Managing a diverse and multicultural workplace with freelancers and remote workers can be a challenge. With the differences in cultures and work ethics, miscommunications can be costly. This is where Dr. Silja-Riin Voolma, a behaviour strategist, comes in. A behaviour strategist can help decrease miscommunication and help teams form a more cohesive and effective workforce. CreativesAtWork interviewed her to learn more about what she does.

CW: Can you tell us more about your role as a behaviour strategist?

Dr. Voolma: A behaviour strategist is someone who determines what behavioural strategies will get the best productive results from employees. I focus primarily on communication styles. What I do is test out different channels of communication and use of language and identify the combination which reduces communication barriers the most. By helping their employees to be more productive, the companies can achieve their business goals faster.

CW: Why do companies need a behaviour strategist?

Dr. Voolma: Differences in communication styles can cause a lot of friction and misunderstanding in the workplace. This is especially the case when new employees join and the existing team is introduced to new communication styles. A behaviour strategist can help facilitate the process of understanding and combining different ways of communicating to reduce the number of miscommunication incidents in the company, thus increasing efficiency.

CW: What skill sets do you need to possess to be a behaviour strategist?

Dr. Voolma: Emotional intelligence is the most important tool for a behaviour strategist. It helps identify miscommunication incidences by noticing subtle discomfort levels in people as well as direct us towards their potential causes.

CW: How is this skillset important for freelancers and company who wishes to use freelancers?

Dr. Voolma: Engaging with freelancers is one of the best things a company can do. Freelancers give companies the flexibility to engage specific skill-sets as and when the business requires them. However, new people inevitably bring new and unexpected communication styles and increase the risk for miscommunication. Both the companies and the freelancers can make great use of emotional intelligence by being open and aware of their differences to realize the potential of their collaboration. Without it, both sides are likely to experience frustration and might not achieve the potential of their combined skill-sets and interests.

CW: What do you think of the future of the growth of the gig economy and how can companies prepare themselves for this?

Dr. Voolma: The gig economy is only likely to keep growing. People want flexibility and the gig economy gives that. We are also moving towards a much more skills-based way of working across industries. The nature of work itself has become more dynamic, transient and engages with workers based on their skill sets as a priority. This means that work cycles will be shorter, faster and involve new people working together more often. Companies can prepare themselves for this by training their leadership in faster trust-building and more emotionally intelligent communication skills.

For tips about working with a cross cultural team, check out CreativesAtWork’s article: Working with a Cross Cultural Team: Essential Tips for Singaporean Workplaces.

Join Dr. Silja-Riin Voolma at an information session as she talks about effective cross-cultural strategies for remote and virtual teams. Register for the event.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.