Lost in translation? How collaboration tools are bringing global teams together
by Laura Hanrahan
When your team stretches across the world, strategic use of collaboration and communication tools can overcome different time zones, cultures and language barriers. Here are three ways that can help you get more work done.
Today’s globalized world means companies span time zones, cultures and languages. This presents a huge challenge for organizations that want to enable people to work together on projects wherever they work.
‘McKinsey quote a $2.8 trillion GDP increase of global digital data flows in 10 years’
According to McKinsey, international trade and finance ‘flows’ have flattened or declined since 2008. But globalization is still growing by way of digital flows. In its recent report on Digital globalization: The new era of global flows, McKinsey quote a $2.8 trillion GDP increase of global digital data flows in only 10 years. That represents a larger impact than cross-border goods trade.
Collaboration tools for business are a key solution to keep people communicating across borders and working on business goals together. But those platforms need certain key tools to enable people to continue the conversation and overcome geographic barriers.
Tackling time zones
The first hurdle to cross-border collaboration is time zones. Not only are your team players likely to have different schedules to work around, they’re also going to be on entirely different working days. Worst case scenarios can offer a very small window when everyone is available.
People are happy to check status updates or instant messages out of hours – but they still consider emails as ‘work’
To handle this hurdle, you can set up certain hours in which everyone should be available into your collaboration space. You can also take advantage of the fact that many collaboration tools for business allow you to go mobile as well. Many workers are happy to check communications like status updates and instant messages on their phones out of hours. But they still consider emails or working on shared documents as office work.
Whichever approach you use, it pays to be mindful of each team member’s time zone. Set up your team’s group so that you can represent all time zones. This will help make sure team members aren’t making each other uncomfortable by reaching out at the wrong time with the wrong message.
Speaking everyone’s language
Language barriers can stop collaboration between offices in different countries. The last thing you want is for your team to end up divided along language lines. If team members are conducting “private” conversations on public channels in languages that not everyone understands, then you’re losing the collaboration battle.
If team members are conducting conversations in languages not everyone understands – you’re losing the collaboration battle
Using a collaboration tool like Workplace that incorporates an auto-translation facility can help employees to keep communicating. You can also help everyone to engage by assigning specific languages to work and project groups. You could also rotate the language every month so everyone has the opportunity to use their native tongue.
Know your audience
As the leader of a global team, it’s important to use communication channels strategically and know how to send the right message at the right time. For example, sometimes the most effective way to deliver information is face-to-face.
Real-time video calling in group chats is one way of overcoming the obvious time and space issues traditional tools struggle with. It can help you deliver the important messages when you need to and encourage other team members to do the same.
You also have to be aware of cultural differences – some people will check their emails first thing in the morning, others last thing before they leave and others will answer throughout the day. Establish check-in times for everyone so they know when the team might need them or flag important communications with a group status update.
Without the right collaboration tools to connect global teams, companies will fail to reap the benefits of an international presence
In a digital world, even small businesses can become micro-multinationals. But without the right collaboration tools to connect global teams, companies will fail to reap the benefits of an international presence.