5 ways to engage employees across cultures

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Connecting employees in the U.S. with their European or Asian counterparts is easier than you might think. Try a few of these tactics.

By Carla Roberts Pruitt | Posted: February 14, 2015

Many executives are eager to tap into the global market.

However, as companies expand worldwide, managers face many challenges. Different time zones, languages and cultural differences can test any organization’s dynamics.

Managers’ biggest challenge is determining how to engage employees so each person feels like an important part of the team. This can be tricky, especially if you have employees on different continents.

Here are five tips for managers trying to unite international employees:

1. Educate employees about cultural norms and customs. The way you address a colleague in Europe may be different from the way you would address a colleague in Asia. Some gestures are offensive in certain countries, but normal in others. Make sure your employees understand the disparate cultural norms that span the organization.

2. Use technology to make an international team feel connected. Use video conferencing and interoffice feeds (e.g., Skype or Google Hangouts) to encourage employee interaction. Also encourage employees to pick up the phone once a week to connect. Don’t let them rely on emails to communicate with each other. As the leader, set the example.

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3. Treat your employees equally, regardless of their nationalities. Enough said.

4. Allow employees to visit corporate offices around the globe when possible. This is a great incentive and reward for hard work. Plus, it helps employees on different continents to explore different cultural norms and customs.

5. Allow for cultural nuances. While staying true to the overall corporate culture, allow your foreign teams to make adaptations so the culture is inclusive of their customs, as well. Recognize important holidays or traditions when possible.

Also challenge your employees to learn as much as they can about the various cultures that exist across your global team. Encourage them to ask their colleagues questions. Maybe even challenge them to learn to relevant languages. The more interaction you facilitate, the more everyone will engage and feel part of the team.

This article was originally published on O.C. Tanner’s ‘a’ Magazine blog. 

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