CO-LOCATED AND VIRTUAL TEAMS COMPETENCE IN INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT EDUCATION: PREPARING MANAGERS FOR A MULTICULTURAL WORLD
The fabric of the workforce is becoming increasingly multicultural and more structurally complex. On the one hand, managers are asked to work with people of various cultural backgrounds in face-to-face contexts. On the other hand, they are increasingly asked to travel abroad, often simultaneously managing people from multiple cultures mainly via the use of technology. However, empirical behavioural guidelines to train managers for these types of international management assignments are scant, resulting in a lack of content for international education programs.
Indeed, a review of the literature confirms that many universities are grappling with unanswered questions regarding what should be taught within international management programs (Ancilli, Betta, Dinelli, Hougaz, & Mascitelli, 2004; Avery & Thomas, 2004; Egan & Bendick Jr., 2008; Rollier & Nielsen, 2004; Søndergarrd, Calás, & Donnelly, 2004; Takagi & Cerdin, 2004). More specifically, it is observed that issues related to the content of such programs, now of primary concern, remain unclear. Currently, there appears to be an over-emphasis on analysis, on technique, and on hard data, along with a lack of teachings on soft skills. Ultimately, there is an increasing need for business education providers to differentiate themselves by teaching communication, interpersonal, multicultural, and leadership skills both for co-located and for virtual team settings.
Currently, most international training programs focus on culture-specific information aimed at decreasing uncertainty for managers working in foreign cultures, knowledge deemed insufficient as it fails to prepare managers to adapt to novel multicultural situations (Earley & Peterson, 2004; Thomas & Inkson, 2005). Part of the reason for this gap is that management typologies continue to fall short when it comes to identifying the transferable skills required for simultaneously working with people of multiple cultures, either in person or via the use of technology (Joshi & Lazarova, 2005). Furthermore, despite the reality that a major enabling factor of internationalization has been information technology, training on virtual team skills is limited at best. In sum, it is concluded that issues of management education, culture, and information technology need to be further investigated within a multicultural management context in order to prepare managers for success in a global world.
Accordingly, this article outlines the need to integrate competency modeling in research on multiculturalism for management education purposes. Indeed, in an effort to update the content of programs in international management, further empirical knowledge on competencies for managing a multicultural workforce, both in person and via technology, is required. Given that competencies are more closely linked to business goals and strategies, they exhibit greater organizational fit and are more likely to serve as a platform for training and development. Ultimately, the goal will be to create a typology that is comprehensive of multicultural management competencies for those working with co-located and virtual teams.