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Our most used communication and collaboration apps have little understanding of today’s multilingual, multicultural, multinational businesses. They don’t reflect the nature of the modern workforce or the nature of globalization.

Internationalism in software is equated with localization, end of story. So what can we do about it?

Reaching a Worldwide Workforce

Forrester predicts nearly half  the US workforce will be working remotely by 2016. Meanwhile, Ernst and Young is reporting that cross-border migration has spiked 42 percent in the past decade, demonstrating the workforce is more distributed than ever due to globalization. While IT departments continue to improve their support of the business’ collaboration needs, the workforce itself is evolving at twice the speed.

We need a new class of enterprise applications to address these changes. One-size-fits-all tools do not and will not suffice as the workforce becomes more diverse each and every day. Colleagues now speak multiple languages, operate within different business cultures and have generational gaps that are larger than ever. But our tools typically mimic the cultural and collaboration traits of company headquarters at the cost of outcasting offices and remote employees across the globe.

Whether it’s email or Intranets or social business apps, CIO’s have a daunting new task in front of them: they need to deliver technology that’s built to spec for an ever-changing workforce that operates in multiple languages, within entirely different business cultures, and have generational gaps that are larger than ever before.

Why bother?

Recycle solutions that work: In many multinational corporations each region is largely isolated from the others. More often than not, they invest time and money to find solutions for problems that have already been solved elsewhere in the company. Effective cross-border communication will reveal opportunities to recycle solutions and expertise.

Bring in the A-Team: Using a unified collaboration platform across all regions will enable each regional office to draw not just on the expertise of the brightest minds within that region, but the brightest minds in the corporation globally. Furthermore, providing a place for these brightest minds to exchange ideas can lead to a whole new level of synergy.

Activate hidden talent: Some employees might simply never get the opportunity to chime in on discussions or be asked their opinion to start with. If you are a global company, chances are that you are not utilizing the full potential of your own staff who have much more to offer than their resumes reveal to you.

Engage and Motivate: While inclusion and cultural awareness are critical to engaging employees, knowledge workers still struggle to be productive when they lack context. They need to know how their work feeds into the larger organizational strategy and goals, or else they lack the necessary motivational factors to do their best work.

A successful collaboration strategy requires context sharing in order to align the goals of your teams. Put simply: your teams in Russia need to understand how their work connects with the contributions from the team in Brazil. This doesn't just reduce confusion, it increases motivation and engagement across your company.

Here are the three ways to make sure your collaboration tools are ready to be taken global.

1. Know Thy Cultural Melting Pot

As your company grows globally, it’s impossible to deliver technology that is perfectly tailored to each culture involved. But most CIO’s don’t give this bucket enough attention, if any at all, when developing their collaboration strategy and deploying new applications.

Certain cultures have great deference for their superiors and leaders, whereas other cultures encourage people from any level of the organization to voice opinions. Japanese businesses are traditionally more hierarchically organized and authority driven than, say, Scandinavian countries.

So in a Japanese company, the idea of a new hire being able to weigh in on a post by the CEO could terrify a more conservative management. Conversely many Japanese employees would find it difficult to post any highly opinionated content without first touching base with their peers and superiors to make sure everyone feels comfortable with their contribution.