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When you’re figuring out how to manage international teams, you’ll find that having access to the right tech tools takes on a new level of importance. For example, consider the difference between collaborating with local co-workers and international ones. When your co-workers are right across the desk or down the hall, you can work on projects together in person — even using analog tools like whiteboards or notebooks in some cases. When your co-workers live thousands of miles away, you need effective international collaboration technology.
Collaboration technologies for international teams take on many forms and are aimed at helping with various business processes. Some other vital tools are specifically designed for HR departments and management to oversee and direct processes across the organization. We’ll discuss some of the best types of technology you should implement so you can streamline and improve the way you manage your team and help them connect across the globe.
1. Video conferencing software
Video calls have been around for some time, but the rise in remote work has taken this technology from novel to essential. A survey from April 2020 found that businesses were increasing their spending on web conferencing software more than any other software solutions. Even before video conferencing really took off amidst the global pandemic, 62 percent of executives in 2017 agreed that video conferencing was a significant improvement over audio conferencing when it came to the quality of communication.
It’s no wonder companies have been gravitating toward video conferencing in place of audio-conferencing calls. Consider all the visual cues you gain when you’re speaking with people face-to-face versus over the phone. Video conferencing makes it easier to know who is speaking at all times and to recognize when a person is about to speak so you avoid unintentional interruptions. You can also read people’s faces to gain more insight into their intentions and thoughts. These visual cues can be especially helpful in cross-cultural communications, where misunderstandings occur more easily.
Free applications abound for individuals to make video calls to friends and family, but professional video conferencing software is designed with businesses in mind so many participants can join the call. These programs also include helpful features like screen-sharing and whiteboarding — where one or more users can mark up a blank screen just like they would a physical whiteboard — to aid in presentations and collaboration.
2. Project management platform
Managing projects and schedules is usually a difficult enough task, even for small businesses with local employees. But for global companies, it can be especially challenging. The right project management platform can make it easier, though. Project management software can help your team keep track of both day-to-day tasks and larger goals. For international companies, the right project management platform can help you connect your whole team in one place.
All platforms should help you set deadlines, create schedules, and assign tasks. Some programs will also come with other features, like project templates, file sharing, and communication tools. Typically, the home base on a project management platform is the dashboard where you can get a quick overview of projects that are in progress. Employees should have their own personalized dashboards or to-do lists where they can manage their own tasks.
Many project management platforms are out there to choose from. Some may be better suited to your industry or allow the customization you need to tailor the platform for your needs. Business News Daily recommends taking the following factors into account when choosing the best project management program for your team:
- Your organization’s current size
- The scalability of a program, in case you grow
- Project management challenges you want your software to solve or improve
- A program’s user-friendliness
The right program can boost your global team’s productivity and help ensure that no project ever falls through the cracks. It is vital for organizations to keep updating the tools they use and learn about what’s out there, especially when remote work has become the new player in the game.
3. File storage and sharing services
No matter what industry you’re in, you likely create, consult, exchange, and store files regularly. In years gone by, many businesses relied on local storage for organizing their files. If you wanted to share a file, you probably just emailed it, or maybe you accessed it through a shared folder and an ethernet connection. You may have also relied on printed documents stored in filing cabinets. These methods of file storage and sharing have become outmoded as cloud-based solutions have become increasingly popular.
Today, half of all corporate data worldwide is stored in the cloud. For international companies, cloud storage is more than just convenient — it’s necessary so all employees can easily access the files they need. With the cloud model, the cloud provider stores your data on remote servers and allows you to access the data online, either through an application on your device or through your web browser. In other words, employees all over the world can access shared folders and files as long as they have the right credentials and an internet connection.
Many services are on the market today for file storing, syncing, and sharing. You may be familiar with some free options, but these solutions limit the number of gigabytes (GB) you can store for free, typically in the range of 5-15 GB. Companies that need a more robust storage solution can choose paid versions from these well-known providers or sign up with other providers that may be better suited to your needs.
4. Document collaboration tool
The ability to share and access files is key, but for many teams, just sharing finished products isn’t enough. You may also need to collaborate during the creation of documents, whether it’s an article for your company blog, a slideshow presentation for an upcoming meeting with a client, or a spreadsheet containing quarterly sales data. In years past, you would have had to take turns working on a document, emailing new versions or feedback back and forth until it was complete — a messy and inefficient process.
Today, the cloud has solved this problem, and you can take advantage of that solution by using a document collaboration tool that suits your team. All these tools should allow multiple employees to access a document as it’s in progress to make changes within the document or offer feedback in the form of comments or suggested edits . Users should be able to review the history of revisions so they can restore older versions if needed or understand what changes were made and by whom.
