Can You Hear Me Now? Connecting Teams Worldwide


Millennials likely remember the various versions of the mobile phone provider that would have an actor walk around asking “Can you hear me now?” but the question takes on new resonance as corporations spread their reach around the globe. Reflecting on class readings, I found an article on Forbes that spoke to some of the larger concerns we face in connecting teams in a globalized world.

Breaking this down into some of the main issues, we first must understand that teams that gather in one location still have issues that may arise even without the added cultural or geographic considerations. Some issues that teams face include managing output while addressing the team abilities to meet and collaborate or coordinate their talents. Sometimes interpersonal challenges or hierarchical concerns also impact the chances of productive output. As much as I hate to say this, tech person that I believe myself to be, many times the tools that we use to get our work done can be a hindrance such as when we have to look for the one special adapter to link up with a projector or other system. Even company and team culture on a local level can have implications toward group success, but failure to address some of these localized issues can lead to even larger issues when expanding the teams across cultures and the globe.

As mentioned in some of the local issues that teams face, technology becomes an even larger factor than before. This can be broken into sub-issues that involve access to technology, reliability of the technology, and aptitude with the technology platforms. There is also the major concern over time shifts/time zones when using a global team and sometimes that creates tensions in getting everyone to meet. Add to this that some countries have non-standardized time measurements, so it can be a greater challenge to ensure everyone meets at the appropriate time. Factoring the social components, global teams require training to address the cultural norms of the team locations, as well as integrating the culture and practices of the organization. The diversity of experience can be a great asset to a large corporation, but without sensitivity to differences, and respectful focus on productive actions, any team, local or global may suffer.

Taking a different perspective, Millennials may have a smoother transition into the global workforce, but not for the reason one might expect. Yes, there are extensive qualifications in diversity among Millennials, but as we move into new stages of world commerce and the job market, people are not as likely to be in the same job for many years. Referred by the moniker of the “Gig Economy,” Millennials may find themselves constantly forming teams, creating outputs, and dissolving teams when the tasks are complete. In a “straight out of central casting” scenario, employers can quickly scan for desirable traits and talents, hire the individuals necessary, and have less costs associated with long-term, open-ended hiring as was once the norm. While this may have some benefits for the bottom line, and Millennials have had to be adaptable in so many other ways, this could cause challenges in maintaining effective working ties and relationships. This is not always the case, but to quote the song, “sometimes you really want to go where everybody knows your name.” Building collaborations and communication, and growing them successfully over time to improve yields requires focus on relationships just as much as the bottom lines.

For my own opinion, I’d like to see a world where what we call difference or culture today could be considered more like a flavor quality than something which can become divisive. By bringing all kinds of perspectives and flavors together creates a richness of experience that is very much needed. Continuing the flavor metaphor, and perhaps cooking, I think there is also something to be said for keeping flavors together and allowing them to interact over time and create even more interesting and complex flavors.

Share your experiences working in the gig economy. How do you think global teams will impact your job future?

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