Yesterday we had a productive webinar talking about How to Successfully Build a Unified Team During Global Growth. It was great to receive such positive and immediate feedback on the topic from the audience. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to address these questions during the webinar so we’ve captured the information for everyone below (as well as posted a recording of the webinar).

Q : How do you avoid the ‘us/them’ effect when hiring employees in different countries? What do you do for people to actually like a part of one team?

A: Maintaining a level playing field across continents is a unique problem to organizations experiencing global growth.

Be open & explain the differences.

There are very likely laws that will necessitate differences with employees in different countries but if HR makes that transparent - meaning ‘inform’ all employees as to the why they will likely understand and not feel like a group is given preferential treatment. If, for example, if a cultural difference allows individuals abroad to leave the office at 3pm local time explain to the U.S. counterparts that this is cultural and those employees come back to work at 7pm or on Saturday and truly carry the same load as those working in U.S offices.

Be deliberate & reframe the notion of ‘team’ events.

Creating a team with individuals who are geographically displaced is a challenge many organizations face. Organizations with a portion of their workforce working remotely will also face the challenges of creating a team with everyone. A few suggestions: 1) Get rid of the notion that ‘team’ means we all have to be physically located in the same conference room and let that drive your planning of team events; 2) as an HR team determine how specific events can be developed where the individuals who live in another country are able to meet together and then lifestream it to the rest of the organization; and 3) Pair/Group (depending on the number of employees are abroad) employees by business practice, job duties or personality to participate together in regular team activities. Encourage them to have frequent communication and provide them an online vehicle (i.e. Slack, Asana, Live Chat) for these pairs/groups to easily communicate with each other and develop the rapport necessary to develop a team. It will be evident when you have organization-wide events what pairs/teams have spent time working together by how successful they are in understanding each other.

Q : How do you get companies to recognize the importance of travel? We have engineering teams split across three different U.S. time zones.

A: Sometimes it takes a failure of a project or portion of a project for an organization to realize the value of allowing a dispersed team to travel to work together. Share a project fail and how it impacted the bigger project, include the financial cost and show the loss compared to the cost of a trip to work at the same place. Be sure to include losses that aren’t as tangible such as those of in time/progress on the project, momentum and trust/synergy between team members. Don’t expect the result to be approved weekly travel from an organization resistant to an annual trip. In your proposed plan include the daily use of technology (i.e. Slack, Asana, Live Chat) and video/live streams to illustrate your understanding of the high financial cost of physical meetings for a team. Show the proposed value that could be reflect in not only meeting a project deadline but finishing ahead of time and going into beta-testing early.

Q How can we build rituals? Would you start them during onboarding or is it something that develops over time?

A: This really speaks to the intersection of training and organizational culture. Rituals can be events that are carefully orchestrated (during onboarding) and reinforced on a day-to-day basis. However, rituals can be elements that have evolved over the life of the organization. Either way rituals fit into your organizational culture it’s important they are healthy & productive for employees, teams and the mission/vision. It’s important to introduce these rituals in the onboarding process so new employees are aware of them; include them in in-house training opportunities and most importantly daily practice. Make sure the HR team is acutely aware of them and models these rituals for all employees. Repetition and buy-in from the teams will allow the rituals longevity.

Q What are ways you’ve tackled getting leadership buy-in especially as it comes to communication? (Since this can be an ambiguous concept to leadership teams.)

A: Leadership buy-in is an essential building block of HR success whether or not the organization is experiencing global growth. Providing data or a narrative to leadership about times when there was a lack of communication and how much the organization lost (i.e. time, money, trust, loyalty, sales) is a great way to start this dialogue. Show several tangible ways communication can improve the pain points of the organization will be embraced by a solid leadership team. Most of the time leadership knows communication needs to be improved but it too busy working on strategic partnerships, new product launch plans or other high-level items to determine how it can be improved.

Q: What do you recommend doing to be creative in an international non-profit where we don’t have the capital start-ups do so we can build team culture? (I came from the tech world so I’m used to leveraging capital to facilitate global team travel.)

A: The fact is, many small to mid-sized organizations have limited team travel budgets. Being creative with the resources you have is key as is working to embrace the organization’s mission. In an international non-profit there likely should be a creative focus on development (financial and human) than may need to be in a start-up (which may already be funded). It sounds like global team travel hasn’t been the norm in your new organization - research how that impacted the annual development revenue and the employee turnover. Both are undoubtedly top goals where results can sustain and even grow a non-profit and enable its mission/vision to expand in a shorter than expected time period. After you find out the historical data you should be able to make a case for targeted global team travel around the capital campaign efforts, for example.

Q: If you’re an organization that’s been primarily in a single market but are ‘going global’ how do you bring everyone along?

A: A shift like this is one of epic proportions and needs to be taken slowly to bring the organization (i.e. people, projects) along intact. Strategic planning should include open dialogue about the intended purpose with no just managers but those on the frontlines. Getting input from everyone will strengthen the strategic plan and allow the Leadership team to gain valuable insight from all levels and departments they may have overlooked.

Thanks to our audience for sending in such thoughtful questions. You can watch the rest of the webinar here.

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How to Successfully Build a Unified Team During Global Growth Q+A