Learning & Development

How to Build a Collaborative and Interconnected Global Workforce

Building and sustaining collaborative, interconnected teams is challenging, especially when managing a distributed global workforce.

Before the pandemic disrupted people’s personal and professional lives, employee engagement and well-being were on a 10-year upswing, but that trend was upended. A 2022 Gallup survey found that just 32% of employees are engaged at work. Instead, employees resonate with phrases like “living for the weekend,” “watching the clock tick,” and “work is just a paycheck.”

At the same time, remote or distributed dreams may feel disconnected from on-site peers. Understandably, leading from a distance is difficult. Many leaders wonder if their geographically distributed workers are productive and want to know how to help them stay focused, engaged, and motivated to share responsibility for success.

Here are four ways leaders can build a collaborative and interconnected global workforce:

1. Understand Your Employees’ Work

As a leader, it’s essential to understand your employees’ work to provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed.

Employees expect a leader who understands their day-to-day responsibilities, is attuned to what support and resources are needed, and helps empower staff with resources and guidance to get the job done. By understanding the team’s workflow and focus on current issues, leaders are best positioned to collaborate, identify, and solve problems in collaboration with their teams.

This helps leaders improve morale and productivity and identify potential issues or challenges employees may face. In addition, understanding employees’ work can help leaders better identify benchmark achievements, allowing them to celebrate success regularly.

According to a 2022 Gallup survey, companies that prioritize employee recognition have workers who are 56% less likely to look for a new job and 73% less likely to feel burned out at work. But incredibly, 81% of leaders say recognition “isn’t a major strategic priority for their company.”

Understanding employees’ work is the first step to reversing this trend while creating opportunities to provide constructive feedback and acknowledgment to help them grow and develop in their roles.

2. Manage Results and Outcomes with Consistent Meetings

As a leader, you should see yourself as a performance coach rather than an activity enforcer.

The difference is subtle but profound. Leaders who see themselves as coaches will mentor employees by listening, asking questions, and providing valuable feedback. This is best achieved through regular and consistent individual and team meetings that review accomplishments and identify challenges.

This can be uniquely complex in a remote or hybrid work environment, where management may give more time and attention to on-site employees and not provide remote employees with the same caliber of recognition.

Leaders need to be intentional about breaking this cycle and commit to managing results and outcomes with consistent meetings and connections with all employees.

This type of structure and consistency provides predictability and allows leaders to be present and approachable.

3. Empower People to Take Ownership and Accountability

Strong collaboration often emerges when people are appropriately involved in conversations that affect their work and take more ownership and accountability. This increased ownership begins with leaders finding ways to bring their people into important conversations.

By involving others in the decision-making process and being clear on how decisions are to be made (e.g., consensus or gathering input as a group, with the leader deciding), leaders help employees gain deeper insights into the business, increase buy-in and teamwork, and ultimately instill ownership.

4. Create Space for Meaningful Connections

Distributed teams value the freedom and flexibility of remote work, but they can often feel isolated and disconnected from their coworkers.

To help combat this trend, leaders need to create space for meaningful connections.

Simply put, leaders must facilitate opportunities for employees to connect on a personal, human, and social level. Realize that connections with remote colleagues primarily happen in virtual meetings, so leave space for connection and socialization in these meetings to help build and sustain the team.

If your budget and culture allow, you may also consider opportunities throughout the year to occasionally get together in person for strategy and social events. These times can be especially valuable for teambuilding, learning and development, and connection.

Consistency Is Key

Change is constant when leading distributed teams. However, if you’re seeking to enact a major process or cultural change, expect results to take up to 6 months.

We often forget that accepting the change in anything—our relationships, process, and work—is often more emotional or adaptive than technical changes on paper.

The finish line may never fully emerge, but keep striving and consistently work to create an empowered distributed team in which people can say, “I love working here, I love our approach, I love the service we bring to clients, I feel I belong, I feel supported by my team and manager, and I am engaged.”

Chris Williams serves as the Chief Operating Officer for Interaction Associates (IA). His background includes more than 10 years in the professional services space in business operations, recruiting, business development, and complex research roles. Prior work includes strategy consulting for Fortune 500 clients. IA is best known for introducing the concept and practice of group facilitation to the business world in the early 1970s. For over 50 years, IA has provided thousands of leaders and teams with practical, simple, and effective programs, tools, and techniques for leading, meeting, and working better across functions, viewpoints, and geographies. Learn more by visiting https://www.interactionassociates.com/, and connect with Williams on LinkedIn.

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