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Strategies to Ensure a Global Workforce’s Productivity

Increasingly, businesses of all sizes are building employee networks that span various foreign countries across the globe. In a 2012 survey, 71 percent of executives said working across borders has become more common in their businesses than it was just three years ago.[1]

But hiring foreign employees is effective only if those workers are being productive. In the U.S., some companies are scrutinizing how remote employees use their time. In February 2013, J.C. Penney's chief operating officer complained that 35 percent of its Texas headquarters' bandwidth was being misspent watching videos on recreational websites.[2]

When upgrading technology in business for tracking and improving employee productivity, sole proprietors can use a trusted online foreign exchange service to secure the latest exchange rates. They can also initiate bank-to-bank money transfers for distributing international compensation to their global workforce.

“If you can get a fixed schedule, first of all, there’s no surprise, which helps build the trust you really need with a remote workforce.”

— Jenny Douras, vice president of training and development at Mission Critical Systems

Through regular communication and review, business owners can help foreign employees stay focused on their goals.

1. Emphasize Results, Not Hours

Employees who feel constantly monitored struggle to make independent decisions. This problem can be especially frustrating for U.S. managers who already may be urging employees in foreign countries to take more initiative.

When employees determine their own parameters - for example, work hours - productivity and job satisfaction increase an average of 20 percent, says Eric Brunelle, a professor of management at HEC Montréal, a leading international business school in Canada. "A business that focuses on controlling the process and how the job is done by employees is making a big mistake," he says.

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Remote foreign employees might fill out a weekly spreadsheet showing whether they completed their projects, says Jenny Douras, vice president of training and development at Mission Critical Systems, a workforce training and IT-management company based in Denver.

2. Set Consistent Times for Conversations

When Douras led a sales team of 300 people spread out across the U.S. and Canada in a previous job, she planned weekly conference calls based on her employees' time zones, not her own, out of respect for their schedules. Once she and her global workforce set a time for weekly calls, Douras strived for consistency. "If you can get a fixed schedule, first of all, there's no surprise, which helps build the trust you really need with a remote workforce," she says.

3. Use Technology for Collaboration

Ted Scofield, chief operating officer and general counsel, and Christi Scofield, president and founder, run Icebreaker Entertainment LLC, a New York-based multi-brand consumer products company with licensed products for sale in major retailers, ranging from school supplies to beverage coolies. They often upload presentations for their retailers abroad to the Internet cloud, for example Google Docs and Apple's iCloud.

Because the Scofields know retailers in the U.K., for example, will be working different hours, they can log in to see when the presentation is downloaded without nagging for a response.

[1] "Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World," Sept. 27, 2012, KPMG Advisory Institute

[2] "For Penney's Heralded Boss, the Shine Is Off the Apple," Feb. 24, 2013, The Wall Street Journal 

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