Our Unique Experience of Operating as a Cross-Cultural Diverse Team
There are a lot of whitepapers and scholarly articles about managing diverse multi culture teams in multinational and multicultural cities. Managing diverse teams has its own benefits and advantages, as well as challenges. Having culturally diverse employees is more fun in software development companies like ours.
In this post, we will share how we manage multi-cultural teams. Although we are considered a relatively small software development company, we have employees who operate from different parts of the world. Namely, there are our employees who work for us in US, Canada, Uzbekistan, UK and UAE. Our main operational office is located in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. All strategic decisions are made in Dubai office in UAE and London office, UK. Our Dubai office has employees from different cultures and backgrounds. Even in our main operational office in Tashkent, you can see people from different backgrounds and from different parts of the country, some of them speak only in one language, which is not the official language in the country.
It is generally considered that cross-cultural and cross national collaborations often fail. Especially when you operate in different time-zones, with different legislation and different understandings of what is good and what is bad. We agree that it is tough to operate business from all parts of the globe. And here is what we do to manage cultural differences:
Making hiring processes transparent and formalized
By this we mean that when hiring people we are looking for some of the essential skills that employees should possess. Those skills include ability to work in teams, ability to work with others from different backgrounds and ability to manage conflicts. We formalized our hiring process so that we hire not only a good person with good skills but also a person who can communicate well and work with others as a team.
By creating a clear specific employee on-boarding scheme
After hiring process is finished, we make sure that employees pass some on-boarding time. Different teams have different on boarding activities. When an employee is hired to a new team, the team leader of that team is responsible for introducing the employee to everyone and making sure that they have everything that they need. The team leader is also responsible for introducing some ground rules of the company, including the dress code, filling out time-sheets and some other ground rules.
On-boarding new employees is essential when you need to deal with hiring a lot. But on culturally diverse teams, on-boarding makes even more sense and it becomes even more essential.
By making the communication more transparent
In our company, we try hard in order to create a friendly working environment for everyone.
However, communication problems and misunderstandings are sometimes unavoidable. When communicating a real message from our customers we try to use simple words. When making presentations to several group of people we prefer to use images to explain our point more clearly.
By making teams more agile and autonomous
Autonomy is a real power to motivate teams with diverse people. We killed 2-3 level approval processes and before doing something, manager should approve it behavior. Instead, we made teams more goal-oriented and independent. When teams are goal oriented, they forget about cultural differences and try to work together to achieve that goal.
By making teams agile we enforced frequent learning culture and iterative/incremental development to achieve our goals. We make sure to try different stuff together until we find out what works for us.
Theses are just the small tips we can offer to diverse companies. We are by no means perfect. We have our own struggles and issues in our company related to people and the company strategy. However, by implementing those small changes, we were able to greatly reduce some conflicts and work better.