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B2B eCommerce

Building and Managing Multilingual Remote Teams in B2B eCommerce

February 23, 2021 | Oro Team

To continue with business as usual in the unusual time of the COVID19 pandemic, more companies are adapting to a remote work style of operations. As reported by Business Insider, Twitter will allow employees to work from home permanently. The company noticed that working from home during the pandemic is just as effective as going to the office — but without the hassle of commuting and the effort of dressing up. The Fast Company dubs this style of working as the “new normal”.

There is also a trend in companies outsourcing their workforce. This can be attributed to increasing overhead costs. Outsourcing is when a company hires workers from countries that have lower costs of labor. According to Markets Insider, the top countries that businesses outsource their workforce to are Vietnam, Taiwan, China, Ukraine, and the Philippines.

In an increasingly global world, hiring employees from different countries can boost your productivity. Because of the difference in time zones, your business can theoretically operate for 24 hours, thus giving a boost in work production. Even remote employees themselves say that they feel more productive when working remotely. A multilingual workforce also expands the talent pool since remote work provides opportunities to those previously bound by geography. Another benefit of remote work is that it opens up new jobs for disabled workers.

From a B2B perspective, companies can use distributed teams to engage in B2B eCommerce for their sales, operations and procurement. For employees, a better back-office experience allows them to offer enhanced customer service. The localized online experience for buyers, meanwhile, will empower them to purchase more.

Remote Work vs Work From Home: Is there a Difference?

Data from Ahrefs Keywords Explorer shows that the volume of searches for the terms “remote work” and “work from home” spiked in March 2020 – when the worldwide lockdowns started:

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Working remotely and working from home might seem similar at first glance, but they are different ways of working. When employees work remotely, they are working outside of your company’s office. Some companies even open physical remote offices in different countries for their multilingual remote team.

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When an employee works from home, they are working from their house. Companies who are semi-remote and fully remote usually have employees who work from home all the time if they do not set up a remote office. Companies who are not remote can also give their employees the choice to work from home once a week, once a month, or all the time. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, about 3.4 million employees started working from home by 2017.

Take note: a remote office is not always a digital office but working from home full-time always entails a digital workplace.

The main benefit of working from home is flexibility. Since employees are working from home, they have more control over their time. Business News Daily reports that employees who work away from the office tend to be more productive. Shockingly, according to Airtasker, it was found out that remote employees work 1.4 more days every single month compared to office employees.

But there are also disadvantages. When working from home, there may be days when employees experience technical difficulties such as power interruptions, slow internet connection, and hardware malfunctions. There are also more distractions. Since you are not working in an office optimized for working, there is a possibility that employees experience more distractions when working from home.

Building a Multilingual Remote Team

Whatever the reason for adapting to a remote style of work – whether it’s for the reduction of operational and labor costs, filling the need for website translation and marketing localization, or managing an international conglomerate — we are definitely seeing an increase in multilingual teams in the digital era. According to Upwork’s Future Workforce Report, a staggering 73% of teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Integrating Translations With Your Company’s Job Advertisement

As of November 2020, there are 7.8 billion people in the world. But you will only be able to meet with a few of that number in your entire lifetime. The USA has a population of about 331 million. If you are a company based in the US, chances are that only a handful of that number actually apply to your company. You will be missing out if you only focus your hiring efforts on a singular location because there are untapped talent in different areas of the world.

But how do you actually build a remote team? You can use the traditional practices of hiring employees such as placing job ads, reviewing resumes, and interviewing candidates. However, you make this entire process digital. Digitizing your system can help you reach a global audience. An additional technique is to localize your job boards and postings. According to Ofer Tirosh, CEO of a distributed business translation company that has been operating with a multilingual staff for more than a decade,

Translating and localizing your job ad copies is worth the trouble since they basically pay for themselves, having more candidates for a specific position can help you get the right person for the job.
Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes

When you globally outsource your employees, you will be able to connect better with potential candidates when you are conveying information in their native language. Even 9 out of 10 bilingual internet users mentioned that they visit websites that are in their native language, according to a survey by Gallup and the European Commission.

Companies can save money when building a remote team because you don’t have to pay for huge amounts of office space. Additionally, outsourcing employees can help you choose the best person for the job without being confined to geographical boundaries.

Storing contracts and NDAs or other documentation in the languages of your business partners or employees is also helpful. It may look redundant at first glance and you might ask yourself, “Why am I storing different copies of documents that essentially say the same thing?” But the translated copies may actually save your company in the event of a breach of contract and there is no other choice but to resort to the local court system in order to claim damages.

The Benefits of Building a Multilingual Remote Team

An example of a company that is fully remote is Automattic Inc, the parent company of WordPress. Yes, that WordPress. The famous website creation tool and blogging platform WordPress. This shows that you can be a big and successful company even if you go fully remote.

Companies like Automattic Inc that employ the remote work style are growing because they have seen the benefits that it produces, such as: 

  • Reduced labor and operating costs

The main reason companies outsource is because it is almost always cheaper. You can essentially get the same results but for lower costs. Companies can save money when building a remote team because you don’t have to pay for huge amounts of office space. The same is true for employees. They can save more of their salary since their transportation costs will be reduced.

