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3 Communication Tips for

Global Virtual Teams

Fresh perspectives from international diversity create the most groundbreaking strategies and innovative solutions. At least that’s what we – Stylight – know to be true for our team. Don’t get me wrong: I’d be lying if I said we never face hurdles. When team members come from different walks of life with myriad cultural backgrounds of more than 20 different nationalities, while working in various locations and combatting language barriers, misunderstandings are inevitable. Global companies will always face challenges in communication, tasks, structure, support, and all around unification, but it’s how and when these challenges are alleviated that will determine the likeliness of success.

If not acknowledged prior to and routinely on a daily basis by the entire staff, the effects can be detrimental to a business. Here at Stylight, we take global affairs very seriously. As a foundation built on global talent; a platform dedicated to granular customization for its user base in each of its 15 countries; a team motivated to create memorable experiences and creative solutions— our strategies start and end with a global perspective. So, to help businesses better mitigate challenges, we’ve found that the following practices have increasingly helped us to not only overcome obstacles, but in turn, grow exponentially into new markets and verticals.

1. Research and Invest in Digital Software

In creative and collaborative environments like that of Stylight, which thrive off pure brainstorming,instant real-time communication is imperative for success. Leveraging insights from peers for worldly perspectives from ideation through execution allows for richer plans and all-encompassing strategies.

But how do you effectively brainstorm, share ideas and opinions, and feed off that contagious energy without everyone together in one room? I’m glad you asked. The age of digital has reached new heights in the past decade, and that holds true for corporate internal communications as well. The biggest mistake a company can make is creating siloed teams and essentially closing the door on cross border communication, especially during the ideation phase of a specific campaign, project, challenge, etc. By incorporating the use of digital software and apps that focus on helping companies organize and function on a daily basis, the entire team, regardless or their location, will be able to share their inputs, provide feedback, and learn new updates as soon as they occur.

For me, when I first joined the Stylight family in the New York office, I was incredibly afraid that a lack of communication to and from the Munich headquarters, where 95% of the company worked, would pose issues in my work and connection to the company. As time went on, I quickly realized how much importance the company stresses on having everyone’s opinions heard. And they do so through adapting and investing into organizational programs and software customized for each department.

Trello : broad interactive capabilities

Trello is one of our favorite tool. From photo and file sharing along with immediate commentary and feedback, Trello truly acts as the ‘hub for all of our company’s creative activity.” If an idea for a campaign or an event races to my head, I immediately log onto Trello and drop it into one of our customized categories. By the time I get into the office the next morning, my colleagues will have seen the idea, offered opinions, shared images/design work, and have provided feedback on holistic strategies.

Slack : multi-tasking messaging app

Coined as the app for “team communication of the 21st century,” Slack is another favorite among Stylight users. Combining simplicity and productivity with an arsenal of offerings, Slack’s main focus is to assist digital teams to collaborate in a professional manner, and also serve as a “fun place to hang out and be part of their work community.” In this same article from WSJ, Slack CEO and Founder, Stewart Butterfield confirms, “the whole spectrum of communication across a company can happen inside Slack. All those heterogeneous messaging schemes disappear.”

Intended to be adapted as the ‘central command’ for all communication needs, Slack integrates platforms such as DropBox, MailChimp, Evernote and several others to make their platform a convenient, one-stop shop. One of the most important aspects of Slack is its capability to monitor brand mentions across social platforms and the web (with the help of Zapier and Mention). Move over Google Alerts– there’s a new digital stalking service coming to reign.

2. Unification Through Team Bonding

Apart from perks and benefits, investing in company-wide trips and events are not only attractive to your next employee, but also valuable in unifying your current staff. As Stylight continues to grow into new markets, the staff grows at a rapid pace too. Even though Stylight is now a discovery platform with over 200 employees in 3 offices across the world, the company does its best to make sure each person feels like he or she is a vital part of one, big functioning family.

Even though I work out of the New York office while my entire team (Brand Marketing) is headquartered in Munich or based in London, I never doubt that my lack of daily presence affects my voice within the company. With several opportunities to travel to Munich for employee trainings, strategy meetings, professional conferences, holiday parties, festivals and events, I always feel ‘at home’ regardless of my actual location. Stylight has gone above and beyond to instill an inclusive culture. Luckily, feeling unified, connected and most importantly, supported is not a struggle our team faces.

For former or current startups that are growing at rapid pacesthe importance of scaling corporate culture to keep management and staff honest and company values in tact is tricky. With a start-up environment, it’s crucial for employees to be involved in all areas of the company’s growth— from conceptualizing creative ideas to participating in administrative decisions (i.e. new office spaces, coffee machines, brand design). In fact, the primary focus of the founders and top tier management is to keep their staff on course– productive and motivated at all times. Doing so with company-wide weekly update meetings, which are set to go through the high and low points of that week and detailed updates from each office and department. In addition, monthly strategy meetings are also scheduled in which senior management alerts the company of new announcements, ongoing decisions, and upcoming strategies, where all employees are able to ask questions and provide opinions. This idea of transparency builds trust and therefore, a sense of security and purpose.

3. Feedback, Feedback, Feedback

Arguably the most important form of communication, feedback is interesting because it’s around us all the time. The way we listen, the tone of voice we use to respond (both virtual and face to face), our body language– feedback exists with or without us labeling it ‘feedback.’ Believe it or not, when communicating in a professional setting, providing effective feedback when something isn’t working will help make lasting differences and future learnings.

Two of the hardest parts about feedback is 1. giving it and 2. receiving it. Aside from the initial discomfort, it’s important to look at the end goal. Communication across borders is challenging enough, and when companies invest time and money into making sure those challenges lessen in number and in severity, providing feedback on current practices will only help in the long run. Not only that, feedback is a great way to learn– simply put. For global teams in virtual environments, mistakes will be made and practices that used to work may not continue to work as the company evolves… and that’s completely normal. However, it’s up to each team member (both near and far) to share honest and effective feedback when something isn’t working.

In addition to the above practices, I strongly believe global companies will only be as great as their leaders. If each employee in every office feels supported and appeased by their leaders, the motivation and desire to work hard with thorough cooperation will come naturally. At Stylight, the founders and supervisors encourage everyone to be a leader day in and day out, and that alone speaks volumes to the progressive culture and promising future I immediately witnessed the first day I joined the team.

Originally published here: http://blog.stylight.com/communication-tips-for-global-virtual-teams/

Written & Posted by: Pujah Shah

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