Human Resource Manager’s Role in Global Teams

Introduction

In the last decade, multinational corporations have embraced the use of global teams because of the demands generated by globalization and advancements in technology. The composition of global teams includes employees from diverse geographical, cultural, and temporal backgrounds around the globe who work together and use organizational resources to attain certain goals and objectives (Brsicoe, Schuler, & Tarique, 2012). The major goal of global teams is to improve organizational innovation and productivity regardless of location or geography (Dowling, 2008).

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They achieve this goal by integrating different sources of knowledge within the organization and creating a safe work environment that encourages employees to speak and exchange knowledge openly. The incorporation of global teams into an organization’s structure necessitates certain changes in corporate culture and structure. The exchange of diverse opinions, viewpoints, and ideas among global team members results in enhanced innovation and creativity within the organization, as well as the development of new ways of doing things (Stahl, Bjorkam, & Morris, 2012). Cultural diversity plays a key role in improving the quality of organizational outcomes, decisions, and solutions.

Global Teams

The distinction between multinational and multicultural teams is vague because they both have numerous similarities. Therefore, an accurate definition of a global team must differentiate it from other related concepts. Global teams comprise all aspects of the aforementioned groups because they incorporate various aspects of multinational, multicultural, virtual, and distributed teams (Brsicoe et al., 2012). They are largely dependent on electronic communication because of the need to overcome the barrier of different time zones and geographical contexts. IHRM managers are required to implement systems, develop training programs, and create organizational cultures that promote diversity and train employees to work effectively in global teams (Stahl et al., 2012).

Managing Virtuality and Cultural Diversity

One of the most important roles of international human resource management (IHRM) is to manage the virtuality and cultural diversity in global teams (Dowling, 2008). Global teams deal with several challenges because their roles are distributed across different geographical contexts, cultures, and time zones. Therefore, team processes and outcomes can be compromised by these variations. One of the roles of IHRM is to address the physical and nonverbal cues that could hamper effective communication in global teams (Brsicoe et al., 2012).

Difficulties in sharing knowledge, misunderstandings, and erroneous attributions of others could cause squabbles among team members and as a result, affect the quality of outcomes. Another role is to deal with the challenge of time and attention management. Addressing global challenges is more demanding than dealing with local organizational problems. Therefore, it is the responsibility of IHRM to find ways of reducing employee stress in the midst of finding solutions to complex global problems (Dowling, 2008). One of the main challenges of handling culturally diverse teams is the fault lines and conflicts that result from members’ different beliefs, perspectives, and ways of thinking. These inevitable cultural aspects create differences in attitudes, values, behavior, and perception among members (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010).

In order for global teams to be effective, IHRM managers should develop a strong mission and vision in order to ensure that the views, attitudes, and values of employees support the achievement of organizational goals. Scholars have found out that IHMR can manage virtuality and cultural diversity in global teams by implementing transactive memory systems (TMS), creating a psychologically safe communication climate (PSCC), and fostering trust among members (Dowling, 2008). Transactive memory systems are important tools that facilitate effective knowledge sharing because they reduce information redundancy. The systems align and utilize the knowledge possessed by team members and create channels for unbiased access and utilization (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010).

Enhancing Mutual Understating Between Members

Geographical separation can lead to a lack of mutual knowledge between members, and therefore, encourage faulty attributions that have a negative impact on performance. Research has shown that members of global teams have a propensity for making biased attributions that cause conflicts owing to a lack of awareness regarding their colleagues’ cultural beliefs and norms (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010). In most cases, they attribute their colleagues’ weaknesses and failures to personal traits, thus creating conflicts and eroding trust among members. The responsibility of IHRM is to foster trust and understanding among team members by creating work environments and organizational cultures that respects other people’s cultures, beliefs, and values (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010).

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Facilitation of Information Sharing

IHRM plays an important role in facilitating the dissemination of knowledge among members. Another challenge that global teams face is the diversity of geographical contexts that makes information sharing difficult (Cummings, 2004). Geographical separation eradicates informal encounters among members, and as a result, makes knowledge sharing challenging. In many organizations, employees belong to multiple teams that have different management teams. Therefore, the levels of commitment to each team are different. Members are more likely to become committed to teams that do not have diverse geographical contexts because of fewer communication barriers. Sharing knowledge that is based on local contexts is more difficult because the perceptions of members are different. In this case, IHRM managers should put measures in place to facilitate knowledge sharing, both in local and international contexts (Cummings, 2004).

Management of Time and Attention

International human resource management teams play a key role in the management of time and attention in global teams (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010). Technology has improved communication between management and global teams because of advancements such as instant messaging, email, and social media platforms. These technologies address the challenge of time zones and improve the efficiency of communication. Research has found out that they are prone to overuse and can cause information overload, which is a major source of work stress for employees (Cummings, 2004). In addition, these technologies have the potential to cause distractions and interruptions that compromise the efficiency of global teams. Another obstacle to effective global team management is the allocation of time. As mentioned earlier, members usually belong to multiple teams within the organization. Therefore, they find it difficult to allocate sufficient time to perform the assigned tasks satisfactorily.

Mitigating the Effects of Cultural Differences

Cultural differences among global team members are critical to organizational success because of aspects such as time orientation, perception, and hierarchy of values. The issue of present versus future time orientation on the effectiveness of global teams is a great challenge (Arman & Adair, 2012). Global teams are comprised of members who work toward common goals and objectives in different time zones across the world, and who possess different cultural orientations to time (Cummings, 2004). Research has shown that cultural differences are one of the major causes of rifts within global teams. For example, the existence of cultural subgroups within teams activates social categorization that causes ineffective distinctions based on shared beliefs and norms (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010).

Social categorization encourages in-group favoritism and discrimination that lead to conflicts and ineffective information sharing (Cramton, & Hinds, 2014). The effectiveness of communication within global teams is highly affected by cultural diversity. On the other hand, studies have shown that cultural diversity fuels creativity and innovation within global teams because of heterogeneous sharing of knowledge and ideas (Arman & Adair, 2012). Communication is a challenge in culturally diverse teams. Therefore, IHRM teams should implement systems that encourage open and honest communication. PSCC encourages members to speak up willing without fear of judgment and promotes shifts in perception that emanate from ingrained cultural beliefs (Cramton, & Hinds, 2014). It is important for team members to develop openness to different views and perspectives.

One of the strategies used by IHRM managers to counter the negative effects of cultural diversity is fostering the concept of team identity among team members (Cramton, & Hinds, 2014). It is important for managers to create a sense of belonging through creating a culture that promotes a specific organizational identity. Organizational identification occurs when individuals merge their goals and values with those of the organization. The development of organizational identity is critical in global teams because it enhances coordination and control of members, and mitigates the challenge of monitoring employees in different time zones and geographical locations (Cramton, & Hinds, 2014). Employees become more effective when they develop a sense of belonging to their organization despite their differences.

Promotion of Cultural Intelligence and Agility

Promoting cultural intelligence, cultural agility, and global mindset are roles that IHRM must play in order to manage global teams effectively (Novicevic & Harvey, 2010). Developing cultural intelligence among leaders supports cross-cultural collaboration and the development of a global mindset among team members. The development of a global mindset and cultural agility equips individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary for multicultural collaboration (Cramton, & Hinds, 2014). In that regard, IHRM should develop programs that encourage employees to engage in and learn from new people and situations, as well as diverse norms and communication styles. In addition, IHRM should develop systems to help employees incorporate new experiences and perceptions into existing knowledge and skills.

Conclusion

The above discussion has established that IHRM teams that aim to create effective global teams must strive to overcome several challenges that include cultural diversity, biased attributions, knowledge sharing across varied geographical contexts, cultural differences, and management of time and attention. The role of IHRM in managing global teams is to create systems and work climates that address the aforementioned challenges. IHRM managers’ role is to train global leaders and members in order to ensure that they are prepared for the challenges of working in global teams.

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IHRM should standardize human resource management practices such as employee selection and development to fit global standards. Cultural diversity is a major source of conflict among global team members because of differences in values, perceptions, and beliefs. Therefore, IHRM managers should create work environments that value diversity and variances in perceptions and beliefs. IHRM managers should also ensure that their team development initiatives include clear rules and structures that focus on the importance of cultural diversity. Frequent and open communication, performance management of team members, employee development, and proper employee selection are important responsibilities that IHRM should focus on because they are critical in determining the effectiveness of global teams.

References

Arman, G., & Adair, C. (2012). Cross-cultural differences in perception of time: implications for multinational teams. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 21(5), 657-680.

Brsicoe, D. Schuler, R., & Tarique, I. (2012). International human resource management: policies and practices for multinational enterprises. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Cramton, C. D., & Hinds, P. J. (2014). An embedded model of cultural adaptation in global teams. Organization Science, 25, 1056-1081.

Cummings, J. (2004). Work groups, structural diversity, and knowledge sharing in a global organization. Management Science, 50, 352-364.

Dowling, P. (2008). International human resource management: managing pole in a multicultural context. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Novicevic, M. M., & Harvey, M. (2010). the changing role of the corporate HR function in global organizations of the twenty-first century. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 12(8), 1251-1268.

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Stahl, G. K., Bjorkam, I., & Morris, S. (2012). Handbook of research in international human resource management. New York, NY: Edward Elgar Publishing.

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