Managing an International Team: Key challenges

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Managing an International Team: Key challenges
IT Outsourcing

Remote working and IT outsourcing offer tremendous opportunities, but how to deal with their potential pitfalls? The cultural and geographic diversity of international teams can be key to generating innovative solutions and opening up new perspectives. However, along with these advantages also come challenges that require particularly careful management to ensure efficiency and maintain high team productivity. What are these challenges? We will outline them later in the text.

Language and cultural barriers in an international IT team

One of the main challenges in managing an international team is dealing with language and cultural barriers. These barriers can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication and inefficiency in team interactions. For example, idiomatic expressions or colloquialisms may be unfamiliar to team members from different cultural backgrounds, leading to confusion or misinterpretation of messages.

Examples include common statements:

  • "Take a look". - May be unclear to some team members who don't understand that it means a quick glance or browse.
  • "Reach out" - International team members may not understand that this means offering help or cooperation.
  • "This is a seed" - in some countries it may be interpreted literally as something related to a fruit stone, when in fact it means something very easy or simple to do.
  • "To take something up on" - A colloquialism meaning to take up a topic for discussion or consideration. May require translation for those who are not familiar with the phrase.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successfully managing an international team. Language barriers can impede clarity of instructions, feedback and joint actions. Misunderstandings can lead to errors, delays and frustration among team members.


  • Language training: Team managers can encourage employees to take language courses to improve their proficiency in the team's working language.
  • Cultural sensitivity training: It is a good idea to introduce training programs to increase cultural awareness and sensitivity among team members. This can help reduce potential misunderstandings and create a more inclusive work environment.
  • Clear communication protocols: It is important to establish clear communication protocols that include guidelines for written and oral communication. This can include using plain language, avoiding idioms and confirming understanding or feedback loops.

Differences in time zones

Coordinating work across time zones can be another significant challenge in managing an international team. Differences in time zones can complicate meeting scheduling, scheduling and teamwork, leading to potential delays and reduced productivity.

Impact on coordination

Discrepancies in working hours can cause delays in communication and decision-making processes. International team members sometimes have to wait longer for answers, which slows down workflow and can cause frustration.


  • Flexible schedules: this involves implementing flexible working hours that accommodate different time zones. This can include overlapping work hours to ensure real-time collaboration when necessary.
  • Asynchronous communication tools: The market offers a mass of communication tools to support asynchronous collaboration, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. These tools allow team members to leave messages and updates that others can respond to when they are online.
  • Shared calendar: Use a shared calendar to track the availability and time zones of all team members. Tools such as Google Calendar or World Time Buddy can help schedule meetings at times that are convenient for everyone.

Building trust and commitment of the team

Trust and commitment are key in any team, but become even more important in geographically dispersed teams. Effective team management without the opportunity for regular face-to-face meetings and informal interactions between team members can be detrimental to maintaining team engagement, or can be much more difficult. Sometimes cultural biases exist in teams, where one group does not fully understand the other group, its customs or the way it works. This can lead to stereotypes and misunderstandings. Unclear roles, responsibilities and expectations for individual team members can also lead to uncertainty and reduce trust.

Impact on productivity

Lack of trust can lower team morale and adversely affect productivity. International team members may feel isolated or disconnected, which can result in lower levels of commitment and motivation.


  • Regular 1:1 meetings: Managers should schedule regular one-on-one meetings with each team member. This provides an opportunity to identify issues of lack of commitment and trust and to implement a plan of correction. Such meetings also give team members a sense of support and offset feelings of isolation.
  • Clear goals and objectives: It is especially important to clearly set goals to ensure that everyone is aligned and striving for the same results. This can help create a sense of a common path in one direction.
  • Organizing team integration: Every once in a while, it's a good idea to organize an integration that includes all team members - even those who are geographically distant. This has an excellent effect on getting team members to know each other better and establishing bonds that translate into improved teamwork.

Performance monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluating the performance of team members can be more challenging in an international team. Differences in work cultures, communication styles and time zones can complicate the process of evaluating productivity and providing feedback.

Impact on performance

Without effective performance monitoring and evaluation, it is difficult to identify areas for improvement or recognize achievements. This can lead to missed development opportunities and lack of accountability.


  • Project management tools: Use project management tools such as Jira, Trello or Asana to track progress and monitor performance. These tools provide visibility into assigned tasks, deadlines and completion status. With these tools, you can assess both team-wide and individual work.
  • Regular performance reviews: Conduct regular performance reviews to provide feedback and discuss development goals. This can help team members understand their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Transparent communication: Promote a culture of transparent communication where feedback is openly shared. This can help build trust and ensure that everyone is on message.

The role of IT outsourcing in managing an international team

Outsourcing IT can be an effective solution for managing international teams. By outsourcing specific tasks or projects to highly skilled professionals, companies can overcome some of the challenges of managing an international team. IT outsourcing provides access to a global talent pool, allowing companies to benefit from specialized skills and knowledge without long-term commitments.


  • Cost-effectiveness: Outsourcing can be more cost-effective than hiring full-time employees, especially for short-term projects.
  • Access to expertise: Outsourcing provides access to experts with specialized skills that may not be available in-house.
  • Scalability: Companies can easily scale their teams depending on project requirements.

Managing an international team comes with unique challenges, such as language and cultural barriers, time zone differences, and the need to build trust and commitment. However, with the right strategies and tools, these challenges can be successfully overcome and managers can effectively manage the team. Introducing language and cultural sensitivity training, flexible schedules, regular virtual meetings and using project management tools can help create a cohesive and productive international team. Additionally, IT outsourcing offers a valuable solution for accessing global talent and expertise, further enhancing the efficiency of managing diverse teams.

Understanding and overcoming these challenges allows managers to create collaborative and productive international teams, driving success in today's globalized world.

About The Author
Izabela Węgrecka

Izabela is a Project Manager and Scrum Master with 6 years of experience in the IT industry. She has experience in leading diverse projects and effectively managing teams. She's a leader with the ability to create cohesive and efficient teams based on Scrum values. Regardless of the project's scale, she's able to establish a dynamic environment where collaboration, innovation, and delivering valuable products take precedence.