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International collaboration in the modern workplace

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Creating, cultivating, and maintaining a collaborative culture across global teams is vital for international businesses who want to succeed. In doing this well, businesses gain new perspectives to better be able to innovate and grow. 

With the new normal and future of work where working from home is now encouraged, it makes it easier to hire across different regions and then work to really foster an environment of collaboration. This is not without its challenges however, and businesses are being judged on how equipped they are for international collaboration. 

Having the right tools from communication technology to diverse and well educated leaders can help create a positive attitude to international collaboration, and more importantly? Actually make it work. 

Timing is everything

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When collaborating internationally it is really important businesses are respectful of time zone boundaries - timing is everything. Companies need to understand people all work in different regions and work different hours

Try as much as possible not to schedule meetings in other regions outside of normal working hours. Look at new and improved approaches when it comes to meetings to ensure they are as productive and time efficient as possible.

Google Calendar, for instance, allows you to choose time zones across the globe, helping make planning easier.  Embed the differences into the organisation's culture, so it becomes second nature, people will be automatically mindful of designated time zones and hours of work.

From a cultural perspective, build in inclusive approaches to key times of the day, such as All Hands Meetings and any central communications.  Schedule them when all regions will be online and working. 

Covid has allowed people to embrace the virtual world of work, so leverage internal platforms as well as creating virtual office spaces in the metaverse. This allows organisations to enable teams to strategise and give progress updates at different times of the day. 

Are we really inclusive?

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Remote working has been embraced ten-fold within the past two years, and according to YouGov half of British workers (50%) are still working from home at least some of the time, up from 37% before the pandemic. This can lead to a feeling of isolation and a lack of connectivity. To avoid this happening it is important organisations are as inclusive as possible.

Break down stereotypes in order to communicate better together and improve emotional intelligence. Learn best practice etiquette in order to do better business and negotiations with counterparts. 

It is important to have processes and policies in place like Global Mobility so people can experience what life is like in other regions. Incorporate in-depth training which explores diversity such as unconscious bias training - we all have one! Doing this will make a positive difference to employee experience, retention and overall happiness of team members.

Being a global business means a diverse workforce. Take proactive steps to promote diversity through initiatives that minimise culture barriers such as having diverse interview panels during the recruitment process. And have values which focus on common principles rather than differences because in that way a team has a common focus and goal - everyone is working in the same direction.

Live your values

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It's important organisations live and breath their values, and are reflective and celebratory of the differences every employee has. There is no set amount of values a company should have, but what is most important is the values being at the core of everything you do. Have values that resonate with the end goal.  

Your values should be at the forefront of every decision you make and everything you do to make sure everyone in the business is aligned. This affects how you are seen by end users too. Accenture Strategy found 62% of people's purchasing decisions are influenced by a company’s ethical values and authenticity. Being authentic in your values, really does matter.

Encourage debate and inclusivity where new ideas and discussions are consistently welcome - no matter how small, unique, ambitious or dramatic they are. 

Having this attitude can lead to a shift in the way teams work and encourages employees to challenge their peers and key stakeholders. Plus it has led to product innovation, improved communication across the business and more efficient processes.

Let’s get to know each other

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Getting to know each other properly is always more difficult when you haven’t met in person. It is inevitably harder to build report and meaningful relationships with someone you have only met virtually. 

Start with something as simple as turning your camera on in order to see facial expressions and body language, helping people understand each other better. And when you can? Plan annual trips with the team so they can meet in person. Try using your weekly global calls to simply play a game together and create a space where it is safe to discuss things that may be more personal. 

There is a lot to be said in being precise, this is something that is often overlooked. Misunderstandings happen from improper communication. It is important to understand that there are cultural differences and where you may use particular language or abbreviations in one country, this may not necessarily translate to another country. 

Therefore using universal language and clarifying that your counterpart understands what you are talking about is going to be key to effective communication. 

Altogether now

When done right, international collaboration can be key to the success and development of your people. By expanding their skill sets from learning from other cultures, you give your employees a chance to learn something new, where they otherwise may not have had the opportunity to. You’ll get the chance to learn about, and respect other people’s cultures which is integral to the global world we live in. 

We get to learn successes, failures, pain points, properties of our global counterparts and make things better. Gaining perspective is key to understanding people and improves your own emotional intelligence and empathy - a key success factor in building meaningful relationships and communication - wherever we are in the world.

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By Aziz Alsaeed co-founder and COO at social learning company Noon

Header image by David Riley

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