7 Tips for Managing Remote International Employees

Managing international employees has become an increasingly important priority for American companies seeking to go global. Whether it’s support staff, local sales representatives or the growing numbers of digital nomads, businesses based in the U.S. are honing their management skills to get the most from their remote work teams.

But how can companies navigate the unique logistics that come with supporting employees located in different countries? What other management techniques come into play and result in desired levels of productivity?

Here’s a look at what’s involved in effective international employee management.

1. Make Ongoing Communications a Top Priority

Just like your in-house team, employees based overseas want to feel they are valued as part of your organization. Thanks to digital technology, the vast distance in miles between your office and theirs no longer presents an obstacle in terms of staying in touch. Ongoing communications and transparency are essential in making these remote workers genuinely feel they are part of the team.

Look into the use of chat apps or virtual office tools as “an easy way for you to send out group announcements or quickly double check that everyone is on the same page, without having to call a meeting or interrupt anyone’s work flow.” Schedule meetings but also call spontaneously from time to time for a friendly check-in.

2. Address Cultural Disparities

International workers may encounter cultural differences with your in-house managers and staff. As part of your due diligence, research how business is regularly conducted in the country where these employees are based. Coordinate discussions that address any cross-cultural factors that may impede business operations and determine the best ways for everyone to work together.

3. Practice Time Zone Etiquette

Working across two or more time zones inevitably entails some logistical planning. As much as possible, practice flexibility when arranging a time to meet. Always determine what the time is where your remote employees are located and do your best to schedule the call during normal working hours for them — even if this involves coming in early or staying late on your part. Your overseas team “will understand that they’ll need to expect meetings at unusual times now and then,” notes 1 Million for Flexibility, “but the more you can do to reduce such instances, the happier everyone will be.”

If others are involved in the call, include a reminder about differing time zones to minimize confusion and help ensure complete participation.

4. Ditch the Impulse to Micromanage

You may feel that managing remote workers down to the last detail will more likely lead to productive results, but generally speaking, that’s not true. If you recruit the best, most talented people for your overseas positions, chances are good they can handle whatever assignment you give them. Though they’ll accept general advice and guidelines, they’d probably prefer to complete tasks in ways that are most appropriate for their own schedule and location.

5. Don’t Skimp on Feedback

As with on-site workers, strive to offer ongoing, constructive feedback to employees who are internationally based. A formal feedback loop can help with this process. When choosing a method — anonymous employee survey, written Q&A’s, etc. — make sure you recognize any cultural differences or incompatibilities that may go along with a particular way of offering feedback.

6. Show Your Appreciation

Employees based in a foreign country are no less concerned with how you perceive their work than employees down the hall from your office. That’s why it is up to you or their manager to express appreciation for the work they do, whenever possible.

“Remote engagement may take extra time and effort,” notes Entrepreneur, but “it can be as simple as an email of thanks or sharing success with a broader global team.” Offering your appreciation helps strengthen bonds between the home office and the remote team and is a powerful motivator to achieve even greater objectives.

7. Meet Your Remote Workers in Person

It may not always be practical, but there’s no substitute for traveling to the country (or countries) where your remote employees are based and meeting them in person. (It might also be a good opportunity to meet with clients located in those areas, as well.)

As European CEO notes, there’s no better way for “establishing strong rapport and implementing clear reporting [that] will help you communicate more effectively, and work more efficiently, when in different time zones.”

Be Sensitive and Respectful

In many respects, global business has done away with traditional concepts of borders and nationality. Still, employers need to be respectful of how cultures differ and be mindful of specific issues international employees may encounter. Sensitivity and flexibility are the best tools for addressing these concerns and help pave the way to greater cooperation and maximum productivity.

Lee Polevoi
Lee Polevoi
Lee Polevoi is a veteran freelance business writer specializing in exploring the opportunities and challenges facing small businesses in the U.S. today. A former senior writer for Vistage International (a global membership organization of CEOs), Lee regularly produces articles, white papers, blog posts and more for the diverse small business audience.

See all posts by Lee Polevoi
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