Since the turn of the 20th century, the US has assumed and maintained dominance in the global economy. Yet in the decades since, many other countries have caught up.
America was once practically the sole provider of highly-skilled labor. Now, major developed economies worldwide match or surpass our turnout of skilled and educated workers.
This has threatened the American worker with stiff competition. But that has proven beneficial to our employers. We remain a world leader and are among the most attractive places for high-potential students to finish their education and develop their careers.
Through an immigration attorney’s services, American employers can deftly navigate the myriad rules and reporting requirements of hiring non-citizens. However, now that most of us have experienced remote work, those frontiers have expanded, and the challenges have become more complex.
If you’re planning to run an international team virtually in the long term, how can you maximize the potential of that global talent?
Far-flung operational problems
Although many companies in the past decade were already exploring remote working arrangements, they never gained mainstream acceptance until the pandemic. Enforced adoption on a wide scale has now given more employers a crash course in managing remote teams.
The challenges of remote work go beyond issues related to compliance or tax requirements. People who used to meet in person each day and grew accustomed to informal interactions now have to deal with the discomfort of communicating purely through digital channels.
Collaboration becomes more asynchronous and disjointed. A portion of the message inevitably becomes lost, whether through misinterpretation of an email or chat post or truncated body language and nonverbal cues in a video call. Absent face-to-face interaction, people can feel a strain on their mental health or worry about stalled career development.
With your team members spread across time zones or geographical regions, these effects are amplified. Cultural differences make navigating the challenge even trickier.
The rise of remote work indeed gives us the chance to draw upon a vast pool of smart and skilled international workers. But that upside is accompanied by its share of problems related to increasing complexity.
A need for effective leadership
Ultimately, when any organization becomes highly complex, it can struggle to achieve results. There are too many moving parts. Actors behave in unpredictable ways. Best practices fail to apply in many situations.
This challenge is fundamentally one of leadership. It’s a leader’s job to get everybody on the same page and more or less working smoothly together in service of the shared goal.
When the pandemic forced teams into the virtual realm, many leaders failed to recognize that the rules of the game changed, and so did the tools. They hoped for a relatively quick return to normal and saw remote work as a stopgap measure.
After a year of dealing with Covid-19, it’s clear that remote work isn’t going anywhere. By failing to take the initiative and adapt quickly, leaders have put their people at a disadvantage, which could’ve been avoided or managed sooner.
The danger is that many organizations will make the same mistake on a global frontier. Moving forward, employers will explore the international workforce and compete to bring foreign talent on board virtual teams. Without addressing the need for effective leadership, they risk failing to manage that talent and achieve desired outcomes.
Fortunately, there has been enough research done into the nature of global, virtual teams to identify not only the importance of leadership but what’s required to lead well.
Transformational leadership is the key to giving virtual teams that sense of ‘being there together.’ Leaders of this sort place particular emphasis on being role models, inspiring their people, treating them with individualized consideration, and providing intellectual stimulation.
A transformational leader has historically been valuable to organizations during change when a new vision is needed. Transactional, ‘as-is’ managers are only good at moving teams along existing tracks. Being a transformer means laying down new tracks and guiding people in that direction.
Such leaders must be charismatic. While that may be partly an innate quality, it ties into a greater need for idealized influence. By holding yourself to a high standard of moral and ethical conduct, you create trust and respect and make people emulate you. This, in turn, leads to the real goal of a transformational leader: self-efficacy.
As remote work becomes established, organizations will continue to expand outwards. They will take on more complexity, not less. Imparting self-efficacy to your people, dispersed worldwide, will empower them to function as desired, tackle greater responsibilities, and diffuse that transformation to others.