrier so that distance no longer impedes an employee’s efficiency.

While this is great, having a global workforce means working extra hard at managing a group of employees dispersed in various locations. While managing a global workforce can be challenging, it can be easily navigated using an effective strategy. In this guide, we will explore the best way to manage a global workforce and offer tips to help you keep your employees on the same page.

What Is A Global Workforce?

The business world has experienced a noticeable shift from the years of traditional workspaces that required employees to be seated at their desks to perform their jobs. Now, with the advent of technology, businesses can run organizations where not all employees are within the same building every day. This was popularized with the rise of remote working, a form of job employment that involves working outside of a traditional workplace.

The rise of technology and remote working concepts have fuelled the possibility of having a workforce not limited by distance. This encompasses the concept of global workforces.

A global workforce, in its simplest form, refers to a team of employees that are based all over the world. This team of people in various locations can work remotely for the same company and are connected through an intricate system of international employees of different nationalities, backgrounds, and cultures.

A global workforce offers a diversified pool of talents while allowing companies to tap from a wider pool of candidates. With teams based all around the globe, companies can benefit from a possibly multicultural team without being restricted to one location. With a global workforce comes global talent acquisition and cultural diversity, two factors many traditional workplaces lack.

While these are great, a global workforce also comes with various challenges, many of which center around how to manage all employees fairly and equally. Hiring, training, and sustaining a global workforce can be difficult, especially without an efficient preset strategy in place.  

A man works on a laptop while sitting at a table.
Remote working is a huge part of the global workforce.

Some of the challenges faced include:

1. Effective Communication

Communication is easier when everyone is in the same place. Even if all employees are not within the same building (especially with an organization with a hybrid working environment), it is easier to communicate with people in the same time zones. They are easy to reach, information can be passed out uniformly, and physical meetings or training can be scheduled easily.

The story is about how different employees are dispersed around the globe. Communication can be strained With people living in different locations and possibly different time zones. This is worse when there is little to no commitment on the employee’s side to keep an open line of communication with their employer.

Working closely with a global workforce can easily turn into a nightmare when there is no effective communication. Virtually handling a global workforce can be difficult and require extra effort to ensure the provision of consistent information among all employees and their managers.

2. Managing Talent Diversity

Diversity is great for business as it is one of the many factors that can facilitate business growth. It provides an opportunity to work with people with different experiences, opinions, and ideas, thereby fuelling innovation. Diversity is even better in many traditional workplaces where employees find themselves within the same location. However, this can quickly turn sour when the workers are spread out in different locations.

In many cases, managers and human resource leaders can find it difficult to manage and sustain a heterogeneous team adequately. Implementing practices, organizing training, and making decisions can easily become problematic when not adequately handled.

3. Laws And Compliance

It is one thing to abide by laws in a particular location. It is entirely different to keep the laws in other employees’ locations in mind when working with them.

Countries have various employment and labor laws guarding companies and the working conditions of their residents. Many of these laws are ever-changing, making it difficult to keep up with them. These laws include everything from income tax to termination rules and payroll regulations.

Legal implications can put your business brand and brand image at risk. When ignored or defaulted,  these legal implications may lead to financial entanglements and insure high costs that may be damaging to the organization. As such, it is important to keep up with the laws and rules to ensure the business does not overstep and laws that might cause it to fall victim to the law’s wrath.

4. Managing Talent Gaps

Hiring from one location is already hard enough, often requiring thousands of dollars and up to six weeks in hiring duration. How does one attract talent and manage talent gaps from other locations?

Many businesses that actively pursue a global workforce will agree that managing talent gaps is one of the most difficult things they get involved in. Attracting, hiring, training, developing, and retaining employees that have a certain skill set for a job opening can be challenging. More importantly, finding an employee skilled enough to understand the local and international market can be demanding.

In many of these situations, the employer has to become familiar with immigration laws to hire and recruit employees from other countries. Bridging this gap requires constant and conscious effort into investing time, energy, and resources, especially if the company aims only to hire quality and talented individuals on their team.

5. Conflict Of Interest

Having employees all over the world in numerous states means you are dealing with different markets simultaneously. How do you balance these markets without burdening the company or shooting yourself in the foot?

The local market (regardless of the state) differs from state to state. As a result, organizing and creating a global presence by integrating different markets can be challenging. The different markets may require different interests and attention that may negatively impact the business goal when not handled properly.

6. Payroll Management

Payroll systems may vary by state or country. Coupled with the problem of different laws in these different locations, organizations with a global workforce also have to deal with the problems of different pay cycles, different currencies, and different mandatory deductions. This can complicate the process of running a global workforce, making it more difficult to sustain in the long run (and the absence of a working strategy).

Laptop screen showing a video meeting between a group of people
Effective communication is a huge part of sustaining a global workforce

Factors To Remember When Managing A Global Workforce

It is easy to assume that managing a global workforce will be just as easy as managing a traditional one. However, the process is more complicated than having a team of employees all located within the same demographic.

When handling a global workforce, it is essential to remember to consider some of the factors that impact the workforce. Understanding these factors will increase the chances of having a successful workforce of employees spread around the globe. Some of these factors include:

  • Cultural Differences

A global workforce will always be a heterogeneous one. The employees will come from different life works, have different experiences, practice different cultures in some cases, and be used to living in different geographic locales.

Being exposed to these different locations means the employees will be used to different norms. These norms will be evident in terms of workplace conduct, productivity expectations, and management styles. It is essential to keep these cultural differences -whether in behavior or expectations- in mind when working with employees in a global workforce.

  • Language Barriers

While many companies with a global workforce might make it a point to have a team of employees that speak the same language (usually the global English), many other companies often find themselves working with a team of talented employees who do not all speak the same languages.

Languages may vary depending on employee location, professional background, and education. Of course, having an Englishing-speaking workforce is a plus. However, when employees do not speak English, language might quickly become a barrier. In these cases, it is essential to make a provision for that barrier to be broken down without bias. Regardless of the effect put in place to ensure employees who speak a different language are not segregated, it is important to create a welcoming environment for them. As such, language is another important factor that employers need to consider when managing a global workforce.

  • Time Zones

Time zones are very tricky. Imagine setting a virtual meeting for 8 a.m. in London, but it turns out it will be around 3 a.m. in Atlanta. How do you manage this time difference?

Employees in a global workforce often work at different times. The extremity of this time discrepancy varies with what location the employees are. However, these time differences can impact operations, especially the organization’s ability to communicate promptly. It may sabotage employee cohesion, negatively impact workflow, and reduce productivity when not handled properly.

As a result, it is important to design a timed workflow that considers every employee’s time zone. This will help every employee be on the same page easily and efficiently.

  • Collaboration Challenges

In general, time zone problems, cultural differences, language barriers, and distance can quickly cause cohesion to deteriorate when not handled properly. When cohesion suffers, collaboration among employees also suffers. 

Ensuring that collaboration is seamless is another factor managers and employers must consider. Attacking and solving collaboration challenges by designing a purposeful strategy will go a long way in sustaining the team, making it a successful one that can reach goals easily.

  • Community Gaps

Many organizations aim to breed a sense of community among their employees. This sense of community can easily be found in traditional workplaces. In these workplaces, employees spend enough time with each other to create relationships that close gaps between themselves and their peers.

However, these gaps are more pronounced in global workforces. Factors such as distance, language barriers, and even time differences contribute to these community gaps. As a result, employers and managers need to play proactive and active roles in ensuring the creation of a social connection among employees.

It is easy to wonder why this connection is important, especially since all employees are probably already doing their job. However, community gaps may make it difficult for employees to form and sustain a team when the need arises, as they may get used to working individually. This highlights the importance of a manager and employer’s roles in ensuring a sense of community in the global workforce.

  • Employment Regulations

As previously mentioned, employment regulation is another factor employers must pay attention to when managing a global workforce. Become acquainted with the various employment regulations that outline factors like hiring processes, benefits, time off, and holidays. More importantly, adhere to these regulations as they will determine how successful the global workforce will be.

Tips For Managing A Global Workforce

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to successfully managing a global workforce. Every employer and manager has to figure out the best way to manage their team of employees. This challenge is further amplified by the fact that every employee is unique; therefore, every workforce is unique.

Although managing a global workforce is no small feat, leaders can take a few actions to ensure they effectively lead their team. Some tips to help you be a great leader for your global workforce include:

  • Always Be Aware Of Cultural Differences In Workplace Conduct

There will always be cultural differences in a global workforce. As a result, cultural awareness is key to ensuring that every employee feels included and a part of the organization.

While cultural differences may not greatly impact the workforce’s operations, their impact is still not dismissible. Cultural differences usually lead to differences in communication patterns and divergent views on what employees may consider workplace etiquette.

Investing in managers is a great way to retain employees. Train and teach managers to be aware and respectful of their cultural differences in the global workforce.

 Leaders need to be aware of these differences to form respectful relationships with employees. This will breed inclusivity and make it easier to understand every employee. This, in turn, makes it easier to diffuse conflicts when necessary and promotes oneness.

Additionally, employers may invest in intercultural training to address issues that arise due to diversity. These pieces of training may also be used to reduce inappropriate behavior that may arise due to negligence of an employee’s culture.

  • Accommodate Employees’ Diverse Religious Needs

In a global workforce, it is inevitable to have employees with different cultures. Religious diversity is a touché challenge and needs to be handled accordingly. Leaders need to accommodate and respect every employee’s religion and religious needs. This extends to respecting and acknowledging observance, holidays, dress code, and other accommodations.

Additionally, the company may choose to create policies to reflect flexibility in terms of religion-related needs such as leaves and prayer breaks. Acknowledging and accommodating these needs will foster and encourage a respectful corporate culture promoting a sense of community. It eliminates religious bias and ensures every employee is respected as a person regardless of their religious belief.

  • Use Training Initiatives To Heighten Cultural Awareness

The work to sustain a global workforce does not begin and end with the leaders. Employees also have important roles to play in sustaining the global workforce. This can be facilitated through cultural awareness and cultural awareness training.

Employers can organize initiatives designed to help employees understand problems associated with cultural sensitivity. This training will urge and reach employees to be respectful of each other’s differences by creating a heightened awareness of global cultural factors. This allows employers to foster stronger professional relationships and work together more effectively.

  • Provide English As A Second Language (ESL) Tools

In a global workforce, it is common to find at least one employee who doesn’t speak English fluently or at all. This can be a barrier, limiting their ability to communicate effectively.

In this case, the leader needs to provide ESL tools to make the communication process faster and more painful. Depending on the software provided, these tools direct translation or immersive language training.

The ESL tools may be part of an extensive communication program. This will increase the possibility of successful and seamless communication processes and collaboration. Likewise, leaders may create training and provide software for managers (and maybe employees, especially if the English-speaking employees are the minority) to learn native languages.

  • Use Digital Tools To Your Advantage

Technology has birthed several tools that make sustaining a global workforce easier. These tools may be used to improve communication, maximize employee productivity, offer streamlined collaboration, and even track productivity when necessary. These robust tools can help you create a better workplace culture and ensure the workforce is efficient.

Building A Global Workforce

Effectively managing a global workforce is crucial in today’s interconnected and rapidly changing business landscape. With the right strategies and approach, organizations can leverage the diversity and talents of their international employees to drive innovation, enhance productivity, and achieve their business goals. 

When building and managing a global workforce, key factors include embracing cultural differences, fostering effective communication, leveraging technology and digital tools, promoting collaboration and teamwork, and providing opportunities for professional development and growth. By prioritizing these aspects and adopting a global mindset, companies can create a thriving and harmonious work environment that transcends geographical boundaries and paves the way for success in the global marketplace.

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