Coordinating with or managing a global team has never been an easy task. However, over the years, with the help of technology— such as the many avenues of video conferencing and collaborative platforms for employees to share information with each other— the process has become more streamlined and easier to manage. However, organisations still have to make sure they follow certain norms to sustain the smooth functioning of geographically-diverse teams.
With the economy becoming more global, teams are increasingly getting distributed across multiple time zones and regions around the world. Organisations have found ways to adapt to this continuous change and to leverage the value of a globally-distributed team, even while minimising the disruption brought about by such time differences.
Sensitivity towards everyone’s time
It is a common practice to have one or more international calls with global team members in a week, to keep everyone up to date. If a team is fortunate enough to be distributed within a region, say, South Asia, it does not have to face much of a time difference. Therefore, it becomes easier to coordinate with colleagues since everyone is just a few hours apart.
However, when offices are located on opposite ends of the globe, such as South East Asia and North America, managing everyone’s time without privileging one time zone over the others, is a sensitivity that companies have developed over the years. This is necessary, because, with such vast differences it may not be possible for every employee to attend every meeting.
In the past, it was the practice to align one’s time with that of the head office’s and manage one’s own accordingly. Organisations have started valuing the time of their junior employees. They have also begun to realise that an overworked employee is definitely not a very productive one. Nowadays, whether it is the head office or a junior team, everyone’s time and the need to attend personal matter is given adequate value by deciding in advance upon a mutually convenient hour. Ashish Anand, CHRO, SAR Group, says, “There was a tendency to align one’s time with the head office’s, but nowadays a sensitivity is being developed in that area.”
Very rarely would I have allowed a gap of more than a year between personal meetings
Consistently staying connected
This is a no-brainer. If an organisation wants a fully coordinated team, weekly meetings are a must. Consistent meetings are vital to foster team cohesion. These meetings can be formal or informal.
Typically, they last about an hour and a half to two hours, to allow for small hiccups —connectivity issues, sharing files or a discussion. Minor issues such as these are tackled by making the meetings longer so as to factor in the time that might be consumed in resolving these issues. Also, not every team member is able to connect at the same time because of the time differences and unavoidable personal work at home or anywhere else where they may be present at the time.
Despite the expansive tools we have today to stay in touch with our colleagues, nothing can beat the value of meeting face-to-face. Rajorshi Ganguly, president and global HR Head, Alkem Laboratories, says, “In the past as well as the present, there have always been occasions to meet up once or twice a year. Either I would go to their country or they would come to India.”
Ganguly mentions that it may be different for companies with large teams, where even an annual meeting may be difficult to schedule. However, he maintains that it is important to have a personal interaction on a periodic basis to foster team spirit and collaboration. “Very rarely would I have allowed a gap of more than a year between personal meetings,” adds Ganguly.
No tool can replace the value of meeting someone face to face. Being physically present is invaluable for renewing personal ties, building trust and sharing experiences, which leads to better bonding among team members.
There was a tendency to align one’s time with the head office’s, but nowadays a sensitivity is being developed in that area
This actually makes sense. In case of globally-dispersed teams, sometimes, team members may have to take a midnight call or a post-midnight call, which may again get stretched. While organisations try and schedule these meetings beforehand, it is not always possible to work according to a rigid time table, because of business emergencies or other work exigencies.
In such cases, a certain flexibility can be offered to the members who are forced to burn the oil way past midnight. Anand explains this practice. “Whenever people have been very regular in attending late-night calls, they are usually given some flexibility in terms of attending office the following day.”
Working with diverse teams often means working asynchronously, but ultimately, getting the work done. Growing teams and bigger time gaps have pushed organisations to develop certain norms and practices that are sensitive. These enable the employees to deliver quality work in collaboration.