Companies that have a diverse employee base have a lot to gain from those hires. A mix of cultures and life experiences can help make your business more versatile and competitive, and not to mention, just more interesting. If you hire everyone who fits in the same mold, it can be difficult to “think outside of the box” when challenges arrive, and can leave you stuck, stifling growth and opportunities to “rise to the occasion”. Having a variety of backgrounds on your staff can really help you address issues from many different angles, and that can often lead to better solutions.
With that being said, there are challenges when you have a cross-cultural staff, especially when they are located remotely. Many workers from diverse backgrounds often feel left out, misunderstood, or underappreciated.
It’s crucial to not take your talent for granted, and to ensure your workplace is striving to make every employee feel as if they are a truly valued asset, working towards a unified goal. There are some things that people assume are “no brainers” in what not to say, but actually, cultural faux pas can happen frequently.
Even without malicious intent, management and coworkers can often make work life more difficult for employees across the globe.
So, what are some things to keep in mind when working with Cross Cultural Remote employees?
One of the best things to do is to make sure you try to communicate clearly, every time. Whether it be through email, online chat, or on a video call, there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to avoid colloquial terms, contractions or slang.
Remember that not everyone has the same native language, and learning a new language, especially as an adult, can be really difficult. You can bet in their tutorials and speech lessons, they’re not learning the relaxed version of your language, as much as they are more formal structure and words. Also, keep in mind that even if they do have a great grasp, jokes or casual phrases may not translate well. Intonations across cultures are different, also, and are used to insinuate questions versus statements — if you throw in words that don’t belong, it can really cause confusion!
When written language is involved, make sure to use proper sentence structure, as well, and give time for the reader to process what you are typing. Images are also very supportive to making your point, so include screenshots with arrows to supplement your text. Video calls are important so that you can see each other’s facial expressions, and can use context clues to ensure everyone is understanding the conversation and what is being asked.
Respecting their culture is another huge way in which you can make cross cultural employees feel safe and included.
While we’ve all seen television, cartoons, or even movies that may depict people from other cultures in a negative light (whether seriously or mockingly), it’s important for us to recognize that some of those stereotypes can be hurtful, or just blatantly incorrect. It’s crucial to never make such assumptions about your coworkers. No one wants to feel like the butt of a joke, especially around coworkers. It can lead to people feeling insecure or embarrassed, and that’s no way to treat a team member!
However, one way to make them feel included, is if you recognize a national holiday coming up that may pertain to them, ask them about it. People really love to feel connected when they’re speaking to others about something they value.
Although you may not personally agree with others religious views, keep an open mind if they are willing to share about such a deep part of their culture. The same goes with food they may discuss, or the way they dress. And don’t just make this one-sided — find commonality and share things about yourself, as well. The world is much smaller than we think!
Always make sure to show appreciation for your remote workers, as well. Oftentimes, when you’re away from the main hub of things, it’s very easy to feel invisible and undervalued. Whether you have a remote office of contractors, who may do work the company sees as simple admin or data processing, make sure to make those workers feel valued.
Give them a “shout out” at the next big company meeting for the positive impact they have in keeping your company going. If it’s a smaller team, make sure to give them kudos on the next call (publicly or privately) with something they’re doing well.
An inclusive atmosphere brings down walls and insecurities, and leads to better motivation and productivity. Ask them what they need from you to feel supported and show that support when you can.
It’s important to treat your cross cultural employees just as you would any other employee, but without cultural assumptions. If a slip up happens, and you’ve said or done something awkward, apologize and move on. We’re all learning, and showing you care and value them as a person is really the most compassionate thing you can do.