In a previous article, we described how to best manage one’s offshore team of software developers. We stressed the importance of culture in the communication and management processes. Today we want to dig a little deeper into the importance of cultural fit when it comes to your offshore team.
Is cultural fit important for effective offshore management or is it just a nice-to-have?
To answer this question, we first need to define culture. In this context, we talk about corporate culture, what happens at the workplace: it is a set of values and beliefs about the mission of the company that are reflected in the company’s perception of itself, its practices and its team spirit.
It is the “How we do things around here.”
As Simon Sinek states so clearly in this short video, a company’s value-set is not a list of arbitrary nouns like ‘innovation’ or ‘honesty’, but they are actionable verbs or calls to action such as ‘think outside the box when faced with a challenge.’ They are being modelled by the leadership first, adopted by existing staff and passed on to newcomers.
The workplace today is so much more than a local office or factory building. We live in a globally connected world, where we work with teams from other cities and countries. The workplace has expanded to video chats, messaging tools, coffee shops, co-working and modes of transport.
Can we leave ‘culture’ out of any of those alternative workspaces? The simple answer is: No.
Culture is like yeast in a loaf of bread: It works its way through every part of the company and determines how successful it can be. Without it everything is just, well, ‘flat’.
From our experience at Houston, an alignment between the corporate cultures of the onshore management and employees and the offshore team has shown itself to be as critical, as the technical expertise level of the team. Culture will ‘leak’ through video chats and messaging tools and will largely determine the success of the engagement with the offshore team.
What does that mean practically? Please allow me to share from our experience at Houston, as this is the best piece of evidence I have for you.
- As we get to know a new client, we learn about their corporate values early and in return share our values at Houston. We believe in partnering with businesses where a cultural alignment is evident, to set both sides up for an enjoyable journey ahead.
- Once we are equipped with the understanding of the customer’s values the recruitment process commences. We begin every interview by testing the cultural fit of each candidate first. If we can see natural alignment between the customer’s as well as Houston’s values, we go to the next stage, which is the technical interview.
- As we welcome new candidates to our office in Kharkiv and elsewhere, we again share our company values and ask them to sign off against our internal team handbook as a commitment that they have read and understood what we’re on about at Houston and that they will work within and even protect our values. We remind our team often what we stand for.
- As our overseas clients onboard their new team members, we encourage them to share their own culture and values documents with the team, and bring new staff onboard with the broader company vision and mission instead of jumping into the technical mountain of work straight away.
- As the working relationship between client and engineers develops, our request for feedback from the client always includes a cultural part as well, and it is something we often discuss in length on calls or in person.
But cultural fit from day one is not everything!
Recent research conducted by professors at the Stanford Graduate School of Business provides findings that strongly suggest that cultural adaption plays as significant a role in employees’ long-term enculturation and fitness as cultural fit per se does. What predicts who will work well with the remote team is not as much whether the employee fits culturally well at the time of hiring, but whether the employee is able to adapt to the culture.
Culture is not something you can simply ‘buy’, instead we have found it must be actively invested in over a period of time – and we encourage you to persist in regular, ongoing cultural investment in your team. It will make your workplace enjoyable, increase loyalty and you’ll find staff staying back and working longer hours as they begin to own the vision and support their fellow workers – even if they live in a different country. Everybody wins.
To summarise, hire with both cultural alignment and technical skills in mind to set yourself up for success. Want to know more about Houston’s values and how we might be able to work together? Please reach out to me on LinkedIn or via [email protected]