Most organizations no longer operate within their own four walls. With the rise of digital communications and mobile technologies, companies today operate anywhere their employees happen to be—from Toronto to Timbuktu.
There are many advantages for companies that work this way. But there are also challenges. One of the toughest is to make sure that every employee, no matter how remote, feels like part of the team. You want to create a productive environment built on collaboration and mutual respect. That’s just good business. But how do you get there when your employees are located across the nation—or around the globe? Here are four ways to create a global culture that fosters both inclusivity and innovation.
Shine a Spotlight on Employees
I work for a global company with offices in many corners of the world. About a year ago, we started a companywide roundtable program in which we focus on different topics, such as new training methods or the latest developments in, say, our European office. The program takes place once a month and runs for about an hour. Employees are required to join in via phone or video conference.
As part of the program, we also have something called Spotlight, in which we shine the light on an individual employee. We spend about 5 minutes interviewing that person to get to know him or her better. We ask questions like, “Why did you join the company?” and, “What do you like to do when you’re not at work?”
It’s seems basic, but it has a powerful impact. We’ve discovered that these Spotlight sessions create a bond among employees that transcends geography and helps to build emotional connections that would not otherwise exist.
Encourage Fresh Ideas
It’s important to provide a platform for employees to speak up and share their ideas with confidence, in a forum where they won’t be second-guessed or criticized. Nearly every employee at any company has ideas for ways the company could improve its performance—whether it’s implementing a new HR process or introducing a new product line.
Some of these ideas will be good, some not so good. But that’s not entirely the point. Providing an idea-sharing platform will make employees feel valued and engaged.
At my company, we ask our employees to go into detail about their ideas. Why is it feasible? How will it impact the organization? Can it be easily implemented? The management team will then vote on the ideas and pursue the best ones.
Innovation is about making sure your organization is open to new ideas and acting on those ideas to evolve. This is sort of company mind-set is also appealing to employees because, at the end of the day, they want to know they’re being heard and that their contributions are meaningful. From a culture standpoint, this is golden.
Recognize All Employees, Not Just the Rock Stars
It’s often the salespeople who get the recognition because they’re the ones closing the deals and bringing in the revenue. But there’s usually a very large and supportive team behind the scenes that plays an indispensable role in making those deals happen.
So, whenever we close a big sale, our VP of sales will point out one of the support teams—whether it’s the finance team, the consulting team, or the engineering team—and ensure those individuals are also recognized for their achievements. This engenders a greater sense of loyalty and belonging among all employees.
Treat Employees Like People
It’s vital to treat your workers as individuals—not just as employees. For example, we have an employee on our finance team who just got a new puppy. She has to travel home every afternoon to let the dog out and then come back to work. This takes about an hour out of her day.
At our company, we don’t say, no, you can’t do this. Instead, we make this employee feel accommodated and feel like a real person. Her manager lets her work part of the afternoon at home, so she can take care of her puppy, get her work done, and still be present.
I think it’s crucial for all managers to build emotional connections and to treat every employee as a unique individual, so they feel valued. Because when people feel appreciated and understood, they’re actually happier, enjoy their work more, and are more productive. They also have a much greater sense of loyalty to the company and will give their all in order to ensure the company succeeds.
Building a strong, inclusive, and collaborative global culture is not easy. But companies that succeed in creating a great culture will see happier employees and superior performance for years to come. There is no downside to that.
Gwladys Kabore is the Human Resources Manager at IR.