This week, part 3 of my series on remote employees.
Does this differ for workers outside the US?
The differences between inside-the-US & outside-the-US team members include (in decreasing order of owner/manager/employee pain & suffering): Culture and values, enterprise experience, time zones, environment, infrastructure, payment & language.
Culture & values – Not everyone thinks like a U.S.-based employee/owner. Start by remembering that and keep remembering it. You’re used to what you’re used to. Others are just as used to their experience and how their work habits were formed.
Remember when asking for help was considered a sign of weakness? It remains that way among some groups because the pace of change differs among groups, and likewise among cultures. Every country’s culture has its range of work habits, inclination to ask for help, communication styles, etc. If you find yourself frustrated, ask questions that allow new people to unwrap what happened. Cultural learning is difficult to change. Differences in cultural norms should be expected. Both parties need to take steps to help everyone understand one another.
Company cultures and values work the same way. There are things that your company does your way – your culture and values. You should expect employees to take those seriously, regardless of their upbringing, culture, etc. Sometimes this takes training, mentors, etc. Someone who has never experienced a culture like yours will need help (and time) to them learn your culture and values. You may hire someone who is used to being browbeaten over deadlines, or they may have never worked under a deadline. No matter what their experience has been in the past, your experience is probably different. It will take time for your culture and values to become their new normal. Trust takes time and it goes both ways.
Enterprise experience – Enterprise experience is about more than buildings full of servers or time working at large multi-national companies. It’s about having a mindset that goes beyond the current project. It’s about having the ability to look around corners (and knowing that’s important), seeing the big picture, understanding inter-departmental needs, and communicating effectively with others whether they’re C-level execs, your team’s family members, prospects on the trade show floor, or high school kids on a field trip. Enterprise experience can mean more than that, but it starts with mindset, the big picture, and communication.
Time zones – When your employee is eight time zones east of you, you might start your day at 3:00 pm in their day. While this might provide a bunch of work to review, there’s little left of their day. Some will work their business day, some will work yours. Figure out if what works best for you & for your team. Having them work your hours may tempt them to take a job in their time zone, then work your job once the other job’s time is done. You need to ask that question as you don’t want your work to be their second job.
Environment – Not everyone lives in a pleasant, treed cul-de-sac, or on five quiet acres on the edge of town. I’ve had remote team members tell me that their apartment building was hit by gunfire – and they kept working. Culture & experience teach you to know when it’s time to take cover, leave, etc.
Infrastructure – People in some countries lose power far more often than U.S. folks are generally accustomed to. This is not something your remote worker can control, other than by moving to another country. The good news is that a laptop combined with a UPS can easily fuel a full day’s work.
Payment – Five years ago, this was much harder. Paypal, TransferWise, Upwork simplified the process, plus traditional methods are still available. Some countries are still a bit of a challenge but for the most part, this barrier has all but evaporated.
Language – Most people I’ve met from “non-English-speaking countries” speak English fairly well. This has been my experience with both solo consultants and employees of large companies outside the U.S.
One more thing about remote folks. Visit them occasionally. It won’t be cheap or easy & it will occasionally frustrate. Most of the negatives come from getting there, not from being there. When you visit, you’ll learn far more about them, their motivations & how they work than you’d ever learn in a video meeting or a phone call.