10 tips for managing international teams successfully

Managing international teams and knowledge sharing successfully within a corporation is all about creating and sustaining trust

Based on my interest for human resources and international teams I have outlined some recommendations for what companies running international teams can do to facilitate knowledge transfer across corporate silos.

1. Create and sustain trust

As an overall framework you’ll need to make sure that the group and the people or organisations within which an international team operates always has a baseline of trust. Without it everything will come to a standstill sooner or later. Trust doesn’t come easily. You’ll have to continuously cultitave it. It’s amazing how easily it slips away.

2. Connect people
Put strategically important staff (not only managers) in touch with employees in similar functions across the corporate group, not only within one company of its own. Enable people to share their expertise independently of their position in the organisational ladder or functional place.

3. Provide cross-cultural training of international assignments
Provide international assignments with basic knowledge of cultural logics associated with being your own nationality and arriving in a new cultural context.There are heaps of business literature on this matter, not to forget the social anthropologists’ vast richness on this matter. Take a look at my favourite books on Amazon within the genre of international business and cross-cultural communication skills.

4. Develop your organisation
Provide advisory on organisational development to the local management. In order to make the local organisation reach sustainable, organisational output, there are unleashed potential among the local crew that needs to be addressed.

5. Cross-pollinate clever people
Make sure that resourceful people get together across bord it is still possible. The value of knowledge sharing can never be underestimated in an expanding, international company.

6. Move more people around the system

There are valuable key persons in non-managerial positions in subsidiaries. Deal with them, involve them and get them onboard the international track of your company. These people see other things than the majority and are eager on learning. Make sure they are encouraged to do so.

7. Beware of too many Power Point presentations
If you’re from the head office, you may come across to others as more bureaucratic. If you’re lucky to not being associated to that, then take a second look at the way to fire off PowerPoint presentations. Think twice next time you prepare a Power Point presentation containing more than ten slides. Spoken words and less formal ways of transmitting a message tend to work better in a lot of international settings. At least make sure to allow plenty of time for informal socialising in front and after running formal meetings.

8. Hire lots of people with diverse backgrounds
Make sure the the company’s main management looks for candidates with an international profile. Cultural links serve as door openers across the world.

9. Allow time for organisational reflection
Facilitate more space in the agendas and meetings points for sharing ideas, knowledge and practice among key staff at the local office. The staff usually knows more than is used on a daily basis. This may trigger  commitment and willingness to perform better.

10. Expatriates vs short-term assignments?
Consider whether your company should employ a higher degree of staff spending more time permanently in subsidiaries rather than constantly travelling in between. There is research evidence indicating that short-term assignments are more stressed and less content employees in a long term perspective. Investments are definitely in long term perspectives. Make sure your HR strategies are aligned with the investment strategies.

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These recommendations are inspired by my MA dissertation on knowledge transfer in companies. I wrote my dissertation in 2006 as a part of my Máster en Dirección de Recursos Humanos at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.

10 tips for managing international teams successfully