Managing a Global Workforce Requires New Skills

As associations more often have employees operating in locations around the world, the skills required to manage that workforce are changing. Modern expectations, technology, and time zones must be tackled in new era.

As globalization and technology make it possible for associations to have employees in several countries, it also changes the way leaders must manage their workforce. Willis Turner, CAE, CEO of Sales and Marketing Executives International, Inc., said this new reality requires a shift in both management style and use of technology.

“There are some considerations that are really shaping the future of workspace,” said Turner, who will speak about the global workforce at the ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition next week.

One of the factors affecting the global workplace is its new workers. Millennials have different ideas about how they want to work. “They are not looking for a lifetime position,” Turner said. “They are looking for meaningful work and are very interested in mission-driven organizations.”

This puts associations in good position. “Most nonprofits are mission-focused, so it speaks well for attracting that type of a workforce,” he said.

Millennials also want cultural diversity where they work. A global workforce, by its very nature, tends to bring diversity. “It makes a rich work environment,” Turner said. “If you have a good culture, you will attract and retain people longer.”

While millennials have changed expectations for work, a global workforce can have other effects. For example, when people are in different countries, wide gaps in time zones can occur, requiring logistical oversight.

“How do you manage that?” asks Turner. “What some organizations do—what we do—is stagger our schedules so not everyone has to get up in the middle of the night each time to attend a meeting. We all take turns doing that.”

Even if fewer people are in the less-favorable time zone, it is important to stagger meeting times to show the association values all employees. That leads to Turner’s next point: when dealing with employees all over the world, it is crucial to ensure everyone feels seen and valued.

“Those remote workers need to feel visible,” Turner said. “They need to feel valued. I think including them in team meetings, using video conferencing, mentioning their work in newsletters, and doing things that raise the awareness that you have meetings in different locations help you to maintain visibility.”

Technology can help with visibility, but it can also be a tricky issue because of the wide variety of tools available. “Some of the challenges are adopting technology that helps, because there is a lot of technology to choose from,” he said.

That’s why a thoughtful process should drive the selection of that technology. “You have to have a strategy for what you want to accomplish, and then get the tools you need. Don’t add it ad hoc,” Turner said.

Whatever technology an association chooses, it must set norms and teach its staff, even if they’re located around the world. “That technology has to be embraced and people have to be trained,” Turner said. “Meetings don’t go well if there is no training, or no etiquette for the meeting.”

Another facet of management changed by the global workforce is hiring. A temporary uptick in work can be tackled by outsourcing, rather than piling on work and stretching your team thin. “There are certain things our team can’t accomplish, so we can go out to the gig economy and source someone,” Turner said. “If we need a PowerPoint presentation polished up, we can go to Upwork and ask them to do that job. It doesn’t stress our team, and we don’t have to use our resources to do that in house.”

What are some factors you’ve discovered to be crucial as you navigate the global workforce? Tell us in the comments.

(metamorworks/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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