When building a virtual workforce, one of the main things that has to be addressed is the idea that these people will be asked to work closely with one another. Even though they will likely be physically far apart, they must still get along in order to trade and share thoughts and ideas that can move a project forward.
As a manager creating this kind of workforce, cultural awareness is a vital part of the issue. Understanding that and making it work for the company and the team both matter. Here are some of the most valuable issues to consider when it comes to cultural awareness in the virtual workforce.
What Does Cultural Awareness Really Mean, Anyway?
If a manager does not clearly understand cultural awareness, there is little chance of that manager conveying the issue to their virtual workforce correctly. In short, being culturally aware means understanding that different cultures have different values, opinions, belief systems, and ways of expressing themselves.
However, it is also important to understand that, within those cultures, there are people who do not subscribe to what would be considered typical. All of those people, no matter their differences, deserve respect and courtesy, along with an open-mindedness when they provide information and insight in a virtual workplace.
Managers Must Make Sure Their Virtual Workforce is Properly Trained
Training a virtual workforce is about more than just making sure they know the task at hand and can use the provided technology. It is also about making sure they understand that they must be open to unique experiences that may come to them through working with others who are different from themselves.
It is not always easy to be open to the ideas of others, and having a cultural barrier can make that openness even more complicated. But there are many ways to train people to have knowledge and understanding of other people.
Diversity is Key to a Strong and Successful Virtual Workforce
One suggestion has been to reduce diversity, so as to lower the need for cultural awareness. But managers who build a virtual workforce of people who are all similar miss out on the opportunity to understand a project from a number of different angles. When there is diversity, a manager can see how many different types of people would react to the completed product or service that is at the heart of the project.
This can mean making changes that will be very effective when it comes to the long-term success of the created item or the newly offered service. If there is something offensive in the product or service, that would be very important to know. Without a virtual workforce that has cultural differences, problems could be missed and that could be devastating for the company in the future.
Conflict Should Be Handled by Management Swiftly and Fairly
It is expected that there will be problems and conflict in a virtual workforce. But there are many different ways to handle that conflict. It is important to let people resolve their own differences if they can do it respectfully. If they cannot, then it is the job of the manager to step in and make sure the issue is handled quickly. That way the project can continue, and more can be learned about cultural awareness and what is acceptable to the company.
Respect is critical when it comes to a successful virtual workforce team, and without a proper level of cultural awareness that respect could be lacking. Whether that is intentional or unintentional often depends on the employees who have been chosen for the workforce, but adjusting the team if necessary will make it very clear that cultural awareness and respect are required by a manager and a company from everyone on a virtual workforce team.
Seeing More Than One Side of a Situation Brings Greater Success
Having a virtual workforce that is diverse and culturally aware allows for a higher level of success for the company, when done right. This is because a mix of people and cultures means a mix of ideas and thoughts about a project, product, or service. With that in mind, managers who are interested in developing the cultural awareness of their company can start with their workforce - and that includes their virtual workforce, as well.
At the End of the Day, Cultural Awareness Matters to the Virtual Workforce
Staying culturally relevant is important for any business, and the more valuable they can be to a number of different cultures the more long-term success they are likely to have. Managers must be clear on the value of cultural awareness to the virtual workforce, in order to ensure that everyone on a team understands that this awareness is an important part of their job, not just an afterthought.