  • Access to different markets

Because your employees are remote, you will gain more direct access to foreign markets. They already speak the language and live in the country, so they can offer you more direct observations into local culture and customer needs.

  • Sharing different point of views

Because employees of different countries have had different experiences, you can learn from each other and possibly get new insights that will be useful for your business.

  • Multilingual capability

The challenge of a remote team is also one of its benefits. For example, you will be able to provide customer care in your customer’s native language. In a survey conducted by CSA Research, 74 % of customers said that they are more likely to order again if customer service is offered in their native tongue.

The Detriments of a Multilingual Remote Team

But like everything in the world, having a multilingual remote team also has its disadvantages, such as:

  • Communication issues

It’s not a surprise that communication issues may arise in a multilingual and multicultural team, but as discussed above, you can communicate using a common language and apply some measures in order to mitigate possible issues.

  • More difficult to manage

Since you are not in the same office, you cannot just go to an employee’s desk and remind them of their tasks. Thus, managing employees and work deadlines can be more difficult. If the remote employee lives in another country, you have to factor in the time zone difference. The best time to contact you may not be the best time to contact them.

  • Data leaks and security threats

Even if your employees have signed NDAs, it is not always a guarantee that they will never share confidential information, even accidentally. So if privacy is an important factor, take additional steps in ensuring your data security.

  • Varying quality standards

Your standards and the standards of the outsourced employee could be different, so you need to check whether the regulatory standards of the country you outsource workers from are more or less similar to those of your own country.

How to Make Remote Work Easier and More Manageable

As discussed above, adapting to remote work will give you a boost in productivity. When done right, at least. You reduce overhead costs while your employees can save time and money because they do not get stuck in traffic while commuting to the office. However, despite all these perks, managing a multilingual remote team is not without its challenges.

All kinds of issues may arise such as communication issues because of the language barrier, data security threats, increased distractions while working from home, and lack of connection between employees due to the distance. Here are the main elements that you need in order to successfully manage a B2B multilingual remote team:

Choose a Common Language

Ever heard of the phrase “communication is key”? Well, it’s true even in business. If you don’t have that key, you will not be able to open the doors to growth. A multilingual team that uses more than one language to communicate will find it difficult to understand each other, thus find it difficult to work together. To manage a multilingual team well, make sure that everybody can be kept in the loop. Additionally, those who cannot speak the language will feel excluded and unmotivated to achieve work goals. These are just some reasons why you should choose a common language that your multinational team shall use during work hours.

Develop a Singular Culture

It’s no secret that remote and multilingual teams are from different cultures. As such, it’s best to form one unifying company culture that can make everyone feel included. This strengthens the connection between the company and the workers. When developing a company culture, think about what cultural standards should be important.

Do you want to create a positive and empathetic work culture? Then celebrate wins and motivate employees. Want to ensure that the process is streamlined and everything is organized? Clarify the daily tasks and work processes so that nobody gets confused. Want to foster transparency and trust? Then schedule face times. Unlike in a traditional office setting, you cannot see your co-workers physically.

One aid for this is to have weekly meetings to ensure that goals for the week are consistently reached. The meetings can also serve as an avenue to resolve any issues that may have arisen. Even if there are no issues or emergencies, don’t worry about scheduling video or audio calls. It’s always better to over-communicate than to under-communicate, especially when managing a remote team.

B2B Industry Challenges

With events and travel on hold, companies across the globe are revisiting the role of field sales and on-site production staff in a way that would have been unimaginable prior to the pandemic. This has meant bringing in a huge amount of flexibility, including exploring cross-functional roles to bridge gaps. 

It has also meant determining which roles can and cannot be performed remotely, then working out ways to build in physical distancing for those who can’t work remotely and provide the tools required to communicate with and work seamlessly with those who can.

For manufacturers and makers of physical products, this has meant adjusting production schedules and cycle times to reduce product iterations, unneeded demos, and face-to-face meetings. For distributors and resellers, it could mean performing a mix of on-site and remote work. In either case, once challenges are addressed, B2Bs can and do embrace remote work.

Adopt the Right Tools

Traditional systems that are used for physical offices don’t necessarily translate well to a remote work style. A remote team can only be as productive as the tools that it uses. Due to recent improvements in technology, managing multilingual remote teams is easier now than it was years before. Since your team members live far away from each other, you can use collaboration tools like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive. You should also invest in tools that can help you manage a multilingual remote team such as Asana, Time Doctor, and Trello. 

Furthermore, the secret to any relationship is proper communication. The same is true for work relationships between employers and employees as well as employees with fellow employees. So, use software to facilitate communication despite the long distance. Some of the famous communication tools are Slack, Zoom, and Skype. From an organizational perspective, the right ERP, B2B eCommerce, and CRM tools are also invaluable when it comes to relaying real-time information between staff working on the ground and those working remotely.

Want to know how OroCommerce’s suite of tools can help your B2B teams work and sell remotely? Contact us.

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About the Author
Queenie Abigaile Yu is a writer with a degree in Political Science. She is passionate about culture, languages, and technology; particularly about how they affect business affairs and political processes.
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