Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The globalization of business has established a mature, complicated and competitive environment. In order to take leadership positions, companies have to constantly launch new products and services. Prioritizing a multicultural company and diversity goes a long way towards developing new ideas.
The trend towards digitalization of various aspects of life has been observed for a relatively long time. It began long before the pandemic, but of course the pandemic accelerated it several times.
The labor market is no exception here. Not only are professions rapidly emerging or being reborn, but entire industries are also: video production, data analytics, digital marketing. In our company, we unite specialists from all continents. In order to meet the market demand (no matter which country), it is necessary to take into account the timeliness of entering a particular market and its specifics.
Here are five tips on how to manage a multicultural team and create a friendly and innovative community where multiple voices bring new ideas, services and products, and encourage out-of-the-box thinking.
1. Learn to deal with a difference in mentality
Working with representatives from all continents and many cultures without exception, I can say for sure that you always need to keep one thought in your head: People who grew up in a different environment are very likely to be different. The main thing is not to forget about it when you are in a routine or on fire, or when you have been working side by side for several months.
- Work-life balance. Different parts of the world have their own attitudes towards the fundamental components of life: family, religion, work. For example, it is important for people in South East Asia to spend a lot of time with their family. They’re likely to prioritize communication with God and attending church. People in Russia, on the other hand, often work for 10-12 hours, sometimes on weekends. We take this feature into account and always set reasonable deadlines for completing tasks so that they can maintain the work-life balance they value.
- Subordination. Another difference between West and Asian cultures is subordination and feedback. In the West, it has long been considered the norm to openly express one’s opinion on work issues, propose improvements or changes in current processes and argue reasonably with the manager. In Asian culture, this is still rather an exception.
- Character traits. Politeness is the strong point of people in South East Asia; they’re generally less inclined to say “no” outright. When we made test calls to the Philippine market trying to sell our product, several people who sounded very interested in our course asked smart questions and moved towards closing the deal. At some point, they asked to send them instructions on how to pay for the course by email. I was quite encouraged that they agreed so easily, right after the first call. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out that this was a polite way to end the conversation and not a real desire to buy from us.
- Criticism. In American culture, any idea or proposal has the potential to be disputed — even when it comes to interactions with clients. Those working out of South East Asia are generally more loyal and affable. It’s harder for me to imagine them arguing with a client.
- Attitudes towards time. People from different cultures have very different attitudes towards the category of time. When working with Spanish partners, it took time to get used not only to siesta and fiesta, but also to the fact that the time before and after them also often becomes “half-working,” and simpler tasks might take a bit longer. But thanks to them, we have reconsidered our attitude towards rest, and now we also allow ourselves short breaks, after which we work more efficiently.
2. Avoid misunderstandings
In order to get things done the right way, make sure employees understand the task. When you give a task to a team, focus on main points. It’s crucial to explain clearly what result you are expecting, including deadlines. Feel free to ask the employee to repeat how he or she understood the task, and ask how you can help him or her complete it.
3. Encourage creativity
Create a space where each team member at different levels can voice his or her message and be heard. It could be Basecamp, Notion or a simple Google doc, where everyone can share their ideas. Write these ideas down, test them and tweak them so people feel their opinions are valued. But don’t forget about execution. Any idea needs a detailed implementation plan, with all responsible people and deadlines. Otherwise, the brilliant concept will remain on paper.
4. Search for a local guru
To understand how sales, marketing and creatives work in another country, consult with local specialists. We look for them on LinkedIn using the LinkedIn helper. This gives an opportunity to quickly get people relevant to us on this platform. In our experience, to get a comprehensive picture of the market, you need to talk to at least five C-level specialists.
For example, we asked the head of sales in Asia for consultation. Thanks to the expert, I realized that the structure of the department is always two-tier: qualifiers and team leaders who close deals. The main task of sales managers is to create an emotional connection with a potential client and solve his or her pain. I also learned that people with no sales experience but with technical education could be hired as a sales manager in this region.
5. Hire the best experts
When hiring specialists, we always ask for recommendations from their past jobs: how are they with deadlines, how stress-resistant and creative they are — the questions depend on the position.
We never hire a person without recommendations from the last two employers. Moreover, we do not contact those whom he or she indicated in the СV, but find former leaders ourselves and write to them. There have been cases when a candidate indicated his friends as a contact person.
Hire not just great specialists, but the world’s best experts in your industry. If this is a service, then contact the guys from Four Seasons; if it’s product design, keep in touch with Apple. People often hesistate because they think the best is too expensive, but this is your business, and your investment will pay off.
Working with a multicultural team provides a tremendous value and competitive advantage for a business. This opens up many opportunities to look at the product from different angles, find creative solutions and think more broadly. By taking these five tips into account, you can manage your resources well and scale up business.