You really can have a global business and tight-knit team

Sylvia Pennington

Communication technology has changed considerably over the last 10 to 20 years, in fact, it always has done – it’s a constant evolutionary process. But we have reached a milestone when it comes to how we how we communicate in business and what it enables us to do. Now, it’s entirely possible to start a venture with staff who are based not in the same city, or even country, but all over the world.

It might be possible, but the question is, can your employees really pull together effectively when they’re separated by thousands of kilometres?

What’s the key to turning a global team into one that is connected and collaborative?

Business software start-up, Nitro, is headquartered in San Francisco but has outposts in Melbourne and Dublin. Director, Erica Johnson, says you must ask for their feedback constantly.

Nitro takes the collective pulse on everything from staff perks to leadership and development initiatives, via a quarterly employee engagement survey.

“This gives us the chance to hear from the entire team every 90 days, about what they want and how they’re coping with change – highly important for any organisation but especially for start-ups when people can’t get together in the one room,” Johnson says.

A comprehensive onboarding process ensures newbies feel part of the Nitro gang from the get-go – regardless of the city in which they’ve come on board. Cultivating a similar ‘vibe’ in every office is also essential for promoting collaboration and cohesion.

“We have global criteria for a great space – openness, break-out zones, private areas for discussions and brainstorming…all our offices have the same authentic Nitro feel,” Johnson says.

Start-up founders who want far-flung personnel to feel like a close-knit crew should make technology their closest ally.

It can be easy for staff to feel disconnected on decisions and office culture if they’re not encouraged to make a practice of reaching out directly – and frequently – to colleagues across the miles, observes Justin Babet, founder of employee engagement platform Jobvibe.

“You often miss conversations which are in-person among team members sitting closely under one roof,” he says.

Start-up founders who want far-flung personnel to feel like a close-knit crew should make technology their closest ally.

Not sure where to start? Think Slack for team communication, Google hangouts or Skype for internal meetings, Trello for project management and planning and Google Docs and CloudApp for collaborating on documents, Babet says.

Bringing in staff who’ve done the remote thing before can also help team mates get into the groove of pulling together with colleagues half a world away.

“Over time you’ll build up a set of guiding principles and a rhythm that works for your business and your team,” Babet says.

Right on, adds Johnson.

“Unification comes naturally when staff feel a sense of belonging and have a great employee experience when they come to work each day – regardless of which office they’re walking into,” she says.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Image: University of Salford Press Office, Flickr Creative Commons License