The following article was originally published online by Forbes Boston Business Council.
Employee engagement is challenging enough when it is local. Introduce the complexities of finding and engaging employees in far-flung locales, and it can seem downright scary! But it doesn’t have to be that overwhelming. Most humans have the same basic needs, so there are a few key practices that can get you past cultural or geographic barriers and vastly improve the global employee experience.
We all know that having a good company culture with engaged employees leads to happier employees, but employee engagement doesn’t happen automatically. We work for it. At our company, we are on the front lines of managing global employee engagement, partly because our own team is so multicultural and dispersed, and partly because we spend so much time assisting our clients with managing their global teams.
Here are five ways we communicate internally to build our company culture and keep our team engaged.
The “rule of seven” is one of the oldest concepts in marketing. It says that a prospect needs to see or hear your message at least seven times before they act. To make an impact on your employees, apply the rule of seven to your global workforce. It isn’t nagging; research proves messages are more effective when repeated. At our company, we share and repeat company news internally via emails (with or without images), monthly all-hands meetings that everybody dials in to, team meetings, our company’s internal website, and we have an internal podcast to share company updates and highlight different team members weekly.
2. Video On, Always
In the 1970s, psychology professor Albert Mehrabian deduced that communication is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and 7% verbal. That’s important information for people who rely on the written word to communicate — but it’s even more important when you’re communicating with someone who doesn’t share the same first language. Our company has employees in 20 different offices spread over four continents with dozens of languages spoken, so we use video. A lot.
Global organizations should invest heavily in video communications technology. Whether an employee works at one of our primary office locations or remotely, everybody on staff has video conferencing capabilities so every meeting can be done face to face. Video enables our global team to connect regularly and more effectively regardless of location. We also took this to the next level and launched an internal “get to know your co-worker” video series. These videos help us get to know our teammates’ personalities, especially the parts missing from email like laughter, gestures and expressions.
3. Break Down Barriers Through Effective Onboarding
Some companies go out of their way to avoid global hiring because it’s intimidating to effectively onboard and manage employees internationally. This is a huge barrier to international business. International business is extremely complex, and international ventures must prove their effectiveness quickly, so new hires must engage and learn fast. It’s important to standardize onboarding processes worldwide to ensure everyone has the same strong start, but you also need to understand local practices. Equal isn’t always equitable, and an onboarding practice that is helpful in one culture might be harmful in another. Take the time to study local practices that will set employees up for success wherever they are.
4. Find Reasons To Celebrate
When people ask me how we maintain our company culture in 20-plus countries, I tell them that my team is great at celebrating each other, and a celebration helps people feel more connected, listened to and engaged. While video helps break down barriers, we also have an internal website for employees. We love to use our internal newsfeed to celebrate each other’s successes (with weekly shoutouts from/to employees), life events (from weddings and birthdays to cute pets and great vacations), holidays and traditions.
Diversity, creativity and gaining global perspectives are some of the greatest benefits of being part of a global workforce. So, embrace it all and celebrate it!
5. Define (And Redefine) Success
If you want employees to engage with your values and thrive in your company, communicate what “good” looks like, and reinforce it. When it comes to how we treat each other, respect, dignity and kindness are at our core. We take every opportunity to show our employees these values matter, reward them for exhibiting them and find new ways for employees to practice them from day to day. Be sure all your employees understand what you stand for. It will make them feel more successful, and that success will keep them more engaged.
I built this company on the premise that you can have a highly profitable, scalable business while treating employees well. We define our success by what I call the triple bottom line: happy clients, happy employees and happy shareholders. Engagement is critical to our success. We can’t afford to leave anyone in our company, anywhere in the world, out in the cold.
In the end, we are proof that being global isn’t a barrier to engagement. A high-growth, highly profitable global team can have highly satisfied clients and highly engaged (happy) employees. We love what we do, and we find that treating people well, no matter where they are located, will always pay off in dividends for the long-term success of a company.
About Forbes Boston Business Council
Forbes Boston Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders in Greater Boston. Learn more at forbesbostoncouncil.com.