How To Keep Virtual Multinational Teams Engaged

How to keep virtual team members around the world engaged is “a hot thought” in the heads of many leaders.

Global DISC™ multinational virtual teams working internationally
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Several months ago, the whole world turned upside down and without any warning many employees became virtual team leaders, virtual colleagues and team-mates. At the beginning, people were happy to avoid traffic jams and the morning rush. Suddenly, they had more time to enjoy their coffee and their families.

However, one month later companies and their leaders started to face real challenges as engagement went down and people felt disconnected and tired. The question “How to keep virtual team members engaged?” became “a hot thought” in the heads of many team leaders.

As an intercultural consultant supporting multinational teams all over the world for more than 15 years, I would recommend the following strategies:

1 – Give Employees A Sense Of Closeness

Never forget to devote a few minutes to small talk and encourage virtual multinational team members to share their latest news. As they come from different cultures, do not push them to talk about topics which may feel inappropriate in their culture. Just give them the freedom and encourage them to choose their favorite topics to build a tie with their team.

2 – Foster Closer Relationships In A Team

To compensate the lack of face-to-face interactions, it’s always helpful to arrange casual hangouts or offer time slots for private talks.

As a virtual leader, schedule unofficial meetings for the whole team to build trust and to get to know each other better. Initiatives such as “Let’s have a cup of coffee together!” or “Choose some pictures to introduce your culture!” always provide great opportunities to open up a more private communication.

There are thousands of free articles with the recommendations on activities and questions for virtual leaders. However, many of them do not take into account cultural differences and how to respect values and attitudes of colleagues coming from different cultural backgrounds.

Here are 20 questions that leaders of virtual multinational teams can ask to encourage respect and mutual understanding across cultures:

  1. Can you share 3 words to describe your culture for our team?
  2. What places would you recommend to visit in your country (region)? Team members could be asked to design a slide with photos and share it quickly with their team.
  3. What is your favorite dish?
  4. Where is the last place in your country you went on vacation?
  5. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
  6. What is a favorite proverb in your culture?
  7. What stereotypes are spread about your culture?
  8. What is difficult for you working in a multicultural team?
  9. If I was going to visit your country, what advice would you give me?
  10. What countries would you like to visit?
  11. What have you accomplished in the last year that you are proud of?
  12. What do you do in your free time with your friends/family?
  13. What invention is your country well known for?
  14. What historical period of your country would you like to live in and why?
  15. What tradition in your country would you describe to understand your culture?
  16. What challenges does your country face these days?
  17. What values should a leader in your culture have?
  18. Tell us 2 truths and 1 lie about your country?
  19. What gifts do people bring when they visit their friends and colleagues in your country?
  20. What topics are not recommended to talk about having a small talk with colleagues or business partners in your culture?

3 – Make Sure Employees Feel Heard And Respected

Every team member should have a guaranteed space to share their thoughts and insights. Communication styles vary across cultures and online communication tools sometimes sharpen cross-cultural differences. Team members from direct cultures do not need a special invitation to deliver their opinions. However, those from indirect cultures often wait to be encouraged and invited to provide their comments.

Waiting for an employee to speak up may be too late. In fact, many of them will never decide to raise a problem themselves.

4 – Match Assignments With Talents And Strengths Of Your Virtual Team Members

If people feel trust and support from their leaders, they are more engaged and passionate to finish their assignments and go the extra mile. Leaders who know the talents and strengths of their team members contribute to their personal development and increase their virtual team’s performance.

5 – Set Clear And Measurable Goals For Virtual Team Members

When team members work from home and try to motivate themselves to achieve goals, having a clear idea of what to do and how, is the clue for their engagement and performance. Virtual leaders should be aware of their communication strategies and be crystal clear about responsibilities, assignments and deadlines.

6 – Be A Leader Who Shows Recognition And Appreciation

In general, employees often miss being appreciated and recognized. Companies and leaders often take care of failures and hot issues. Once everything is going well, they neglect opportunities to show their recognition and appreciation. A simple and short “Thank you!” email works wonders and distributes a lot of positive energy to do our best.

Key Takeaways

  • In virtual multinational teams, the team leader has special responsibilities.
  • To compensate the lack of face-to-face interactions, it’s always helpful to arrange casual hangouts or offer time slots for private talks.
  • Every team member should have a guaranteed space to share their thoughts and insights.
  • If people feel trust and support from their leaders, they are more engaged and passionate to finish their assignments and go the extra mile.
  • Set clear and measurable goals for virtual team members
  • A simple and short “Thank you!” email works wonders and distributes a lot of positive energy to do our best.
Eva Gaborikova

Eva Gaborikova

Eva has been a cross-cultural consultant and ICF certified coach for more than 15 years, supporting leaders, managers, multicultural teams and expat families. Working with international companies, teams and different cultures, she inspires her clients to look for practical strategies how to turn cross-cultural challenges and differences into their benefits. In 2016 and 2018 she was awarded “GREAT Award” in New York in competition with trainers, coaches and consultants from USA, Europe and Asia.

Countries: Austria, Germany, United States, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland

Languages: English, Slovak

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