Cheerful African American man and female colleague standing next to flip chart and presenting business idea during meeting of young creative startup team
ATD Blog

How to Practice Inclusion in Global Teams

Thursday, June 30, 2022

You’ve attracted talented, diverse team members with experience spanning the globe. Don’t stop there. For global teams to thrive, you need to go a step further and foster inclusion.

The rise of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices have increased over the past few decades. Although the beginning of this increased awareness touted diversity, it has become apparent that the value of diversity increases when paired with inclusion.

It is important to acknowledge that DEI efforts are manifested differently across national cultures. For example, the US’s national history has many inequities that exist in its modern work culture and beyond. So, take a moment to consider what inclusion may look like not only in your home country, but with various cultures around the world and how that translates to the workplace.

Here are five tips on how to practice inclusion in global teams to get you started:

1. Be Mindful of Proximity Bias

Proximity bias is an implicit preference for those physically closer to us than those physically farther away. This unconscious bias often has the most implications for global teams distributed across multiple time zones. If you ask a team member to complete a task, pause and ask yourself, “Am I asking this person to complete this task because they’re the best person for the job, or because they’re physically visible to me right now?”

Alter the times of your regular global meetings to ensure the same region does not always bear the brunt of waking up before or staying late after typical work hours.


2. Use Clear, Simple Language

Language and culture are closely connected. When communicating with team members who speak English (or the shared language) as a second language, speak slowly, clearly, and in simple sentences. This prevents misunderstandings and allows the message you’re communicating to be accessible to all regardless of their mother tongue or communication style.

It’s also helpful to send agendas and other materials before meetings so that those who need more time to process the information can do so at their own pace.

3. Diversify Your Visuals

Whether it’s an internal PowerPoint presentation, marketing materials, or anything else that includes an image or graphic, be intentional in how you choose to illustrate your message. Most professional images depict racial diversity through physically “attractive,” thin individuals in western business environments. Be mindful of the employees, customers, or groups of people involved with your organization and how they may or may not be reflected in the visuals you choose.

Here are a few specific red flags to look out for: underrepresented minorities in subordinate positions, culturally inappropriate clothing, and anything that does not accurately illustrate the people you work with on a regular basis.


4. Be Flexible With Different Communication Styles

National cultures tend to assume more direct or indirect communication styles. Those that lean more direct often explicitly communicate their point through concise language without leaving much to the imagination. Individuals that are more indirect typically use non-verbal context cues and more words to deliver the same message. Neither of these communication styles are better or worse than the other, they are just different.

If you are more direct, practice patience with your indirect colleagues. If you are more indirect, keep in mind that your colleagues don’t intend to come across as abrasive. Refrain from assuming that others should adapt to your communication style. Meet others where they are, not where you are. If you find this easier said than done, consider organizing intercultural training for your team.

5. Explore Your Own Cultural Identity

Understanding how to work inclusively in global teams is largely contingent on one’s own sense of self and belonging. Take a moment to consider aspects of your own cultural identity, including your communication style, clothing attire, regard for hierarchy, etc. When was a time that you felt included in your work environment? How about a time you felt like you didn’t belong?

Use these reflections as your guiding lens to approach inclusion towards others. Although every individual has a unique identity and collection of experiences, we can use our own as a tool to approach others from a place of curiosity.

So, consider diversity as a car that cannot move without the engine of inclusion. It is only when we intentionally include those around us that we can not only reach where we want to go, but arrive there through new and innovative routes.

About the Author

Emma Weissburg is a Cross-Cultural Consultant with Cultural Business Consulting where she develops content for and co-facilitates the ATD-accredited Culture Mastery 4C’s Course. This course for coaches and trainers aims to elevate intercultural agility skills when working in multicultural environments. Emma also develops content for intercultural training sessions for multinational corporations. Emma is based on Oahu, Hawaii and works remotely across multiple time zones.

Be the first to comment
Sign In to Post a Comment
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.