Assembling a team is always challenging and multicultural teams have their own specifics and complexities. Finding the right fit is hard when you need to pay attention to all aspects. For example, a future team member needs to have the necessary education and experience as well as empathy and enthusiasm. Apart from the universal qualities, I also search for a sign that the person of interest is going to be suitable for that specific team. Similar to the chemistry when you have a relationship – I seek that magical substance that makes teamwork great together.
Doing this is hard enough but a pandemic makes building and keeping that team happy and motivated even harder. The ground rule to meet and greet all new people during their first week is in these circumstances often impossible. It is also hard to organise team buildings and make sure that people know each other outside of their work.
Below are some approaches that are proven useful when it comes to managing a multicultural team and it also reflects humanitarian crises. They are universal for both new teams or already established ones.
Resolve language and cultural barriers
Language and cultural differences are the first issues that a multicultural team encounters. We all immediately pay attention to how a new person looks. Or what their accent is and what is the way somebody lives, eats and celebrates. Besides, English language courses for the employees can improve both their communication and their confidence. In other cases, team members can have good language skills but they might be just a little dusty and all they need is a little practice.
The cultural barriers, though, are the more complicated ones.
A simple thing like providing feedback to other members of the multicultural team can be potentially jeopardised. This is because in some cultures feedback is never given because of gender, age or some other characteristics. Such issues are resolved with open communication.
Setting up the right expectations when it comes to team dynamics and way of working is important. But a team leader also needs to be sensitive and aware of any possible multicultural problems.
Keep the environment healthy
If there are no language or cultural problems with the free communication and feedback, we need to ensure that the work environment is kept free, honest and healthy. While working from home the line that separates work life from personal life easily disappears. We need to provide conditions so everybody has their fair amount of rest and nobody works crazy hours.
Otherwise, that can really hurt both the employee and the whole team resulting in frustrated and tired people. And as it sometimes happens, a team member can spend a weekend working on a task only to find out that it is completely wrong conceptually and requires rewriting (true story!).
Reflect everyone’s time zones and current situation
To organise a work-life balance within a multicultural team is sometimes problematic with normal circumstances. Nevertheless, it becomes a challenge when we have homeschooling for children and when the whole family is working from a small home.
The case is similar when it comes to daily meetings, grooming sessions, review meetings or simple calls between team members. Then, the team leader needs to ensure that the employees are attending within their comfortable working hours, in a required environment and with the needed set-up.
Observe situations of segregation within the team and try to resolve them
According to https://earthweb.com/,
4.7 million people were already working at home before the pandemic. That number has increased by 159% during the pandemic. For those who enjoy working remotely, this is a dream work arrangement.
But some people can feel isolated and lonely, and that can affect their mental health. It is often hard to spot such tendencies but regular 1-on-1 meetings and some out-of-work gatherings can be useful for bonding and for making a person part of the team.
Trust your multicultural team
Last but not least, micromanaging and constantly checking everybody from the team can lead to frustration and it is not healthy for the team leader either! To give responsibilities and to delegate ownership is sometimes hard but can prove to be rewarding and useful in the future. To be transparent with your team with constructive feedback, honest opinion and admitting mistakes avoids speculation and gives an easy to follow example.
We all want to work in a synergetic work environment, where teammates share the workload. We also all wish for a healthy work environment without misunderstandings and lack of communication. It is true that the pandemic got all of us out of our comfort zone one way or another. However, many companies proved that working distantly and in multicultural teams can be a mission possible. Whenever we manage to take the right measurements and keep the quality of the work, teams can be both productive and happy!
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