As tech companies and businesses of all kinds do more business in an increasingly global context, new demands are placed on these companies. The logistical demands of scaling a product for global use can be immense, and require the focus of dozens of experts from across the globe. From the need to staff a new branch overseas or the need for technical employees who can effectively communicate in a non-English language, today’s competitive global marketplace is presenting a series of challenges and opportunities to companies operating today.
Companies expanding in international markets are using a great deal of international talent, but so are companies in need of specific technical skillsets. There is a talent gap in tech, and with 65% of tech leaders agreeing that “hiring challenges are hurting the industry,” many companies are finding the talent they need in contracted and internationally contracted employees. Even companies that do most of their business in the US may find that their preferred expert consultant lives in Canada, Cancun or China.
No matter the reason that your company employs international expertise, managing these employees is just as important as managing your in-house employees. It can be an adjustment to have a team member or even a boss who lives half-way around the world, but making the right adjustments will ensure that everyone can be productive and collaborate effectively.
Team Building with Contract / International Talent
Increasingly, the teams assigned to specific projects or specific sections of projects, are built on a per-project basis. Even if this isn’t the case for your company, the idea of managing and orienting people who haven’t worked together before is valuable for managing teams with members working across the globe.
From the very beginning, any employee who works with international talent should understand that they need to collaborate with their tele-commuting co-worker as effectively as possible. There will be logistics to work out (time difference, language difference, etc.), and you should ask all employees to keep you updated on the state of communications.
- Always emphasize that contract/international employees are part of the team and that you want to know about potential improvements that could be made to the way work is done or delivered.
- Never commit to a schedule or system that doesn’t work for your in-house employees or your contract employees.
- Always emphasize teamwork and collaboration between your in-house and contract/international employees.
- Always tell contract and internal employees that you want to hear their concerns.
Collaboration and Complication
If colleagues on the East and West coasts of the US can have trouble coordinating, you can bet that larger time and distance differences will pose a challenge for teams with contract/international contract members.
It is very possible to facilitate effective collaboration and communication between an internal team and external/international team members. That being said, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the workflow that is best for your team, will be based on the specific conditions that team is under.
Here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself, your in-house employees and your contractor/international talent:
Where are different team members located?
- Where are your external team members located? In what time zones?
- How many of them share the same time-zone?
- Is there any overlap with your internal team’s normal business hours?
- If not, when is the closest overlapping time for your internal team’s normal business hours?
- Would regular, “live” meetings (skype, screen share, etc.) be too strenuous or disruptive for the team or contractors?
How is the team communicating?
- Which channels are team members using to communicate?
- Are these channels effective for the work being done?
- Are there language differences between internal and external employees?
- In the event of an emergency, how will your team reach their external members? How will your contractors reach your internal employees?
- What does your internal team say is the biggest obstacle to communicating?
- What do your contract/international employees say is the biggest obstacle to communicating?
How is the team collaborating?
- Are deadlines on track to being met?
- Where are the major workflow bottlenecks?
- Which team members (internal or external) are holding up the process?
- Which collaboration tools are being used?
- What standards have been established for work that is ready to be passed on to other team members or otherwise submitted?
- What does your internal team say is the biggest obstacle to collaborating?
- What do your contract/international employees say is the biggest obstacle to collaborating?
The most important success factor in creating a unified workflow, is communication. The best solution is one that works for all parties involved, and this is always discovered on a case-by-case basis. There will be some give and take, and solid communication practices are required to get the most from these teams. However, once the optimal workflow has been established, your contract/international employees can be just as helpful to your in-house employees, as if they were there in the building.
Managing and Nurturing Relationships with International Talent
They may be a consultant, but you want them to be your consultant.
Just because an employee has never set foot in your office doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing highly valuable work for your company. You want to secure the loyalty or at least the favor of the contract/international talent that you employ, so make sure to make them feel supported as possible as they interact with the internal team and work for your company.
Build Rapport- Building rapport with contract employees will make you one of their favorite clients, and will make them more likely to work for you in the future.
Address Concerns- Whenever a contract employee reaches out with concerns about their work, work arrangements or co-workers, make sure to begin a dialogue as soon as possible.
Support their Work- You should provide contractors with all the resources they need to do the most effective work possible. Whether this is access to tech tools or other company resources, supporting the work of contractors will make that work of a higher quality
No matter where your contract/international employees call home, they need to be managed and supported as surely as any other employee. Failing to work towards an optimal workflow will result in dysfunctional collaboration, or no collaboration at all. Find out what works best for your internal employees and contractors, on the other hand, and you will have a productive, unified team to tackle your company’s upcoming projects.