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Introduction In the technology mediated age we live in, the workplace has long superseded the traditional boundaries of buildings and further, geographical ones of countries. Today’s workplace is no longer defined by mortar, stone, internet connection and sitting allowances in the name of offices. It spans beyond that. The productivity of any organization that hopes to be in the top 100 in its industry or country is judged by how well the organization can utilize the 24 hour clock to deliver its expected objectives. Time zones are no longer an impediment to productivity. Technology has allowed humanity to work, literally across time and space. This coalition of workforces in different geographic locations is what is known as a Global Team, the primary subject of this paper. Management of a global workforce can be interesting, challenging, frightening but surprisingly rewarding. This paper aims to explore the communication between global teams as they have become of age in today’s organizations’. Currently, it is rare to find organizations that are not geographically spread. From tertiary education institutions (Universities) to profit based organizations, it is economically feasible to have branches at different locales for the purpose of reaching more clientele and diversifying the services an organization can offer. It is common to hear a certain service of an organization being offered at a specific branch. Universities in Kenya have employed this sort of approach with the likes of Kenyatta University having their law students in one of its constituent campuses and those studying medicine in yet another campus. It is thus essential for any geographically spread organization to knowing how to initiate, motivate and substantiate communication between its teams that may sometimes may be formed of people from different cultures (countries). Definition of Terms Global Communication- the term used to describe ways to share, connect, relate and mobilize across political, geographic, economic, cultural and social divides. Global Team- A team comprised of members that are scattered across the globe. The ‘team’ is composed of smaller teams, each in its own country or geographical region. Virtual Team-A term used synonymously with global team. Culture- Patterns of environmental stimuli, physical cues, and implicit (or explicit) factors used to convey understanding between people in a geographical area. IM-Instant Messaging, is the use of technology, through various social platforms, to send real-time text messages. 1.2 Global Teams Overview Culture and experiences are some of the factors that affect effective communication. Organizations however, especially those having global teams as part of their organization set-up, largely ignore this critical bit of information (Smith, 2014). Global teams are traditionally composed of people who come from different countries, hence cultures. Due to this fact, these peoples (teams) have unique experiences that as said, determine their understanding of any bit of communication. These differences are commonly seen cultural communications styles, and their frames of reference. A good instance of a cultural difference in global teams may be that numerous U.S. non-exempt employees spend about 50 or more hours per week, working. A typical work day for them is not eight hours, but spans up to 10-or 12-hours per day. This is because in the U.S. working remotely, (from home or whichever place) is considered part of the job (Smith, 2014). Compare that scenario to a non-exempt worker in Kenya, or France, or Germany who probably will not work a minute over eight hours in a day. Furthermore, the people in the said countries normally turn off any work related communication when they leave the office. This, among other instances show the variations and difficulty in running a global team, without even considering their communication. Furthermore, as per Brewer (2015), these cultural differences will trickle down to their communication and work against it. Hence, leading to failure of any project being undertaken by a global team. At the end of this paper, the difference in cultures, work ethic and practices and their impact on communication, should be ascertained. Moreover, this paper aims to establish the challenges in communication of a global workforce or team, the communication structures in global teams and how a global leader motivates a team that works and lives in a variety of countries. 2.0 Technologies used by global teams to communicate A) Video Conferencing Tools A video conference is a live, visual connection between two or more people residing in separate locations for the purpose of communication (Bozon, 2016). There are a variety of video conferencing tools or software available for use by global teams. The most effective however, is Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is a chat-based video conferencing and interaction tool which enables global teams to have virtual meetings, with the members being spread across the globe. On this platform, when an open meeting begins, the technology notifies all the team members and lets them know who is live (participating).
A project leader in London, for instance, can join a meeting of members in Kenya, South Africa, etc. This technology also allows all members to leave video and audio of the meeting live on their notebook or desktop computer in case anything relevant pops up and their contribution is needed. Users of Microsoft Teams normally feel as if they’re in ‘one place’, as per Bozon (2016). Other teleconferencing tools worth using are; Zoom, which amongst other features, allows user to share a common ‘whiteboard’ that allows them to share notes and illustrate whatever they wish to. In addition is GoMeeting and Slack.
B) Document Sharing Tools Documents are an essential part to any team’s communication, after all, they are non-verbal communication. Hence it follows that global teams should have means of sharing documents as it may be a requirement that the teams work on a single document or members of the different global teams collaborate to create a document. The most used document sharing tool currently is Dropbox, which not only allows simultaneous access to different persons across the globe but also tracks the changes made to the document. This makes it easier for the teams or individuals to know the progress of a document and who accessed or updated it last. In addition is Google Drive, which is largely understated and used. Google drive remains the most feasible option, for teams hoping to work completely online as its tools allow for both document creation and sharing across multiple individuals (Hewett, 2010).
C) Instant Messaging Tools IM tools have become a normal part of our daily lives, with their use in global teams being scaled down to use in social groups. The most used IM tool today is WhatsApp, owned by Facebook. WhatsApp allows members from different parts of the globe, with different phone numbers, to join a group. Hence a team member in Kenya can always instantaneously communicate with all other members globally. In addition to its text based function, WhatsApp has features that allow group members to share multi-media content. This also covers documents. Hence it acts as an all in one IM tool, for groups with need for quick and frequent exchanges/communication.
D) Interpreters Commonly bundled as part of video conferencing tools, these are software that translate text and audio from one language to another.
Hence a global team in China or whichever part of the globe can communicate to a team in Kenya, using their native language but the Kenyan team gets their communication in English. Interpreters have served the purpose of bridging the divide caused by language barriers as Schiefelbein (2010) argues. In addition to this, they eliminate the need for team members to learn a certain language in order to interact with other global team members. Interpreters are commonly seen in international conferences where delegates and presidents from different nations speak their native languages, but their recipient, equipped with a set of headphones, hears the message in their language of choice. 3.0 Communication Challenges faced by Global Teams There are a myriad of challenges faced by global teams in their efforts to interact in any way. Be it verbally, non-verbally and even in sending and receiving of messages or other forms of correspondence. Outlined, are some of the challenges faced;
A) Differences in techno-advancement
The different teams collaborating in an effort to achieve an objective usually span across the globe, from developed to developing to under-developed countries. This poses a challenge with regards to technologies available in the different countries. While developed countries may have the latest in technology with regards to computers, smartphones and networks, the developing and undeveloped states may struggle in that criteria. For instance, countries like the U.S. and Britain have affordable 5G network speeds, in fact in such countries, video calls are a norm due to the speed, reliability and affordability of their networks.
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