Having a strong organizational culture is vital in every company. It ensures that everyone is aligned with the goal of the company and the teams behind it. It also fosters easy and confident coordination and discourse.
With employees that share the same values as your company, you can ensure fruitful working relationships, reduce conflict and disagreements, and overall have happy and engaged employees.
Many companies question, however, if remote workers also need to be integrated into the company culture—they don’t see them face to face, after all. But just because an employee is not within the physical bounds of your office doesn’t mean you don’t need to ensure that they’re happy and satisfied on the job.
While embedding company culture into a remote team can be more challenging, there are steps your organization can take to build a strong culture and healthy working relationships with your remote international team.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Working With an International Team?
Working with a remote international team is both beneficial and challenging for your company. Here are a couple of pros and cons that you need to know about before you start working to build a solid organizational culture.
Remote workers typically come from other parts of the world, sometimes in areas where the culture differs drastically from yours. But that shouldn’t be seen solely as a disadvantage.
Your remote workers can expose you to different cultures, beliefs, and work ethics. This not only makes you more culturally aware but also allows you to better understand where others are coming from and coordinate with people from different backgrounds and walks of life.
It’s not impossible to engage and connect with a remote team. If done correctly, team-building is much easier with workers from other parts of the world. There is much to discuss and explore with them; they can also provide insights into their countries and cultural diversity. This is an excellent way for team members to build rapport, learn more about each other, and build deeper relationships.
Working with a remote team presents ample opportunities to learn from others without being confined to the culture you’ve been accustomed to.
Having a remote team lets you get to know other cultures and possibly adopt them into your company or personal life.
While there are benefits to having a team of remote workers from different cultural backgrounds, this can also pose some challenges.
For one, there’s a language barrier. Any chance of building rapport or solidifying relationships can be halted by miscommunication. And if the language gap proves too large to make it difficult to maintain conversations, then that might strain your ability to build a robust corporate culture altogether.
There’s also the issue of time zone differences. To connect with your remote international team, meetings, and regular catch-ups are non-negotiable. But if your remote employees live on the other side of the world and you’re offline during their work hours and vice versa, scheduling a meeting time that works for all parties might be challenging.
In line with this are international holidays and vacation days that you must consider, coupled with your country’s holidays and events.
The biggest challenge lies in cultural incompatibility. Remember when we said that having different cultures can be a good thing? It can also make it harder for you to build a strong work culture—simply because your remote employees might not share the same beliefs and work ethics as yours.
When trying to integrate your company culture into your remote workers, make sure that you’re also taking their own culture and differences into account to facilitate something that works for everyone.
What Is the Importance of a Strong Culture for International Teams?
It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that their employees are happy and engaged on the job. This is what leads to employee productivity and retention. Studies show that happy and engaged employees are 12% more productive at work and can help the company outperform its competition by 20%. And in turn, that translates to 28% higher gross income for the organization.
To foster engagement and yield happy employees, you must feed their natural human instinct of craving self-belongingness. Employees want to feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves, AKA the growth of your business. And when they do, it will push them to achieve great things and exceed expectations on the job.
Creating a strong culture with remote employees also yields several benefits, from encouraging camaraderie to building long-term employee-employer relationships.
What Are the Key Values Needed to Create a Strong International Team Culture?
Building a strong culture with your remote international team is not something you can force. It requires a series of improvements within your company and processes. These come together to foster great experiences for your employees.
To keep your remote team engaged, you need to improve on the following:
Your efforts to build strong relationships with your remote workers begin before they even start working for you. To be more specific, it begins with your virtual onboarding process. Remember that first impressions last, and that’s true even when it comes to modern-day employment.
Ensure your remote worker’s onboarding process is as smooth as possible. Provide them with all the resources they need for the job, supply them with all the information they need to carry out their tasks and establish that you and their other team members are there for them should they require assistance.
