Skip to main content

Three tips for successfully managing a global virtual team

Digital clocks display times in Los Angeles, New York, London, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to manage a global virtual team?

Well, even if you didn’t imagine it three months ago, thanks to Pandemic 2020, even onsite teams are now led remotely. Your team members might as well be in another country because the tech and techniques are the same. Welcome to virtual team leadership. I’ll share a few things that have worked for me.

I’m a Director of Product Development for ADP’s GlobalView solution, a Global Payroll Engine that supports 42 countries in a single environment. In this role, I lead a team of Country Solution Managers for the Americas region with team members located in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and the U.S., so lots of time zones and cultural richness.

Today, the world is getting smaller as companies are getting more global. ADP isn’t an exception, but rather a pioneer in global business. Matrix organizations like ADP are considerably more advanced and efficient. They have structures for core functions like finance, technology, sales, etc., concentrated in places where they can provide efficiency and allow resources to scale down for global optimization. ADP actively recruits in over 26 countries, with the largest concentrations in maybe 10 of them.

So, how best to approach managing in a global virtual environment?

Be sensitive and fair. Managing a multicultural team can be challenging and require you to adapt your managerial style in a way to create an engaged and productive team. Some unexpected challenges you may not realize is that as a multi-country manager, you may need to navigate between multiple HRIS and time management systems, compensation policies, and sometimes various languages and cultural understanding. It’s important to be sensitive and fair when dealing with time zones. Finding the right time for a global team meeting is critical. When it’s 8:00 AM in New Jersey, it’s already 6:00 PM in Hyderabad, India, and 10:00 PM in Sydney, Australia. As a manager, I find pursuing balance essential so that no associates feel unfairly treated, and they stay incented to participate actively and contribute in meetings.

Make time and keep a pulse on the action. Our StandOut product is the best tool I’ve found to manage remote teams. I’m not a sales guy, and I’m not pitching anything, but I truly believe it. It helps me keep track of engagements and progress on projects while encouraging my direct reports to tell me what they “loved” this week versus what they “loathed.” The weekly frequency keeps the dialogue open so that I’m having 52 conversations a year with my people. It provides me as a leader with an easy-to-use platform and personalized tips and concepts for me to leverage with each associate based on their strengths. But, in my opinion, one of the most important tools I use when managing a remote team is the “One on One” session. Every week I make sure that I have at least one meeting with each of my team members. These sessions supplement what I see in StandOut. They’re not just to check on each individual’s progress but to have candid conversations to build trust and personal connection.

Be empathetic. Empathy and trying to understand what an associate is going through, especially when they have difficult moments, are key to a successful team. After all, engaged employees are essential to having happy clients.

Chris Acostendai is a Vice President of Product Development at ADP.

Related Articles