Some file-sharing services also include online editing tools, but this is not a standard feature for all services. And, when it is included, it may be insufficient for your needs. You should consider using online collaboration tools, either free or paid, when you need to create and edit documents in a group. Research shows that collaborative work boosts individuals’ engagement and performance.Therefore, companies should find ways to facilitate this synergistic dynamic between employees, even if one person is primarily responsible for a project.
5. Instant messaging app
Even when you want to communicate with colleagues in the same building, you’re likely to shoot them a note online rather than walk over to their office or call them on the phone. When you need to communicate with international colleagues, written communication is even more essential. Email has long been the default for written communication in business settings, but that has been changing in recent years. Instant messaging apps have gained traction within many companies since they can facilitate more direct and immediate communication than email.
If you aren’t currently using an instant messaging app and want to try something besides email, consider integrating one of these apps into your daily business communications. Harvard Business Review recommends choosing an app that most of your employees are already familiar with using so they’ll be more likely to adopt it in the workplace. Since different messaging apps are popular in different parts of the world, this may mean choosing an app that your international employees are familiar with, even if it’s new to you.
Instant messaging apps are valued for the way they foster instant back-and-forth communication, but they may not always function this way when used among international colleagues. Especially when you’re working in very different time zones, a co-worker may not see your message right away when you send it. Some apps will let you know when someone is online, so you know whether the individual will see your instant message or whether an email to be read later would make more sense.
6. Online learning management software
The learning and development industry is worth more than $370 billion worldwide, demonstrating the important roles that training and upskilling play for companies across the world. In addition to offering new employees training to initiate them into their new roles, many companies also offer ongoing learning opportunities to help employees refine their skills or even build new skill sets to meet new challenges and demands.
International companies may have even more reason to focus on employee training since hiring in new markets may mean taking on employees with different educational backgrounds. Training can be an effective means for ensuring all your employees have the knowledge bases and skill sets they need to succeed. Companies can deliver training in various ways, including both in-person and online options.
Online learning, also called e-learning, has begun to supplant in-person instructor-led training, which used to be more common. LinkedIn’s most recent Workplace Learning Report shows a significant shift away from in-person learning in favor of more online learning, even just within the last year. For global and remote teams, online learning options typically make the most sense. Online learning management software can allow you to share videos, articles, and more, and test employees’ learning through quizzes and exercises. They also allow employees to work independently at their own pace.
7. Global expansion platform
Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) can help HR departments keep track of and automate many HR functions, but these programs aren’t necessarily designed for international businesses that handle more HR complexities. For example, you can’t place international employees on the same payroll as your domestic employees. Your international employees may also be legally entitled to different benefits. Fortunately, you can still streamline many human resources management (HRM) functions when you use a global expansion platform like GoGlobal from Globalization Partners.
Our end-to-end technology platform provides access to all the tools you need for managing a global workforce on one convenient dashboard. Manage HR functions right from the platform, including:
- Onboarding: From your employees’ first day with your company, Globalization Partners’ innovative solution makes it easy to start with legally compliant employment contracts and other onboarding procedures.
- Payroll: Your international employees are placed on our locally compliant payroll, but you can still approve payroll, add bonuses, or make changes when needed.
- Benefits: Administer benefits plans that comply with local laws and norms for any country where you hire employees.
- Time and expense: You can easily view and approve time and expense requests from all your employees in one place.
With any HR technology, security is key. Globalization Partners keeps employees’ data secure by allowing you to deploy role-based security measures so only authorized personnel can access data.
When you enlist the expertise of our global EOR, you can connect with experts through the Help Center and learn more about international markets so you can plan new expansions.
Equip yourself with the right tools and the right EOR
Working in international teams comes with some unique rewards, as well as some unique challenges. That’s why you need the right tech tools at your disposal to unite your team and aid your productivity. In addition to the right tools for international teams, you also need the right partnership to help you employ top talent across the globe.
Working with an EOR is an ideal solution for hiring and managing international workers since it allows you to skip or delay establishing your own subsidiaries in countries where you’re hiring. It also saves you from having to understand all the local employment and business laws. An EOR streamlines the process of managing your international team.
Globalization Partners is an EOR you can trust to handle HR, legal, and finance functions for your international employees and to help you plan and execute international expansions successfully across the globe. If you want to learn more about types of EORs, choosing the right EOR, and the significance of this decision, download our free eBook, “The Guide to Choosing an Employer of Record Model.”