As businesses expand across geographical borders, embracing a diverse and inclusive global team isn’t merely the right thing to do, it’s an active strategic advantage.

While a global team poses certain challenges for creating an inclusive culture, overcoming these obstacles is key to harnessing the improved business performance that comes from different cultural perspectives and diverse workforces.

Being aware of some of the key considerations when building competitive global teams is vital to channelling their full potential and overcoming limiting biases.

Recognise the global landscape

Before building your strategy of diversity and inclusion, it’s important to take stock of your global teams. Who they are, where they work, their differing attitudes towards communication, hierarchy and interdepartmental relationships, as well as technical considerations such as time zones and cultural holidays.

One of the greatest strengths of global teams is the wealth of local perspectives and knowledge they possess, but tapping into this requires taking the time to understand those cultural nuances and differences by creating an inclusive environment that recognises difference while ensuring each team feels part of the larger company.

All these things assist in building a larger picture of how your global teams fit together, informing a strategy of inclusion by helping you to recognise and mitigate potential pain points around these considerations, while also fostering a greater sense of understanding and cooperation between your teams.

Embrace communication styles

The best ideas come from outside the echo chamber, and this means embracing varying perspectives and ways of communicating.

Many business-critical operations rely on effective communication, and in global teams, this can be more of a challenge due to the difference in communication style from country to country as well as individual to individual. Many cultures embrace very direct and explicit forms of communication, while others take an indirect approach that might rely more heavily on tone of voice and non-verbal cues such as body language to convey their meaning.

Understanding these differing styles of communication between diverse teams, whether direct, indirect or somewhere in between, and accounting for them through patience and understanding can go a long way in avoiding miscommunications. Similarly, using clear, concise language, and steering clear of non-verbal cues that may be culturally relative, enables diverse teams to better communicate on an even playing field.

Avoid proximity bias

Proximity bias manifests as a preference for those closer to us over those farther away. In dynamic business landscapes that rely on efficiency in decision-making, it’s understandable that our brains naturally revert to those who are closer and so more familiar, but this cognitive bias towards proximity can have long-term negative impacts when it comes to creating an inclusive culture.

In global teams, this can be particularly damaging, resulting in those in different time zones or parts of the world becoming an after-thought for inclusion in key projects, meetings or even opportunities for advancement within an organisation. More deeply, it can even manifest in the unconscious belief that those not physically present with us are somehow less invested in the success of the team.

Recognising this as a potential issue is crucial for building a strategy that mitigates the effects of proximity bias. An increased awareness around asking the person who is the best fit for a task over one who is simply physically closer, organising meetings and calls at times that do not place an undue burden on those from particular time zones, and promoting a culture of excellence from anywhere are all aspects of weeding out proximity bias, and harnessing the full potential of international teams.

Recruit with purpose

All too often, inclusivity and diversity become a quota-filling or box-ticking exercises. The core benefits of global teams are lost on a company if the make-up of those teams fails to truly represent talent from various cultures, backgrounds and with varying perspectives.

When looking to tap into a diverse pool of talent, be mindful of job descriptions that contain unconscious biases, or recruitment channels that fail to leverage talent from wider demographics.

Recruiting the best talent from a diverse range of candidates is key to building a competitive and innovative global organisation, rather than simply a business with international offices. By tapping into the diversity present within a particular international market when hiring, businesses are better placed to navigate those new markets armed with local knowledge that enables them to better spot new opportunities for growth.

Final thoughts

Companies that are able to build a truly global culture do so by placing diversity at the centre of their operations, and this comes from effective leadership. A willingness to examine and recognise bias, adopt inclusive ways of working and an openness to different cultural perspectives enables international teams to truly thrive, harnessing the power of diverse teams to better tailor business services to different parts of the world, and stay on the cutting edge of international markets.

Richard Mavers
Richard Mavers
CEO and Founder at xDNA Group | + posts

Co-founder of leading international digital services group, xDNA, Richard is a business leader with over 18 years experience in managing multinational brands and businesses. xDNA Group, now based across three continents, is a leading hub for modern entrepreneurialism, helping brands grow through people-first digital solutions.