The 5 Critical Elements of Building a Global Workforce

Linda Carlson

Throughout a year of lockdowns and social distancing, businesses worldwide have scrambled to put together remote work groups to varying degrees of success. For those unaccustomed to remote work, it can be a challenge to establish and maintain effective groups when everyone works in their own offices, scattered around the world.

Yet the workplace is shifting, with more companies operating globally and remotely on a long-term basis. That’s the model we’ve excelled at since our 2007 founding. (In fact, we just launched a standalone app, Cubeless, that secures workers wherever they are.) Through it all, we’ve held firm that global success is founded on strong communications. It’s the first step toward creating a strong remote model. When it comes to building a truly effective global workforce, here are five key takeaways we’ve gleaned over the years.

Establish a single baseline time zone. Time zones can wind up being the adult version of “The dog ate my homework.” It’s one of the primary reasons given for missing meetings or deliverables in a global endeavor. Removing this impediment will help make everything run like clockwork.

Make sure everyone uses the same central point of reference for meetings and delivery dates. Many companies are now moving to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), a simple method of managing time zones and does not suffer from the confusion that Daylight Savings Time adds to the mix.

While UTC is my favorite, most companies are still based on the time zone in which their head office is located, and that’s fine too. It really doesn’t matter which one you use, as long as you’re consistent.

Select the right internal communication channel for your needs. Working alone from home does not have to be an impediment to collaboration and communication. Institute the right channels to ensure that everyone stays looped into an engaging, positive exchange of information and ideas. Moreover, maintaining direct communication with your customers is as easy as adding them to dedicated channels to convene directly with your employees and managers. Transparency and openness are key here.

At ModSquad, we use Slack for all day to day live communications, internally and with most of our clients. Yet it’s important to remain proficient on all major platforms in order to best accommodate your customers; as such, we readily host meetings not only on Slack, but also on other platforms.

Email is still a communications mainstay for many organizations, and useful for long-form documentation, but you can’t beat the speedy turnaround time afforded by chat channels.

Finally, maintain a fully shared project management system that allows people to check in to project progress and needs around the world, regardless of time or whether or not managers are available to give direction. The ability to leave notes and questions is invaluable in these cases.

Make the most of localization. If you’re operating and offering support in other countries, retain native speakers for all the languages you support. This will also ensure that you’re current with cultural nuances and evolutions that are simply not possible without people who live in these areas.

Localization is more than translation, even with native speakers. It’s the ability to apply not only linguistic but also cultural finesse to your market offering. That’s one of the key ingredients to ModSquad’s success in offering outsourced services worldwide. Offshore outsourcing may present as a lower-cost support option, but if the talent you’re using doesn’t understand regional phrasing, approaches, and conversational styles, it may be quite off-putting to your customers. Putting the right people in place will assure your client’s satisfaction, and your customers will thank you and come back for more.

Redefine the mobile home office. If your people plan to continue working from home, be sure to leverage video conferencing tools for virtual face-to-face meets. But if your clients want to visit the “home office” (such as an Operations Center or other physical location), offer a unique twist: Bring the home office to them. Send key people to meet clients at the location of their choice, laptops and cell phones in hand. Senior staff with presentations and data travel well. Meeting space can always be rented for offsite, in-person interactions. As a bonus, your workers get to hang out together in person.

Bring on new people in ways that will help them succeed. Set remote worker expectations at the interview stage. It’s extremely important to tell your prospects what to expect in terms of availability, productivity monitoring, video conferencing, and so on. Among the things to discuss:

  • The blocks of time they’re expected to work may vary from what many consider normal working hours. Many remote roles are evenings or weekends, while some are more flexible.
  • Determine whether they possess the technical skills, internet access, and equipment to work for you, as well as a quiet environment in which to perform their tasks.
  • Make sure that they can really commit their time. Remote roles are often great for stay-at-home parents or college students, for example, but can they actually offer you the hours you need?

As you welcome new faces to your company, help them hit the ground running by following these steps:

  • Offer strong documentation and assistance during the onboarding process.
  • Help new workers feel like they’re part of a greater whole by guiding them to important internal connections.
  • Keep your new folks interested and feeling a part of your organization with regular social conversations, company-wide fundraisers, and online events.
  • Establish workplace norms, create bonding opportunities, and work to incorporate cultural differences in a supportive and celebratory fashion.

It’s a small world after all. Communications tools make global collaboration easier with every passing year, and we’re all the stronger because of it. We love working globally, not only for the expansive network it opens up, but also for the opportunity to work alongside talented, exceptional people from, in our case, more than 70 countries around the world. As we come together as one, we establish a global force that can accomplish wonders.