RecruitCon 2018 Speaker Explains the Art of Leading a Team That Crosses Borders, Time Zones, and Language Barriers

Who doesn’t dream of being able to run their business while literally sitting under a palm tree watching the waves rolling in onto the soft, white sand? Or perhaps staring out the “office” window looking out over a magnificent forest setting? For some, it might just be the dream of running their business from a home office while the rest of their team are also working from home offices.

global workers

imaginima / iStock / Getty Images Plus

For me, sitting on the other side of the world to the majority of my team is pretty much the norm.
Although I spent the first 15+ years of my career building and managing traditional recruitment businesses (in many countries), over the last 7 years I have helped build a marketplace of nearly 6,000 independent recruiters sitting across 50+ markets and servicing clients in over 70 countries.
At the same time, while I am writing this article (from a coworking space in Sydney where I am working today), our core team is totally distributed across San Francisco, Sydney, Toronto, Cebu, Atlanta, Spain, Morocco, Belarus, and even somewhere between Katherine and Broome in remote north western Australia! Why? Quite simply because that’s where the best talent was based, or where they have since chosen to live.
At my company RecruitLoop, we have successfully built a global recruitment business where it’s not uncommon for a client based in San Francisco to work with a recruiter in Tel Aviv; or where a recruiter based in Phoenix can help a client build out his or her team in Sydney, Auckland, and LA.
I am a firm believer in what I like to call Next Generation Recruitment—helping companies build distributed workforces and virtual teams. After all, there’s no denying that today the best talent can be located anywhere in the world.
The days are long gone of needing to build a business in one central location or having all your team sitting in the same office together. Pods of employees, motivational posters, and conference rooms are fast becoming a thing of the past. With all the communication tools and technology available today, time differences and the all too infamous “tyranny of distance” are practically nonexistent.
Just imagine if you could wipe the cost of rent from your P&L completely by having the best employees working from … well … wherever they want in the world!

Recruiting for a Distributed Team

When it comes to recruiting for your distributed dream team, you must hire personality types that will align with this style of working.
For those who will work remotely (even if they are part of a broader team) having a fierce level of drive, motivation, and independence are paramount. There’s no way around it.
There’s obviously also an incredible level of trust when it comes to being a remote team member. You must be 100% comfortable that you can implicitly trust everyone you hire who will work remotely given that you are probably accustomed to having your entire team within eyesight and earshot.

Managing a Virtual Team

Try not to treat members of your distributed team any differently than you would a team you spend every day with in the office.
Sounds bizarre, right?
You still need to have clearly defined reporting lines, and you need to set crystal clear and deliberate performance expectations.
It’s entirely up to you whether you choose to have synchronous or asynchronous meetings with your staff members, as long as you put extra effort into teambuilding.
From a management perspective, in a “traditional” work environment, you would probably try to promote a culture of work/life balance. However, given that your remote (or “virtual”) team members may well be working in a completely different time zone, it’s important to set clear expectations around work/life “separation.”
In other words, you need to encourage your staff members to not feel guilty if they are not online when you are (as long as the above-mentioned performance expectations are clearly established).
Wherever possible though (i.e., when time and budget permits), try to schedule face-to-face visits with everyone in your distributed team.

Communication in a Remote Team

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ll need to set (and stick to!) an appropriate cadence of communication with all your individual team members.
Using whatever communication tools you want (see below), your team meetings and one-on-ones will continue as normal. However, the only real difference is that you will probably want to set separate personal check-ins at different times to your work-related meetings.
In a “normal” office you might grab a coffee with an employee from time to time. As you build your distributed dream team, you need to create virtual impromptu coffee or “water cooler” moments.

Collaboration in a Remote Team

Some of the communication and collaboration tools we currently use at RecruitLoop (or have experimented with in the past) include Zoom, Slack, Facebook, Asana, HipChat, Trello, GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, DropBox, Mightybell, StatusHero, and Sundial Teleport.
These tools allow us to see each other whenever we want to or to keep conversations going with individuals or groups at any time.

Creating a Culture Sans Frontières

It’s often hard enough inside a single office to remove barriers between different teams. When you always have the remote experience top of mind, you must also ensure you’re creating a culture with no barriers or borders at all.
In order to foster a “culture across cultures,” you really just need an up-to-date calendar of international events. Depending on where all your team members are located, you may find yourself celebrating Independence Day, Bastille Day, Australia Day, Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Chinese New Year, and Diwali. Trust me, this will only further encourage camaraderie, engagement, and a true sense of community among your virtual rock stars.

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Working alone remotely let alone building and managing a team of remote employees is easier said than done.
Coming from personal experience, if you are promoting the ability and freedom to “work whenever and however,”  problems associated with isolation and separation will undoubtedly come up from time to time. You will never be able to prevent it entirely, but as a manager it’s up to you to handle it as soon as it arises.
An effective distributed team only works with the right people, the right leadership, the right touch points, and the right technology.
As telecommuting becomes more common and teams start to span far-flung locations, armed with a laptop, Wi-Fi, and a mobile phone, a true professional can do his or her job from anywhere.
These days, there is absolutely nothing stopping you building a dream team that crosses borders, time zones, or even language barriers.
As one of our own RecruitLoop recruiters recently said, “These days it shouldn’t matter whether your team members are two desks away, two offices away, two blocks away, or 2,000 miles away!
Paul Slezak is a cofounder of RecruitLoop—a global marketplace of expert sourcers and recruiters available on-demand.
With nearly 25 years in the recruitment industry and having worked for both an international publicly listed group as well as a global niche recruitment business, Mr. Slezak has been a hands-on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the industry across Australia, the USA, Asia, and Europe. He has seen international success in the highly competitive recruitment industry by applying his professionalism, drive and creativity to develop and deliver solutions that exceed business expectations, and push the boundaries to create innovative solutions.
He is also an avid writer and blogger. One day he would still really like to host his own talk show! He holds Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney and a Masters of Arts from Macquarie University.