The latter is essential to build a strong support system. Introduce your new remote worker to everyone on the team and encourage them to continue communicating with and getting to know those that they will be working regularly. Make the onboarding process as supportive as possible and warmly welcome the new remote employee into your organization.
Open door policies
It’s easy for new employees to feel as though they’re all alone in their employment journey, which probably concerns being hired for their skills and expertise. They want to show you that they know what they’re doing, which can make them uncomfortable or fearful about asking for help.
To make matters worse, many employers are seen to have a closed door or cold shoulder. While that may not be the case for you, it’s a common misconception in all workplaces. As such, you need to make an active effort to show your remote workers that your door is open for them.
Encourage them to talk to you and share their thoughts about certain tasks or processes. Listen to their opinions and make sure they know that you value their voice. Create a culture of mutual respect and empathy across your organization—the last thing you want is for your employees to feel like you’re distant and unsupportive of them.
It’s a common scenario in an organization where the business leader is the only one providing feedback about their team's performance. But that shouldn’t be the case. Feedback should also flow from bottom to top, not just from top-to-bottom.
You must listen to the voice of the people dealing with your company’s day-to-day tasks and seeing how effective or ineffective your working processes are. But to get that information in the first place, your employees need to feel that they can open up to you.
There lies the importance of creating an inclusive culture where you value each and everyone’s opinions. Encourage 360 feedback, whether from your managers and supervisors or that new hire onboarded a couple of weeks ago.
Accept criticism and listen to suggestions from everyone. And most importantly, apply changes according to their feedback. This will not only help your remote workers feel important and listened to, but it will also help you identify problems or bottlenecks you can improve on.
Great intercultural communication throughout the company
Regular and effective business communication is the key to building a strong remote work culture. It allows everyone to collaborate easily and build lasting relationships, leading to better employee engagement.
Two-way communication is the determining factor for how you and your international employees work together on different tasks or projects, which will ultimately decide how productive your team is. So you need to ensure that your company's communication channels and methods help facilitate this collaboration.
From holding weekly meetings to check in on each other to setting one-on-ones for sharing feedback, learning the different modes of communication, and studying how to apply them in your relationship with your remote workers.
How Do Cultural Differences Affect International Teams?
Working with a remote multicultural team opens the doors to cultural differences. There will be things that you and your remote worker will not agree on. But that doesn’t have to hinder your working relationship and work culture, provided you know how to manage these differences.
The case for most remote workers is that they have their own culture bubbles and tend to interact with other team members as if they were living in the same cultural space. But this can lead to miscommunication and a lack of understanding of each other.
To address this, multinational companies must focus on team-building activities that aim to overcome cultural differences. They should make proactive efforts to get each employee aware of the different cultures present in each remote worker and find a compromise to collaborate and work together more effectively.
By taking the time to learn about different cultures and work ethics and making it a point to be open-minded, employees can better understand where each person is coming from and work together despite cultural incompatibility.
How Can We Take Advantage of Cultural and Regional Differences in Building a Strong Company Culture?
Cultural and regional differences don’t have to hinder you and your employees from collaborating and building strong working relationships. In fact, you can use these differences to your advantage, helping everyone gain a new awareness of concepts that may not be familiar to them and creating a business environment that values diversity and inclusivity.
To build a strong culture despite differences in your team, you need to synthesize your company culture strongly. From the moment you onboard your new hire, make sure that they know your company values, common goals, and processes so that they can seamlessly integrate into your organization.
As an employer, focus on bringing your people together to get the job done—all while finding common ground in different cultures that they can agree on and work upon.
A solid international teamwork culture is the key to building a fruitful relationship within your company. In turn, this makes employees happier, more contented, and more engaged in the job.
While working through differences may be a challenge with remote international teams, the right strategies will help you encourage a culture of collaboration, communication, and inclusivity.
Remember that the whole process of building a strong culture has several touchpoints in the remote hiring process. Read our blog on the steps, tips, and strategies for hiring remote international teams successfully.