Technology Tools to Help Manage Global Teams

By: Nicole Gaskell

It doesn’t matter how much startup capital your business has — anyone can use the Internet to go global. But as nice as it is to add different countries of business to your website, expanding your operations to different countries presents communication and efficiency challenges, due to everything from time zone differences to cultural and language barriers. Technology tools save the day by streamlining global dealings.

Can you repeat that?

When managing a global team, language barriers can influence how your business is run. It can sometimes be difficult to find employees who speak several languages fluently, so if you have offices in the U.S., Germany and Japan, everyone needs an easy way to communicate.

If your business has minimal translation needs and is on a budget, try an online translator tool to break the barrier. These tools aren’t 100 percent correct all the time, but they do offer enough information for you to read and understand what is in an email or on a website. A great free tool to use is Google Translate.

Your business can also integrate language training into your benefits program. Rosetta Stone is one of the top language-learning programs available and is used by a myriad of schools, governments and businesses.

Appreciate Time Zones

It’s difficult for teams to empathize with all of the different time zones various employees work in. An employee in New York may email or call an employee in Dubai at 4:30 p.m. New York time, which seems great because the business day is ending. In Dubai, it’s 12:30 a.m. There are online tools that make it easy to see what time it is in every time zone around the world. The World Time Zone website allows you to see what time it is anywhere in the world, all by opening up their homepage. It’s a map of the world that shows the present time where you are, and shows relative times in all zones around the world. You can even customize the page based on which country you’re in or want to see. There’s even a call planner.

Online Presentations

It’s impossible to get everyone from your global team in the same room physically, though tech tools can allow everyone’s smiling faces to still see each other. GoToWebinar offers an online platform to present PowerPoint presentations, or simply to share your screen. You can have a meeting date/time scheduled with a unique link to share. Attendees are emailed the link, and can register using as much or as little information as you’d like. During the webinar, you can choose to show your whole screen, or just the presentation/program you’d like your audience to see. You can opt to use the call-in information provided by GoToWebinar, or you can use your own calling service and number.

The best part about GoToWebinar is that it’s simple to use for attendees. They have the option of adding a calendar reminder, and will also receive one via email. Simply click the personalized link, and the webinar launches.

Online Communication

In a global company, there needs to be easy way for team members to keep in touch with each other throughout the day, as well as for team members to keep in touch with their around-the-world customers. Live Chat is customer support software from Live Person that allows immediate communication and direction for employees and customers all over the world. You can chat via instant message, voice call or video call.

If you’re looking for a quick conversation online, Skype is also an excellent tool for making international calls, with basic voice calling, as well as video calls. You can stay logged in as long as you’d like with your own unique ID, and it offers the option to update your status, as well as instant message others in your network.

Communication tools such as these require webcams and microphones to make video calls. Most new laptop computers come with webcams and microphones built in. Otherwise, they may be purchased at retail stores.

Gamification

Your manager in Spain isn’t going to be able to hop on a plane for the team bowling outing, but creating a tight-knit culture is key to business success. A 2013 Gallup study found employee engagement increases when they feel valued by a company, and team-building events aid this. Manage a global team that acts as a single, effective, close-knit community. You don’t want employees who are away from corporate headquarters to feel neglected or left out. Make it fun, and build a corporate mindset that is exciting and competitive, and that involves everyone, by integrating gamification elements into your processes.

A great example gamification is the site FoldIt. FoldIt is an online puzzle building and solving community. You can track your own score and compete with others who are solving the same “puzzle.” The kicker with this site is that not only are you competing against teammates, you’re also assisting scientific research.

Nike+ is another example of a game/application that is competitive and fun. While it’s not business-focused, it allows people to set personal goals, track activities, challenge friends, and share success stories. It also has a real team focus and positive vibe to it. Encourage your team to sign up as a group, and use it to send affirming messages to each other.

What tips do you have for managing a global team?

Nicole  is a freelancer and blogger who loves all things outdoors and martial arts related. She has a passion for writing and learning about all subjects and recently turned a hobby for martial arts and helping others into what is now her own self-defense business.


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