In the last few years, blended global teams have become the norm within organisations, particularly those across the tech space. With near- and off-shore employees, remote and office environments, and a wide range of opinions and approaches to consider, how can businesses maintain operational and service excellence?
Start with culture
It’s no secret that a successful business has a successful culture at the centre, so embedding an expectation of excellence within that culture is a great place to start. Company culture is made up of three things: the things that are written down, the things that are said, and the things that are demonstrated and believed. As a leader, it’s your job to set the tone and really show up; you must live and breathe your company’s culture and elevate the environment.
The next stage is driving those messages and actions throughout your teams and the wider organisation. Visit employees in each location, encourage input from everyone on what’s going well and what could be improved, and welcome suggestions on different ways of working. It’s only by collating different opinions that you’ll understand how embedded those cultural elements are. Remember, culture needs to be championed across the company from top-to-bottom, so buy-in at board level is equally as important.
Hire for personality
Tech comes and goes (after all, it’s just a tool), but the person using the tool and using it well is where success lies. The most important thing you can do is hire good people, and ‘good’ doesn’t necessarily mean technically proficient. Skills can be taught; personality, problem-solving ability, and work ethic cannot.
Of course, there’s a basic skill-level requirement, but it’s not the leading factor. Having a detailed understanding of the soft skills and ways of working already present in your teams can help you to identify what you’re missing, and therefore recognise the value-add candidates. Bring on people who are smarter than you; if you’re wise enough to realise your gaps and shortfalls and then hire people to fill those gaps, you’re on to a winning formula.
Online technical collaboration tools make working over the web pretty simple, but emotional contagion is a huge factor of working as a team, and being physically together at regular times is vital to understand the more subtle nuances of interaction. Combining the two can work well; the time spent together in person can focus on communication, the time spent online can focus on technical work. Ensure you’re enabling both environments as much as possible.
Testing collaboration at the interview stage can also be a great indication of individual work practices and approaches. Try giving your candidates a problem and then work with them to find out how they solve it – you’ll see practical examples of problem-solving, critical thinking, resilience, curiosity, and reaction to failure, all of which will help you to understand how each person will work within your team.
In a competitive marketplace, understanding what attracts and motivates candidates isn’t where the conversation ends; to retain your staff, you must ensure they feel fulfilled in their roles. Find out what drives them – recognition, working with others, remuneration, trust in managers, challenge, career progression – and keep talking about this on an individual level as their roles develop. Remember, the things that make one person happy are not necessarily what make another person happy.
Commonly in tech, innovative and dynamic ways of working are an attractive prospect for candidates and employees, and being open to suggested new ways of working, alternative tech stacks, or unfamiliar software can not only motivate but also show a willingness to be flexible.
Focus on happiness
Defining success within teams can be difficult, but ‘The Happiness Factor’ is the leading indicator of whether people will deliver, bring people along with them, and help build a positive culture.
Autonomy is a huge element of happiness; people don’t want to be order-takers, and so allowing for self-management (to an extent) can help to create a more positive environment. If you’ve hired the right people, trusting them to do their job should come next.
As with understanding drivers, talk to your teams about what makes them happy. Send out regular surveys and ask for feedback, welcome suggestions, and check in on your employees with regard to their mental health and well-being.
Manage your vendors
If you’re using external agencies and vendors to hire into your teams, treat them as closely as you would an employee or internal hiring manager, and hold them to the same standard. Communicate the cultural elements that are vital to your business’ success and ensure they are hiring against them. Align your interview questions to uncover ‘personality’ factors, collaboration styles, and soft skill sets. Your vendors are a representation of your business; excellence should be front of mind for them, too.
- Riding the Waves of Culture by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars
- Communication for Engineers by Chris Laffra
- Legacy by James Kerr
- Team Topologies by Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais