The social, economic, and political factors driving change across industries have not only impacted global markets, but workplace dynamics.

Now, more than ever, organizations are committed to building a diverse and inclusive workforce. With that trend has come a shift in the way managers lead and interact with their teams.

A recent survey (pdf) found that 89 percent of corporate employees serve on at least one global team, and 62 percent have colleagues from three or more cultures. Despite these figures, only 18 percent of multinational corporations feel they have a strong leadership pipeline in place to meet future business challenges.

To help you successfully navigate the complexities that come with overseeing people from various cultural backgrounds, here are six tips for guiding your international team.

How to Manage Global & International Teams

1. Check in Often


Global teams often consist of employees who work remotely across different countries and time zones. To maintain clear lines of communication and make contributors outside the office feel valued, it’s critical to hold regular meetings with them.

According to research by Gallup, employees who have routine check-ins with their managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those who don’t.

When scheduling meetings with direct reports, opt for methods of communication that facilitate real-time conversation and information sharing, such as videoconferencing. In addition, try to periodically travel to international office locations, or schedule mandatory in-office days for remote workers. Face-to-face interaction has been found to be 34 times more effective than email when it comes to getting things done and can help build trust among your employees.

By maintaining a consistent meeting cadence, you can overcome some of the barriers imposed by distance and forge a more robust working relationship with your team.

Related: 7 Ways to Become a Better Manager

2. Unite Around Purpose


For remote workers in different parts of the world, it can be easy to experience a sense of disconnect from colleagues—and the company as a whole. Make your employees feel like they’re part of the team by instilling a spirit of shared purpose.

A report by Imperative and LinkedIn (pdf) shows that 73 percent of purpose-oriented professionals are satisfied in their jobs, compared to just 64 percent who aren’t primarily motivated by purpose in their roles.

Make your employees feel involved by highlighting how your team’s work connects to the larger goals of your organization or department. During meetings, call out specific contributions and projects and explain how each one connects to, and furthers, your company’s mission.

This practice of showing appreciation and linking your team’s work to corporate objectives is essential to not only boosting employee engagement, but succeeding as a manager.

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3. Balance Participation


A key challenge of overseeing a global team is figuring out how to encourage participation and promote discussion among employees with varying levels of language proficiency.

It’s important to choose a common language , or “lingua franca,” to establish a means of communication for all team members. But doing so can have drawbacks.

Employees who aren’t as familiar with the common language might be less inclined to speak up in group meetings, while those who are fluent might dominate the conversation.

As a manager, you need to be aware of these imbalances and intervene when necessary. In some cases, you may need to ask native speakers to talk more slowly and dial down the use of slang terms when addressing colleagues. Other situations may require you to call on those who are less fluent during meetings to ensure their voices are heard.

Creating an environment in which all of your employees feel empowered to contribute to discussions can go a long way to improving team communication and coordination.

4. Cultivate Empathy


Empathy is one of the most valuable qualities you can foster among your team. A 2018 study found that 76 percent of CEOs think empathy is important, and it can lead to greater motivation, retention, and productivity in the workplace.

One way to nurture stronger connections between your employees is to allow time for informal chatter before business meetings get underway. Small talk is a powerful means of building trust and can help bring your team closer together.

Through getting to know each other on a deeper level than the scope of your daily tasks, you and your team can form a sense of mutual understanding and surmount some of the obstacles that come with being geographically separated.

Related: Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important in Leadership

5. Be Aware of Cultural Differences


Global teams can be comprised of individuals who come from many different backgrounds, religions, and cultures. When these cultural differences aren’t taken into account, employees can feel ignored, disrespected, and even insulted.

Business communication and social norms vary worldwide. Employees might feel more or less inclined to contribute their ideas and opinions during meetings depending on their culture, as they perceive organizational hierarchy and seniority in different ways.

For example, employees in Japan have a deep respect for seniority, meaning subordinates might be less inclined to speak up to managers, no matter how open they may be to feedback. On the other hand, team members from Scandinavian countries are more open to informal communication and used to having open dialogue with upper management.

Encourage open and inclusive dialogue about cultural differences and business practices. Seek to understand local customs and be cognizant of national holidays and observances so everyone feels seen and respected.

Related: 5 Common Challenges of International Business You Should Consider

6. Use Technology to Your Advantage


To effectively communicate and collaborate with team members across the globe, take advantage of the variety of tools and technologies that are at your disposal.

As more teams become fully remote, organizations are turning to collaboration tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. According to a 2020 survey by Statista, 36 percent of employees in the United States use Zoom when working remotely, followed by 19 percent using Microsoft Teams.

In addition to videoconferencing software, consider using other tools to facilitate project management, messaging, and document collaboration so remote team members can easily communicate and work together despite geographical distance.

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Finding Success at Your Organization

Managing a global team is challenging. By instilling your employees with a sense of shared purpose,promoting open communication and empathy, and leveraging collaborative technology, you can create an atmosphere of trust and respect and help your organization achieve its business objectives.

Are you curious about how economic conditions, government policy, and cross-border flows of goods and capital affect your firm’s competitive position? Explore our four-week online course Global Business and find out how you can assess opportunities, mitigate risk, and create and capture value for your organization.

This post was updated on April 1, 2021. It was originally published on May 16, 2019.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.