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Studies have shown that while diversity brings immense potential and fresh perspectives, it also presents unique challenges regarding teamwork and collaboration. If people who join a team never meet their colleagues in real life and only feel that they’re very different from each other, it’s harder to feel included and cared for. Therefore, motivation for the big goal and working more productively is more complicated.
My team mostly consists of individuals from three cultures: the Philippines, Indonesia and the CIS, with most employees working remotely. This article will explore how organizations can encourage and nurture multicultural teams, focusing on HR teams’ steps to promote a sense of belonging and respect for shared values.
1. Pay attention to the onboarding process
Onboarding is when new hires meet their team, learn about the company’s procedures and start getting familiar with the working environment. Sometimes this part is overlooked, and people are only introduced to their managers and immediately start getting work tasks. However, when this process is disregarded, new employees may feel lost and not understand their purpose in the workplace, especially when they work remotely or when the team is multicultural. During onboarding, the new hire is reassured that even though they are different from their colleagues, all of them are great professionals working together toward one big goal.
While onboarding is always intended to ease a new employee into the workplace, it may vary depending on the position. In some cases, making the person familiar with the systems and scripts they will have to work with could be a long and complicated process. However, here are the steps we usually take, which apply to all positions:
- Provide the new hire with a list of people to be introduced to. Of course, this list can’t include everyone they may need to know at work, but it will still help.
- Introduce the new employee to the entire team by sharing their employment in the group chat. Make it an interesting read by adding facts that would help the team members find something in common with the new hire: their professional background and fascinating details about them, such as their favorite quote, movie, and book.
- Have a knowledge base that you can direct the person to. Apart from the working environment and everyday tasks, it’s important to explain what kind of company the new employee is now part of. In our company, we explain our team’s multiculturalism, mission and values.
2. Reinforce the sense of a “big picture”
Reminding your employees that all of them are part of a bigger picture and that their personal impact matters is crucial, as stated by employees themselves. Every day, we engage in small actions that contribute to a larger goal. In multicultural and remote teams, where we don’t see our colleagues’ faces and might not know how our work impacts the company’s goals, it’s important to foster a sense of interconnectedness. That’s where “All Team” meetings come in — a one-hour gathering for the entire team every two weeks.
These meetings might seem too expensive for the business: imagine how much it would cost to let your employees spend a whole hour outside of their tasks. However, thanks to team meetings, employees feel involved in the overall result as they are reminded of the unifying goal and mission. It’s vitally important as, according to a McKinsey survey, 70% of occupied people’s life goals are determined by work. So motivational meetings are a way to set direction, inspire, and encourage your employees to achieve more.
At our team, there are two types of All Team meetings:
- All Team General at the end of the month: It’s when departments and founders share updates to show each employee how their work has contributed to business metrics and what their tasks were for.
- Mid-month All Team: This is a more informal meeting to facilitate connections and create a friendly atmosphere, during which we may introduce new team members and engage in interactive sessions that involve using our favorite national dishes as backgrounds and discussing them. These activities serve as reminders of the diverse cultures of our team. Another vital part of this meeting is expressing gratitude to our colleagues for their hard work, which goes a long way in fostering a sense of appreciation and camaraderie.
To reassure inclusivity, this meeting should be conducted in a language spoken by all team members, which is often English. Another powerful way to make them more inclusive is to encourage team members to co-host the meetings with the HR, who does it regularly. Regardless of their position, team or culture, everyone can become a co-host: the only essential qualities are a willingness to try, confidence and strong English skills. This approach reinforces engagement from all departments and levels: juniors, seniors and even heads can take on this role. Hearing perspectives from colleagues in various roles, teams and countries could serve as a reminder of the rich diversity within your team.
3. Conduct corporate events offline or online
Conducting inclusive online and offline corporate events is another way of fostering unity and team spirit. Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of such events on employee engagement, satisfaction, and overall team cohesion. For instance, according to Indeed, companies that invest in team-building activities experience higher levels of collaboration and productivity.
It’s important to select holidays or occasions that resonate with everyone; for example, not Christmas or New Year but the culmination of the business year. However, within these celebrations, there are local elements that can be incorporated to tailor the theme accordingly. For example, in the Philippines, we organized a Filipino-Christmas-themed event, embracing the distinct Filipino style. In contrast, we decided to take another approach and make a company-themed event in Indonesia. However, to reinforce unity and make the local team comfortable, we conducted the event in Bahasa because not everyone from our Indonesian team is fluent in English. So, we had a translator who interpreted the program for the English-speaking people on the team.
Moreover, if you don’t have clusters where you can bring everyone together physically, opt to host an online corporate event. This allows you to include team members from various locations, and this is what we did for those who were not in Indonesia or the Philippines.
By organizing these unified corporate events, you can create opportunities for team members to come together, celebrate their achievements, and strengthen relationships across cultures. It provides a platform for cultural exchange and promotes a sense of belonging and appreciation for the diverse backgrounds within the team.
It will pay off
In conclusion, there are numerous ways to foster unity and engagement within a multicultural and remote team. If you have an office space, consider conducting tours to give team members a deeper understanding of the company’s physical environment. And if your company offers a specific service, providing free access or discounts to team members can enhance their connection to the product and promote a sense of pride in their work.
Investing in these initiatives may require resources and even a dedicated team member, but the payoff will be worth it. When team members feel cared for and recognized, they become more motivated, productive, and loyal. Embracing diversity and creating a sense of belonging leads to a stronger and more successful team.
So, let’s celebrate our differences, promote collaboration and empower each team member. Together, we can achieve remarkable things!