Creating, cultivating, and maintaining a collaborative culture across global teams
September 05, 2019
Chat apps, project management tools, and other collaborative software are all common ways that global teams interface across offices. In 2019, it’s great to have so many options, however, these means of communication are not the only keys to creating and maintaining culture — international or not.
Fostering a positive work environment, giving and receiving constructive feedback, and consistently setting expectations/following through with them are just a few of the many other important factors necessary for establishing successful communication and organizational culture. As the People Operations Manager at Nulab, I’ve taken on the task of cultivating and maintaining the various ingredients that lead to our unique Nulab culture.
Collaboration as culture
Organizational culture is about the values and behaviors that are adhered to and normalized within a business. The thing that sets Nulab apart from other companies is the many ways in which we as employees feel connected to our coworkers, no matter how far they might be, and that is the primary foundation of our culture: collaboration.
All teams collaborate, but not all companies build their organizational culture on the foundation of collaboration. We constantly work to instill a sense of trust, togetherness, and alignment based on the belief that a high tide lifts all ships. When we work together, we’re all better.
Collaborate by example
Nulab was founded by our current CEO, Masanori Hashimoto and CMO, Shinsuke Tabata who share a common vision to create products that make team’s lives easier. Nulab teams now work every day to create products that benefit teams just like ours. Which is why we use our products internally across all of our offices across the globe.
Our teams and our products depend on regular use, feedback, and iteration to improve. This practice helps us better understand what we are doing right and wrong both for our own team members and for our customers.
While digital collaboration is the staple of our global culture, we do make time to collaborate face to face. In the short time that I have been with Nulab, I have had multiple opportunities to meet and work with team members from our offices across the globe. The Amsterdam and Singapore teams came to New York City this past holiday season — which just so happened to be my first week on the job.
But the biggest opportunity for in-person culture building is our General Meeting, an annual congregation of all Nulab employees in Fukuoka, Japan, where Nulab was founded and is currently headquartered. The General Meeting is a week-long gathering of every Nulaber from New York, California, Amsterdam, France, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan. During this week, there are tons of interactive meetings, collaborative workshops, and presentations that help everyone understand what Nulab is about and where it’s going. Co-workers who aren’t on the same team or who may have never met in person have the chance to work together during this time as well as witness how each office operates.
Not only does everyone get to visit the cultural headquarters of our company each year, but outsiders get to immerse themselves in Japanese culture, too. Co-workers from Fukuoka volunteer to guide visitors through the narrow streets full of countless shops, introduce them to local temples, celebrate the seasonal bloom of the cherry blossom trees (i.e. Sakura), and show them where to get Fukuoka’s famous original dish: ramen.
This yearly event greatly shapes our culture. Why? It encourages a sense of comradery amongst individuals from opposite sides of the world, regardless of language or cultural barriers. Everyone spends a full week connecting their sense of vision and mission within the company.
When we return to our respective countries, the bonds we create come with us. Now every time I speak to my coworkers overseas, I can put a face and personality to a name on a computer screen, which helps to create a more friendly and warm interaction. How many people who work 6,000+ miles away from one another can say that? I have had friends and family tell me they have worked with people across state lines for years and have never met them face-to-face. It is such a unique and thoughtful opportunity that not many people have the chance to be a part of.
Since 2010, I’ve worked in HR and admin roles primarily in the staffing world, where the culture is commonly known to be fast-paced, high stakes, and high stress. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that life at Nulab runs at a more sustainable pace and if I make a mistake, it isn’t the end of the world as long as I “learn from it” — while still being held accountable, of course. Nulab’s culture is the kind of company culture I had been seeking in my next opportunity and I am glad to have found it.
In a work environment where the main focus of the organization is to create tools that emphasize teamwork, it’s important that we foster the values we showcase. When I conduct a phone screen and am asked, what my favorite part about working at Nulab is, my response is always “our collaborative culture.”