Global Virtual Teams as Innovative Work Structures

Most people today are competent in the use of numerous technological tools that enable them to work effectively, but they may have little or no experience working with culturally diverse team members at a distance. Imagine this: a team of engineers from India needs to collaborate with a team in Germany to develop a new transportation hub in Saudi Arabia.

These teams need to complete their work within six months in order to lay out the plans and begin implementation. They will need to work with and trust other members with whom they have no historical background, manage different technological systems, navigate cultural differences in work practices and communication styles, overcome geographical distance and time differences, and so on.

MNCs introduced virtual work platforms as a way of staying competitive and agile by cutting costs related to travel and the expatriation/ repatriation process. To fully exploit this virtual workspace, MNCs need to seek out and recruit global talent, employees who are competent not only in working with people of different cultural backgrounds, but also in working together at a distance—that is, virtually (Chang, Hung, & Hsieh, 2014). This work structure, which is increasingly common in MNCs, is called a global virtual team or GVT. GVTs consist of team members from different cultures, who work together from different geographical locations, using computer-mediated technologies to collaborate and communicate across disparate time zones in a non-collocated workspace (Chang et al., 2014; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1998; Zakaria, 2009). To excel in such an environment requires two kinds of competencies: cultural and technological. It is not easy for an organization to recruit people who have experience in working with a heterogeneous team in a virtual work setting.

GVTs have received a good deal of attention in the field of Information Systems (IS) in the past few decades, following the emergence ofcomputer- mediated communication such as email, videoconferencing and instant messaging (Chen & Hung, 2010 ; David, Chand, Newell, & Resende- Santos, 2008; Sarker, Sarker, & Jana, 2010) . Scholars in the fields of cross-cultural management and international management have extensively argued about the impact of culture on work practices, attitudes, and values (Brooks & Pitts, 2016; Dekker, Rutte, & Van den Berg, 2008; Froese, Peltokorpi, & Ko, 2012; Johnson, Lenartowitcz & Apud, 2006; Zakaria, 2006; Zhu, Bhat, & Nel, 2005), but all agree that cultural differences do exist between many Western and Eastern management practices and processes in face-to-face teams, including decision making, negotiation, leadership methods, and communication styles. However, cultural impacts in the context of GVTs are not fully understood, particularly in the area of management practices. Scholars further theorize that as glo?balization continues, the use of GVTs in multinational corporations will become more prevalent. Global talent must be recruited more vigorously as the demand rises for human capital with specific competencies tailored for the global market. As such, innovative practices and processes need to be incorporated in MNCs to ensure global talent recruited for GVT is a sustainable and competitive source of human capital.

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