More and more businesses are building global teams and accommodating those who want to work away from the office. This approach to work can be difficult to manage, but there are some simple ways to facilitate collaboration.
According to a 2016 report by analytics and research-based consulting company, Gallup, 31% of employees in the US work remotely four to five days each week. That figure increased by 8% over four years. A more recent study by HSBC in the UK showed that flexible and remote working practices are more likely to increase workplace productivity than financial incentives. 89% of the people interviewed said that remote working is their number one motivator to boost productivity.
This forces even more workplaces, whether they are innovative startups, medium-sized companies or large corporations, to think differently about how to build a team and define company culture to keep everyone engaged.
Beyond productivity, being open to remote work means there are no barriers to hiring the right talent for your team. You can pick skill over location and enrich your business with people from different places.
From the other point of view, it also empowers employees to find a job they love, wherever they are in the world.
Though the benefits for all are clear, having a team scattered around the globe significantly changes the way those teams work. It’s important to have systems, tools and processes in place that will allow team members to communicate, collaborate and work in a productive way. Business owners and management need to embrace global team collaboration and do their best to make it work.
For startup founders, encouraging collaboration and communication within a team can be easier, because they have a clean slate on which to build their company culture and don’t have to change the old way of doing things.
Though Rebrandly is still a growing startup, it embraced a global team from the outset. Our founder, Davide De Guz, understands it is a great opportunity for the company to have different points of view on the team. Rebrandly’s link management tool is used by people in most countries around the world, so it makes sense that our team is diverse as well.
Though we’re based in Dublin, Ireland. We’ve also got team members across Europe, North Africa, India and the United States. As we continue to expand our team, we expect the number of locations to grow too.
If you are also building a global team and need some advice, here are some tips that we hope will help you.
Online team collaboration tools have been extremely important for facilitating our teamwork. Tools like Trello or Teamwork are great for setting out the weekly tasks. They enable everyone to check progress on a task and add comments, without clogging up the main channels of team communication.
It’s a good idea to use a business messenger, email, and a video communication tool too. How you’ll use communication tools for global team collaboration needs careful consideration. Picking the right approach is instrumental for a team’s ability to gel, while you also have to take into account keeping company data secure.
Videoconferencing, for example, allows for rich communication where context and emotion can be perceived. While email can be quicker, it lacks the ability to perceive emotion or context. Video can also provide important face-to-face time for any employee who doesn’t have other colleagues working alongside them physically. So think about which communications would be best done by video with them in mind.
When using communications tools, it’s important to take into account language and cultural barriers. If you host your video conferences in English, be mindful that people with English as a second language may struggle to get their voice heard. Be conscious of this and make sure everyone has their say.
Using an AI-powered business messenger like Chanty can help improve communication and productivity and it can be particularly useful to help battle any language barrier as it uses AI intelligence to predict responses.
Talk to your team about procedures that they think will work. Listen to their input and, most importantly, make sure everyone is on the same page. For example, our team at Rebrandly knows that if they receive a message on Skype, they need to read it asap. While we use email for less immediate communications and know that our emails will usually be regarding a task that will take some time to deal with.
Even ensuring common use of small collaboration tool features can make a huge difference to global team collaboration. For example, updating avatar icons to let people know when you’re busy can save team members frustration and time.
Beyond having procedures in place for how to use your collaboration tools, it’s wise to have some set up for documentation and file sharing too.
We have structures set up for our team folders in Google Drive and naming conventions for everything. Make sure your team labels everything clearly and accurately. It’s surprising how much work gets doubled up on when files can’t be found easily.
Our experience of working as a remote team really helped us when we were building our team dashboard. We made sure to make it easy for people to tag and add notes to every link they create. Our team checks to tag every link as FAQ, blog post, or media coverage etc. This lets us share the same links easily and track their success. While Rebrandly’s focus is on encouraging people to use their brand’s name on their links, we also put a lot of work into making it a great link management tool.
When it comes to hiring talent for your business, the world is your oyster – literally! But it’s important to take emotional intelligence and suitability to company culture into consideration when hiring new recruits too. In the Harvard Business Review, which is a great resource on global teamwork, Michael Ferguson – who is CEO of a startup and previously founded two others, gave advice from his experience of working with a global team. He suggests managers hire people who are good at building positive, supportive relationships and recommends looking for employees that are self-aware and empathetic towards others. In interviews, he even asks questions to get a sense of this.
Employees with these traits will create a team that can connect, bond and build trust like they would in an office environment. These traits help facilitate communication and collaboration using online tools, which is key to having a global team that works.
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Make sure to set up a common channel on your business messenger and encourage your team to share news there. This way everyone will be up to date with any big news and nobody will be left out. Think of it as the company’s online water cooler. The marketing team can post up news about the latest media coverage. The support team can add glowing reviews. Developers can share news about recent updates. And managers can alert the whole team when a milestone is reached, so everyone can celebrate together.
Make sure to continuously strengthen your company culture. This is particularly essential for global teams. Building a sense of who you are and what you do as a team will give everyone purpose, direction and will create a team where everyone has similar values and goals.
Don’t be afraid to put structures, procedures, tools and even rules in place to facilitate your global team. If they don’t work out, they can be changed again. Employees will happily engage and follow whatever they need to do to collaborate productively, because of the benefit of working from wherever they are.