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With remote work, the door to hiring from anywhere in the world has been opened. With this new revelation comes a new challenge. As we all know, communication is the glue that keeps a team together, but how do you ensure your team is communicating effectively across time zones and
cultural barriers?

A more culturally diverse workforce is our new reality and it has many advantages. Increased creativity, better understanding, and more respect for cultural differences are among them. However, since remote hiring and remote working is becoming a preferred traditional way of conducting business, engineering teams are scattered nationally and globally. This brings to the forefront a new challenge: effective communication within multicultural teams.

The Importance of a Culturally Diverse Workforce

A workforce that comprises individuals from different cultures and backgrounds adds a competitive edge to any business. Take any high-ranking global company and you will find that more often than not, they employ workers from around the world. This isn’t by accident. They for long have realized that the language of profitability is universal.

In fact, Gartner confirmed diversity and inclusion builds high performing teams and drives financial targets stating, “Through 2022, 75% of organizations with frontline decision-making teams reflecting a diverse and inclusive culture will exceed their financial targets.”

We know that engineering teams with a varied cultural base bring formerly untapped creativity and code variance ideas to the team. How team leaders provide an environment to thrive in those and other areas requires a concentrated effort to improve communication. Engineering team leaders can tear down many communication barriers when they implement some proven strategies.

Be Willing to Test New Methods

One way of doing something may have worked in the past, but this is a new day. Therefore, seek different perspectives from engineering team members on improving current processes including how the team completes projects. Next, be open to trying out several types of methods and back-up your team’s ideas. You can convince individual team members to get on board to test a suggestion by gathering accurate data from credible sources. Keep in mind, team members will want to give their opinions if they know their workplace culture is receptive to hearing what they have to say.

Conduct an Internal Communications Audit

Change starts at the top. Organizations should review internal communications policies. As an engineering team leader, it’s helpful for you to know that your company has an outspoken stance on a diverse corporate culture and that its values are reflected in its mission statement. It gives you a starting point plus an added incentive to enhance communication within your team.

Address Language Barriers that Hinder Trust and Accountability

Since they hail from all parts of the world, your remote-based engineering team members will likely speak a second language, such as English, to communicate with other members of the team. Understanding the nuances of learning a new language may be frustrating for some. The unfortunate side effect of not using a common language among members is that it creates misunderstandings and a lack of trust. Miscommunication also affects being able to follow through on goals and ultimately the success rate of deliverables. To counter this, put in place language mandates. Use a singular corporate language to ensure that everyone speaks the same language when communicating with each other.

Make Efforts to Understand Cross-Cultural Non-Verbal Communication

What is acceptable in one culture may not be acceptable in another. Take making eye contact, for instance. In Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern cultures, it’s considered disrespectful to make eye contact with a superordinate. By contrast, in America, making eye contact conveys confidence and shows attentiveness. The “okay” hand gesture is another example of how body language perception differs by culture. North American culture uses it to signal approval, but it means the opposite in South America.

Engineering teams may not encounter body language usage as much in a remote environment; however, at corporate events where team members meet face-to-face, an improper interpretation of body language may be unsettling. The solution to improving communication in culturally diverse teams is educating them on these differences.

Your Talent Pool Starts with Remote Hiring

Before you can improve communication in a multicultural engineering team, you have to build one. Codility can help you hire the most talented engineers from a comprehensive talent pool of diverse candidates from all over the world. Our platform gives you total control over assessing qualified candidates because we realize that manual resume sifting is time-consuming and exhausting. Removing unconscious bias and running a fair hiring process based on accuracy and accessibility is the start to building a diverse engineering team.

Rachel Whitehead is VP Marketing at Codility.

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