It’s Monday morning. You head into the office full of fresh coffee, determination and just a hint of the Monday blues, but you’re not worried; it’s nothing you can’t handle.
You sit at your desk. A ping alerts you to a notification. It’s David asking whether Sam got the client brief off last night. What time does Sam arrive, again?
Another reminder pops up: it’s Gabby’s birthday tomorrow. The office hasn’t organised a lunch reservation. Does Gabby like Mexican food or Italian?
You go to message Camille in the French team to ask her, but you can’t remember the time zone there or what hours she usually works. You don’t want to disturb her.
Finally, Steve walks into the office raving about his friend’s recent work trivia night, and you feel a stab of jealousy because that sounds so fun and why doesn’t your company do that?
Alright, we’ll ease up on the poetic license for a moment. Simply put, connection with our colleagues is essential. It’s not just about having friends in the workplace, either. Cross-company connection impacts our communication, productivity and ultimately, profitability.
Take our little anecdote, for example. If you’d been more connected with your hypothetical team, your Monday morning might have gone a touch smoother. See where we’re going with this?
But what actually is cross-company and cross-culture connection, and how do we achieve it? Let’s break it down and map out 5 easy and achievable ways you can boost your workplace communication and connection.
What is cross-company and cross-culture connection, anyway?
Aside from being a lot of ‘crosses’ and words beginning with the letter C, these types of connections are what makes a company tick (or not tick). KaiNexus articulates it particularly well, stating that this type of connection ‘occurs when people from different operational areas join forces to solve problems or implement process improvements.’
A lot of miscommunications and problems arise when a piece of work passes between departments, or when too many people become involved, or when one group lacks an understanding about the other. The good news is that these misfirings can be rectified – and all it takes is one person to ignite the fire of effective connection within a team.
So how exactly can your workplace boost its connectivity?
1. Be Aware
Sounds basic, but it’s the perfect starting point to achieving solid company collaboration. Take a step back, zoom out for a moment and have a look around. How do people in your team interact? Are there different communication styles? Are there remote team members with different cultural backgrounds? What’s going on in their worlds that could impact how they interact at work?
At Talk, we have a wonderfully close-knit team, but not necessarily in vicinity. Our hybrid remote work set-up means that we have team members based in New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, the UK and Brazil. It’s imperative that we’re conscious of each person’s unique circumstances in order to work together efficiently.
Take the time to get to know your colleagues and their styles. Be aware of all these factors and you’ll get a much better understanding from the outset of what makes or breaks your team.
2. Get to know each other
And no, not by awkward ‘tell us three things about yourself’ circle games (cue rising heart rate as you try to think of something witty to say in under two minutes). While you don’t need to be best friends forever with every one of your colleagues, it’s of the utmost benefit to your own work and your company to get to know each other.
Team building activities like weekly coffee catch-ups in the office, trivia games (thanks for the idea, Steve), team lunches or just having a chat over non-work related things can all do wonders for improving cross-company relationships.
Working virtually? So are we! That’s why we offer the majority of our team building exercises online. From virtual Christmas parties to pictionary played over Google Meet, there’s no shortage of fun get-to-know-you games in our new remote working world.
Knowing each other on that slightly deeper level allows us to tune into each other’s work styles, communication preferences, strengths, weaknesses and even food preferences – the latter is of particular importance when planning birthday bashes.
3. Practice active listening
So here’s the deal: you could be doing all of the above, but still not see that much improvement in your workplace collaboration. This is where listening comes into play – and not just listening, but active listening.
According to University of Texas Psychology Professor Art Markman, the key to performing better in your role is ‘to have regular conversations with those people who are responsible for the details you don’t know, and you need to become a really good questioner and listener.’
Markman says this entails not just listening to people talk, but making sure you understand what they’re saying. Ask them questions, repeat back what they said, and work with your team to allow them to speak openly and freely – for some, this might look like a simple conversation. For others, it could be a digital survey.
In this vein, we started our annual Happiness Survey to ask our team in a practical, actionable way how they feel about certain operational and cultural facets of the business. It’s a way of encouraging people to input their ideas and to speak up about things that matter. We collect qualitative data and use that to assess, tweak and update areas of the business according to our team’s preferences.
We’ve also recently introduced a flexible work policy that caters to the many and varied time zones in our company. After all, we can’t have the team in Brazil working until 4am just because it fits in with the Australian zone. All team members company-wide must be online between 10am and 2pm. Outside of that, we’re flexible!
These simple yet effective practices increase our company’s agility and approachability. It builds trust between personnel and strengthens our connection across the company and across our different cultures. And all because we actively listen to each other’s needs.
4. Get creative with communication skills
A tip that needs no introduction, yet one of the most important parts of this article, communication really is key when it comes to boosting cross-company and cross-culture connection.
Does a particular team member articulate their thoughts better via email? Do you and another colleague get along like two gossiping old ladies via Zoom? Maybe another staff member is notorious for not answering Slack messages, but works wonders with a quick phone call instead. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your team’s communication skills is imperative to making them better.
We recommend using all three methods of communication in the workplace: written, vocal and physical. Here’s a quick cheat’s guide:
- Start by putting something in writing. Send an email, calendar invite, Slack message, whatever your business uses.
- Follow it up with vocal acknowledgment. Talk about it in the next meeting or schedule a call to run through it verbally.
- Utilise gestures to enhance and clarify meaning. Images are another great virtual way to do this.
As we’ve mentioned, Talk has a wonderfully talented team working in Brazil. This is yet another reason for us to be creative with our cross-cultural communication. We can’t tell you how many times one of us has used a colloquial or slang term that the other group had no idea about. We took some fun Portuguese language lessons last year to help us bridge the gap and bring our teams even closer.
Whether it’s a different way of speaking or simply a different sense of humour, it’s important to practice sensitivity and creativity around your communication styles and skills.
5. Ensure equal opportunity
And now for the big finale. There will always be hierarchies in any organisation, but that doesn’t mean there can’t also be equal opportunities. For Talk, no matter where we are in the world, whether we’re working in the office, at home or in a different country, we ensure that every single person has equal access to the same resources and quality of information.
In today’s almost-fully digital world, and for us working in digital marketing, we’ve made it a priority over the years to push our virtual opportunities and methods of access.
All our business and learning resources are kept in a virtual space for everyone to use whenever they need to. Online tools like Monday.com and Slack assist us in storing files, having direct lines with all team members and keeping each other in the loop about the goings on in the business. We include everyone in general meetings, and practice transparency wherever possible.
Ensuring equal opportunities in your organisation lets your team know that they’re valued, which in turn strengthens their connection with each other as a whole.
Diversity means success
Having a broad range of cultures, backgrounds and personalities in your team is an incredible asset, so why not use it to your advantage? Dealing with cultural differences, language barriers or contrasting communication styles can be difficult at first, but implement our tips above and watch how your team can soar.
Who knows, Gabby might get the perfect birthday lunch with a game of trivia thrown in, after all!