How to successfully manage a german team from abroad


How to successfully manage a german team from abroad

With the rise of remote work, many French companies are recruiting talent from across Europe, including Germany, to leverage diverse skills and perspectives. However, managing a German team from a distance requires a nuanced approach that takes into account cultural distinctions, communication styles, and legal requirements. We will explore essential strategies for managing a remote team in Germany, offering practical advice on navigating cultural differences and ensuring compliance with local labor laws.

1. Understanding cultural differences

When managing a remote team in Germany, understanding cultural differences is paramount. Cultural nuances significantly impact communication styles, work ethics, and organizational expectations. Recognizing and adapting to these differences can enhance collaboration, productivity and team cohesion.

Emphasize direct communication

In Germany, communication tends to be more direct and straightforward compared to France. Germans value clarity and precision, which means ambiguous instructions can lead to confusion and decreased productivity. When managing remotely, ensure your messages are clear, concise, and leave no room for misinterpretation.

For example, instead of saying, "Please handle this task soon," it's more effective to specify, "Please complete this task by Friday at 5 PM". This direct approach aligns with the German preference for precise communication and avoids potential misunderstandings.

According to a study by McKinsey & Company, clear communication in remote teams can boost productivity by up to 25 %. Utilizing video conferencing tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams can facilitate more direct and immediate interactions, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

These tools allow for face-to-face interactions, which are crucial in conveying tone and intent, reducing the likelihood of miscommunication.

Respect for hierarchy and structure

Germans typically value structure and hierarchy in the workplace. This does not mean they are inflexible, but they do prefer having clear roles and responsibilities. As a manager, establishing a well-defined organizational structure is crucial. Ensure each team member understands their role within the team, their responsibilities and to whom they report.

Creating detailed job descriptions and clear reporting lines can facilitate this understanding. For instance, using organizational charts can help visualize the hierarchy and improve comprehension of each person's role. This clarity in structure ensures that everyone knows their duties and can contribute effectively to the team’s goals.

A report by Deloitte highlighted that well-structured teams are 31 % more effective in achieving their objectives. Tools like Asana and can help in defining and assigning roles, thereby maintaining a clear structure even when working remotely.

These platforms enable you to assign tasks, set deadlines and monitor progress, ensuring that everyone remains aligned with their responsibilities.

Punctuality and time management

Punctuality is highly valued in German culture. Meetings and deadlines are expected to start and end on time. Being late or missing deadlines can be seen as a lack of respect for others' time and can damage professional relationships. As a remote manager, it's important to set clear expectations regarding punctuality and time management.

For instance, if a meeting is scheduled for 10:00 AM, ensure everyone logs in a few minutes early and the meeting starts promptly. Using calendaring tools like Google Calendar can help keep everyone on track by sending reminders and allowing for easy scheduling of meetings.

"As a remote manager, it’s important to set clear expectations regarding punctuality and time management."

Lea Orellana-Negrin


Work-Life Balance

Germany is known for its strong emphasis on work-life balance. German employees typically expect a clear separation between work and personal life. It's important to respect this balance by not scheduling meetings outside of regular working hours and encouraging employees to take their full lunch breaks and vacation days.

According to Statista, Germans work an average of 34.8 hours per week, significantly less than the OECD average. Promoting a healthy work-life balance can lead to higher job satisfaction and productivity. Encourage your team to disconnect after work hours and provide flexibility when possible, such as allowing for remote work or flexible hours.

Decision-making process

The decision-making process in Germany is often consensus-driven. German employees value thorough discussions and prefer to reach decisions collectively. This collaborative approach can lead to well-considered decisions but may also take more time.

As a manager, it's important to involve your team in the decision-making process. For instance, when implementing a new project, gather input from your team members through surveys or meetings. This approach not only respects the German preference for consensus but also leverages diverse perspectives, leading to better outcomes.

2. Leveraging technology for effective management

Utilize reliable communication tools

To bridge the distance, invest in reliable communication tools. Platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Zoom have become indispensable for remote teams. These tools not only facilitate real-time communication but also offer features such as file sharing, video conferencing and project management integrations.

For example, Slack offers channels that can be dedicated to different projects or teams, enabling focused discussions and easy information retrieval. According to a survey by Buffer, 99 % of remote workers use communication tools to stay connected with their team.

Implement a robust project management system

Effective project management is key to keeping a remote team on track. Tools like Trello, Asana and can help you manage tasks, set deadlines, and monitor progress. These platforms provide transparency, allowing all team members to see what others are working on, which enhances accountability and collaboration.

For instance, Trello uses boards and cards to visually organize tasks and projects, making it easy to track progress and stay updated. A study by Wrike found that companies using project management software report a project success rate of 88 %, compared to 38 % for those that do not.

3. Fostering a strong team culture

Schedule regular check-ins

Regular check-ins are vital for maintaining a sense of team unity and ensuring that everyone is aligned with the company's goals. These can be in the form of daily stand-ups, weekly meetings or one-on-one sessions. Consistent communication helps in addressing any issues promptly and keeps the team motivated.

For example, setting up a weekly video call on Zoom can help keep everyone updated on progress and challenges. According to a report by Gallup, employees who have regular check-ins with their managers are 3 times more likely to be engaged in their work.

Encourage social interaction

Remote work can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation. To combat this, encourage social interactions among your team members. Virtual coffee breaks, online team-building activities, and casual chat channels can help foster a sense of community and belonging.

For instance, creating a dedicated channel on Slack for non-work-related conversations can help team members connect on a personal level. A study by Harvard Business Review found that remote teams with strong social bonds are 50 % more productive.

4. Performance monitoring and feedback

Set clear goals and expectations

Clear goals and expectations are essential for remote teams. Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your team. This clarity helps team members understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be evaluated.

For example, using Asana to set and track goals can ensure everyone is on the same page. According to research by OKR International, companies that set clear goals are 3 times more likely to achieve their desired outcomes.

Provide Regular Feedback

Regular feedback is crucial for continuous improvement. Schedule periodic performance reviews and provide constructive feedback. Acknowledge achievements and address any areas needing improvement. This helps in maintaining high performance and morale.

For instance, using tools like 15Five can facilitate continuous feedback and recognition. A study by PwC found that 60 % of employees want feedback on a daily or weekly basis.

5. Compliance with local labor laws

Understand german labor laws

When managing a team in Germany, it's important to be aware of local labor laws and regulations. Germany has strict employment laws regarding working hours, overtime and employee rights. Familiarize yourself with these laws to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues.

Resources like Germany Trade & Invest provide valuable information on local labor laws. According to the European Commission, Germany has some of the most protective labor laws in Europe, ensuring strong employee rights.

Offer competitive benefits

German employees value job security and benefits. Offering competitive salaries, health insurance, and retirement plans can make your company more attractive to top talent. Additionally, providing opportunities for professional development and career advancement can help retain your employees.

A report by Glassdoor found that benefits and perks are a major factor for 57 % of job seekers when considering job offers. Companies like SAP offer extensive benefits and development programs, making them one of the top employers in Germany.


Jérôme Lecot

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