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Joining the dots - connecting a global workforce

12th Jan 2017
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The world is a small place these days and the incentives to explore it are manifold. A combination of accelerating economies in emerging markets and access to a vast new consumer base, along with challenges in more traditional markets, has seen businesses scrambling to capitalise on new opportunities across the globe.

Whether concerns over interest rates or labour, the aftermath of Brexit has left UK organisations facing significant uncertainty, with many exploring new geographical options. In fact, a recent KPMG study showed that over three-quarters of UK CEOs would consider re-locating their headquarters or operations abroad following the result of the EU Referendum.

However, expanding into new regions can be a costly exercise and, as shown by recent staff cuts by the likes of Twitter, a large global workforce can be hard to maintain and justify if the results don’t go your way. These pressures and influences highlight just how crucial a business’s ability to operate smoothly on a global scale is. For those that do, the rewards can be huge.

The rising tide lifts all ships

Assisted by a variety of technologies and the search for the best talent, large organisations and their workforces are becoming more disparate as they grow and explore new markets. Keeping employees well-connected amid expansion is vital to maintain speed and flexibility. However, the ability to react to market pressures and unforeseen events is arguably a more valuable attribute. Instead of simply formulating a strategy and executing it, the most agile outfits can ‘course correct’ in this way. Aligning your workforce to ensure a plan is executed is one thing, but a disconnected workforce will not be equipped to adapt and communicate changes to existing strategies, something key to keeping global businesses on track to achieve their targets.

Despite these benefits, simple factors such as time difference and currency exchange rates can sometimes be enough to prevent global businesses from operating seamlessly. What makes matters worse is that these unavoidable challenges are reinforced by the siloed structure and culture of many organisations, as a lack of inter-departmental collaboration enhances the effects of geographically scattered personnel. Business unit leaders that only consider their own teams and ignore the impact of decisions on other corners of the company are not compatible with the speed companies need to survive, let alone be successful.

The global age places an even greater emphasis on how important it is to be aware of your colleagues’ successes and failures, across different teams and territories. In today’s competitive environment, there is no excuse not to operate smoothly and as one team, regardless of where that is around the world.

Work from the same playbook

Undoubtedly, the acceleration of digital disruption has been the primary factor allowing businesses to operate on a global scale. Like it or not, the future of work may well be defined by remote working and geographically spread teams. Beyond facilitating communication between colleagues and partners in far-away places, it has also been vital in evolving workplace culture. The increased mobility enabled by trends such as BYOD has served to dissolve the barriers between home and work life, giving employees the ability to interact with each other not just from any location, but at any time.

An important development here is that cloud technology now allows a workforce to operate from a central platform; using a single reference point eases communication and removes the need for colleagues to negotiate a series of disconnected documents. Furthermore, one of the most important benefits of the cloud is the ability to operate in real-time.

Going one step further, this type of technology is helping businesses stay ahead of the game by forecasting events and trends based on company data and market analysis, which companies are increasingly doing to ease the strain of managing a dispersed team. The bigger the workforce, the longer changes take to implement. Whether it’s sales figures or personnel requirements, being one step ahead by simulating future scenarios can buy extra time that could make all the difference in business today.

Joining the dots

Already a vital enabler of global expansion, technology and mobile working are clearly having a profound effect on how capable businesses are of expanding to new territories. It’s clear that businesses with global ambitions need to embrace this trend; the next step is ensuring that employees have the appropriate tools and skills in place to do this.

Harnessing technology that can connect every corner of a business, alleviating spatial and inter-departmental divisions, can make functioning efficiently on a global scale a much simpler task. To be a truly smart business, colleagues and departments from around the world need to be empowered to transcend geographical boundaries and work as if they are in the same room.

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