As the world becomes more and more digital, you may be thinking about worldwide domination for your company. OK, maybe domination is a bit of a stretch, but global expansion is feasible and realistic for many companies. And with the pandemic, there is more reason to expand outside of your company’s city headquarters. Furthermore, depending on your business, expanding globally can generate more users, more leads, and more revenue.
If you’re considering global expansion, you may be wondering how you can keep your company culture intact across borders. You may be nervous that expanding will sacrifice your company’s special vibe. After all, you can’t exactly have an in-person team lunch if some of your employees are across the globe! Keep reading to learn how you can maintain a strong culture, even when your employees are on different continents.
1. Hire With an Open Mind
Keeping your company culture intact can be tricky with employees living and working abroad. First of all, they are likely coming from a different worldview. So they may not be fully up to speed on working with a U.S. company. But these differences can also enable your company to grow.
Learning from these individuals can help you as a leader think about how you operate and communicate internally. Bringing a new outlook to the company may assist you in troubleshooting problems you didn’t know you had. For example, you may realize that a monthly check-in call isn’t enough when you aren’t physically seeing your employees in an office every day.
Existing overseas contractors are ideal candidates for regular employment. These individuals already know what to expect from the company. They are likely to be more in tune with the culture you are looking to achieve.
You may think that converting contractors to employees will hurt your financial margins. However, full-time employees could actually cost you less in the long-term. You will be able to pay them a more consistent rate, and they in turn could add new value to your company they would not be able to in freelance roles. The employee will feel more valued, and providing benefits will in turn boost their loyalty to the company.
2. Streamline Your Onboarding Process
Streamlining your online onboarding process can also help integrate your new international hires into your company’s culture. Make sure everything they need to get started with onboarding is in one place, such as an online portal. Confirm they are set up on services such as Zoom and Slack so they can immediately start connecting with teammates.
You may also want to consider a first-day or even first-week agenda for new hires. This way they can get paperwork taken care of quickly. Set up meetings for them with HR, the accounting department, and any team with which they’ll have contact. Also be sure to set up some one-on-ones for them to meet new colleagues and feel welcomed.
Now is also the time to prioritize any diversity and inclusion needs in your onboarding process. Inclusivity doesn’t need to be daunting either, as there are many online resources available to assist. Hiring remotely means working with people from different nationalities and backgrounds, so be prepared. Talk with your new overseas hires about their expectations about working with the company in their own country.
3. Create a Positive Work Environment
Creating a positive, encouraging working environment starts from the top down, meaning from the leadership team to the employees. Talking openly about morale with the entire team is a good first step. Set clear expectations about productivity, teamwork, and even time zone concerns so everyone is on board.
Make an effort to get to know your new international team members on a personal level. Ask about their families, make a connection over shared hobbies, or discuss a film or movie. Create an “open inbox” policy for reaching out to you about problems or concerns and follow up with resolutions. You can even set up a weekly or monthly check-in just to give employees some personal attention. Every touchpoint helps.
All this said, remember to acknowledge and respect regional disparities. Recognize specific country holidays, for instance. Look to the team members in those countries to talk about issues affecting them outside of the workplace. Employees that know they can ask for help outside of work projects will also feel valued as human beings. Lastly, make sure your HR team is also on the same page as you are about crafting the culture.
Maintaining a strong company culture is challenging to every business leader — particularly those with global reach. However, leaders who prioritize employees both in and outside of the workplace will find success. Leaders should lean on their teams for input. Ask them for what they need and what they hope to achieve by working for the company.
Culture starts with your employees, so thinking through the hiring process of international workers is key. Additionally, you’ll want to confirm these employees have the tools and resources they need to work proactively and productively. Lastly, creating a positive work environment where everyone feels valued and appreciated will in turn boost morale and foster a vibrant culture.