Managing a successful university that has a presence in both your home country and one abroad means you have to work to ensure a top-quality communications methodology. Without fast and accurate answers to queries or updates, your globally-expanded institution will suffer from a lack of transparency and the inability to react quickly and effectively to new ideas, events and projects.
So how do overseas employees communicate? What are the common frustrations when it comes to overseas communication? And when we determine these frustrations, what’s next?
Globalization is increasingly common, warranted and even business-critical when it comes to higher education institutions. A lot of their work is predicated upon international collaboration and research and a lot of their income is gained through either foreign investments, partnerships or international students.
However, this doesn’t come without a number of frustrations that may affect the efficacy of international projects or cross-border communications.
For new international projects in countries not yet explored from a business perspective, language can be a real obstacle. Without a thorough (or even basic) understanding of a language, any communication between an expatriate or a business traveler and individuals from that country will be halted.
Knowing at least some of the native language eases the strains on the project, even if it’s just for day-to-day non-university use. While many universities who run overseas entities will not suffer from this problem, universities who are looking to expand, partner or otherwise do business within a new country will have to take this barrier into consideration.
Lack of Technology
Potentially the most immediate issue for cross-border organizations like a large university, is a lack of or disparate technology. While a complete lack of technology will be rare, universities may suffer from a lack of universal management or employee platforms. This means communication is never standardized, happening over many different mediums, which can become confusing.
It also means there’s the potential for the presence of disparate data - useful data that exists but isn’t shared across one universal platform, meaning that the people who may need it the most haven’t got it at the right time. This is a big problem when it comes to communication, as it means that any collaboration needed or projects continued will be lacking the data they need to work effectively.
Differing Time Zones
In a multi-national university, well-organized communication is essential. However, one of the main issues that these organizations face is geographical distance and the ensuing time differences.
Call and meeting times can be hard to organize and a consistent culture, spread across two or more countries, is difficult to maintain.
The question of how overseas employees communicate with their university never has a clear-cut answer that will apply to everyone. Usually, it’s more than a cross-cultural issue, determined by the frustrations we’ve discussed - access to technology, time zones and language barriers.
So what kind of implementations can universities undertake to support communications processes?
Utilize Different Language
To promote good communication and transparency, your online presence, your internal communications and any employee platforms should be available in a multitude of languages. Something as simple as having a different language version of your site can be incredibly helpful for overseas employees - especially new starters or potential candidates looking to apply.
Prioritize Data Sharing
Universities these days need accurate data, on-hand and in real-time. Institutions should be using cloud storage solutions, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, as well as other effective data management tools. Sharing and accessing documents, even on the go, is easy with these types of software.
Cross-border employees need quick access to a shared workspace and a shared file structure, so that collaboration or quick reactions can be captured. Web-based project management systems such as Basecamp, Trello and Atlassian satisfy this. They allow task management to be supervised remotely, meaning that every overseas employee can easily see what tasks they’re meant to be undertaking.
Hire Multilingual Staff
While a lack of a second language shouldn’t be a complete dealbreaker, treat multilingualism in foreign staff as an added bonus and something to specifically look out for. Similarly, for communication, it’s also best practice to set one internal business language - English is probably your best choice.
Hiring a multilingual team means that you’ve got a great support base to turn to if you need something translating or accurately communicating to external parties. With external communications, a multilingual member of staff will help to contextualize your message to get it delivered with no miscommunication and with no potential faux pas.
Adopt Real-Time Communication Solutions
Real-time communication is sometimes taken for granted, especially if it’s already been implemented. However, a lot of people still don’t use this type of technology. Video conferencing apps such as Slack, Skype and Teams have seen a large uptake since the onset of Covid-19 - but this uptake isn’t universal.
So why should universities be using this kind of software?
According to Lifesize, 98% of employees think that video conferencing strengthens relationships both outside and inside the company.
Communication apps such as Slack can increase productivity by 32%.
According to Smarp, important emails make up only 38% of an inbox. This means time is wasted going through the other 62%, whereas the important stuff could be simply sent through a real-time communications platform, directly to the recipient.
39% of employees believe there isn’t enough collaboration within their organizations.
The social, virtual face-to-face advantage of real-time communication helps to bring your distanced team closer together. This is a great way of overcoming miscommunication, as it means that employees who can work closer together can get better work done and collaborate more efficiently. Apps like these even help increase morale.
Plus, the fact that they’re real-time means that you’re not waiting for someone to reply to a crucial email.
Mobile Communication For Key Data Sharing
Cross-border communications methods for universities will be varied. In general, it will be a mixture of email, telephone, video conferencing and business communication methods (think Skype and Slack) or even social media. These methods are varied, suit different needs and use cases and have their own specific drawbacks. So what happens when an overseas employee needs instant access to specific information related to their work?
For university employees, their overall work experience has a big impact on their efficiency, morale and productivity. Any poor communication methods will only have a negative effect on these crucial metrics.
However, there is technology on the market today that allows for fast, accurate improvements for employees looking for quick answers and well-communicated information.
Consider mobile employee experience technology, software that keeps remote employees in the loop with access to key information, such as dates, destination data, contacts and the ability to monitor things such as payroll and taxation - especially important for overseas employees from a compliance perspective.
Communication is more important than ever. As we work through the coronavirus pandemic, success lies in our ability to communicate and keep up to date with the latest solutions to potential issues. For the higher education sector and HEIs, COVID-19 has presented unprecedented problems that have caused major concern.
To find out more about these problems and their potential solutions, download our ebook.
Finding Solutions For Higher Education in a Post-COVID World
Financial restrictions. Communication issues. Impacts on research. Reduced international student uptake. These are just some of the problems being levied against the higher education sector. It’s a globally felt situation that can be remedied by a global solution.
To explore exactly what we mean, discover potential solutions for these issues and maintain a global influence, click the link below.