When organisations start to become more integrated globally, this inevitably leads to more global projects, processes and systems. People who used to work for a local boss in a local context suddenly become part of global virtual teams or have dotted or even solid line reporting to managers in global roles in different locations.
The business case for more integrated global working can be compelling – we can serve global customers better, achieve synergies of scale and cost, roll-out global products and processes and improve cooperation and resource allocation across the traditional silos. If we communicate these benefits effectively then people understand global working intellectually quite quickly.
However the emotional journey takes much longer. People have strong loyalties to colleagues who they have worked with for years. These are the people they take lunch with and meet face-to-face on a daily basis. They may socialise with them and know their families. The ties of local loyalty are not quickly replaced just by drawing more lines on an organisation chart.
A classic example is the IT specialist who knows they should be working on an important global project but has a friend they have known for years sitting on their desk with a problem right now. Their loyalties will help define how they actually spend their time.
We should recognise that loyalty is naturally local and that may be OK. We want people to have a feeling of belonging and identity and it is much easier to achieve this locally. However we do need to balance this with some loyalty and emotional connection towards global colleagues and managers or this local loyalty can get in the way of delivering the business benefits we need.
We should take opportunities to build relationships and trust when we are face-to-face. Relationship building is certainly a better objective for our annual meeting than reviewing endless PowerPoint presentations of data and information that could be forwarded by email.
A sense of divided loyalties is common in complex organisations and can be uncomfortable. We need to equip people in this situation with the skills to balance these competing demands on their time and loyalty.
To find out more about how you can do this, why not contact one of our specialists.