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Diverse and Dispersed: Managing in a Global and Mobile Workplace

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Thu Jan 07 2016

Diverse and Dispersed: Managing in a Global and Mobile Workplace
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The world is your office. Sitting at your desk, you can touch a button and be instantly face-to-face with someone across the city, the country, the ocean, or even the world. You are most likely wearing clothes made with textiles from India, China, or Malaysia even though you personally might never have been there. You carry a sophisticated device in your pocket that gives you access to your financial information, your contacts, and your business operations. Your next customer might live in the town next door, or 10 time-zones away on the other side of the globe. The communication revolution that began with the telegraph in 1937 has been eroding the barriers and opening the doors to commerce at a pace that has only increased over the last century.

Opportunities and Challenges of a Global Workforce Living and working in a global economy can be great. There’s no question that we have more goods and services at our fingertips than any culture has had at any time in the history of the world. With just a few clicks we can order anything from food to a car to a luxury cruise around the world, have it delivered to our doorstep, and pay for it without ever touching a piece of currency.

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But all this opportunity is not without challenge. The ability of businesses to grow and compete in a global, mobile marketplace requires ninja management skills. It requires sophisticated technology to present a global storefront to attract customers who speak a variety of languages and trade in myriad currencies. It requires constant innovation to stay ahead of competitors. It requires rigorous financial discipline to balance stable revenue models while taking risks in new lines of business. And it requires an engaged and nimble workforce ready to adapt to change and work well with colleagues they might never see.

Diversity is a hot topic in management today. Studies have shown that diverse teams perform better, are more creative, and make better decisions than teams that are homogeneous. According to a recent survey by McKinsey, companies with more women in their executive team outperform those that are all men. And a recent study by the Center for Talent Innovation found that companies with two-factor diversity are more innovative and grow faster than those that don’t. But the research also shows thatindividuals struggle to relate to people who are different, and that getting the most out of a diverse team requires actively managing the process.

The promise of technology has always been its ability to create connections. While we have not yet perfected the ability to recreate a shared workspace, we have the tools in place to leverage the promise of a diverse and dispersed workforce. It takes active management, and it takes technology. But it offers an unprecedented opportunity to create value on a global scale.

Keys to Success

To manage a global team successfully, remember these three keys:

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Get the tools you need. If you’re a manager, ask for the resources you need including training, coaching, mentoring, and support to develop the skills to manage a diverse and dispersed team.

Get comfortable with technology. Video and collaboration tools are only going to grow more important to your management career. Make sure you stay current and comfortable with emerging tools.

Management is still about relating to people. Managing successfully is still all about individual people. No matter how far apart your team is, make time to get to know everyone, and include time for casual conversations to encourage people to interact.

Moving Forward

As we move into 2016, organizations large and small will need to address the dual challenges of managing a diverse workforce in a world that is becoming easier to reach and yet harder to navigate. What strategies will you use to create a culture where everyone feels valued for their unique abilities? What tools will you find to help you create genuine engagement with your remote coworkers and teams?

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Join me right here on the ATD Management Community of Practice blog for a monthly series on the challenges and opportunities of leading teams, and let’s explore these ideas together!

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