18 Jul How to foster a strong team culture across borders
By Gemma Manning
After starting my first business, Manning & Co, in Australia and expanding my second business, Gemstar, into Singapore to take innovative ideas to market in the region, I know only too well the importance and the challenges of building a strong company culture across borders.
Both Manning & Co and Gemstar have transitioned over time to become truly regional businesses, with our ever-expanding team now based in Sydney, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. Along the way, new technology platforms have enabled ongoing communication, collaboration and a sense of connection between our remote teams.
The difference having the right team makes
Having the right people on the journey has also helped us transition from an Australian company to a regional one. The team have shown patience, willingness to adapt and an appetite to be part of something that is bigger and extends across borders.
Once you’ve made up your mind to grow your team regionally, it’s important to really stick to your goals. Growing your team regionally is not something that happens overnight, and your team must be on board with this transition for it to succeed.
Here are my top 4 tips for building a strong company culture across different geographies.
1. Be the leader who inspires change.
All employees want to feel connected to a sense of purpose – and it all starts with leaders inspiring this sense of purpose from the top down. As you begin to grow your business across different countries, it’s fundamental that you spend time with your people wherever possible, and in whatever form possible.
Clear and consistent communication both in person and via technology will ensure that team members geographically removed from you have a strong sense of your leadership, guidance and direction for the business. It’s important to demonstrate your commitment to the role remote employees play in the business and to make sure you are present and available to everyone.
2. Ensure you have the right technologies and systems in place.
As part of your regional growth strategy, ensure that you have the right technology and systems in place to maintain good communication, transparency, teamwork and a sense of community among your people.
For example, when I relocated to Singapore recently, our team made the transition from a local network server to a Microsoft cloud solution called Share Point, where our documents are now accessible anytime, anywhere. This has made it much easier for the team to collaborate in real-time on client work. The shift to one central repository was key to the smooth running of both Manning & Co and Gemstar across borders – and the same applies to any business looking to grow regionally.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
It may seem like common sense, but communication is absolutely vital to growing a strong company culture across borders. When growing a regional team, there are cultural nuances to respect, different time zones to manage and so on – and good communication is at the heart of all of this.
It’s important to check in with your team regularly, showing responsiveness and interest even when you are not physically there. Bring your team together for weekly team meetings at a time that suits everyone, using a platform like Skype. Team members should also freely use technology to communicate with each other so that they feel they are part of a team environment.
4. Be present for your people.
One of the most important aspects of leading remote teams and bringing them together is to touch base with individuals to let them know that they are valued; that you are thinking of them and that you are experiencing the journey together.
After all, a strong company culture is not only about working as a team, but about celebrating wins and successes together. For example, when we gained a new client recently at Manning & Co, our Sydney team sent a funny video to the Singapore team to let us know they were thinking of us, reinforcing a collaborative mindset and culture.
It’s all part of the journey
Becoming a regional business has been a very exciting journey for my team and myself. We have all progressed in our roles as a result, gaining new skills and expertise, as well as insights into the power of communication and collaboration in driving high performance, even when based in different countries. Best of all, our bond and company culture are stronger than ever.
This article was first published in This Woman Can.