How to Grow a Global Team when Travel is Off Limits

Luisa Golgini

By Luisa Golgini

Despite the many challenges created by COVID-19, workplace cultures largely improved as the shift to remote working introduced greater flexibility and efficiency.

However, the longer the pandemic continues, the more other pressures are taking their toll. Particularly so in Asia-Pacific, where travel bans and a lack of skilled migration across countries has made it extremely difficult for global companies to find great people locally to fill roles. This is especially true for technology-enabled companies that are growing fast and reliant on highly skilled talent.

So, how do you build a global remote team when travel and importing talent is off limits?

Regional is the new local in hiring

A key shift companies must make is being open-minded to hiring from anywhere. Currently, our APAC team spans across India, Singapore, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and more, with many new hires onboarded remotely during COVID-19. As a business that has always operated remotely, we view our region as a whole, not divided into countries. While local knowledge is very important, it should not be a pre-requisite when hiring unless absolutely necessary (e.g. for language reasons). There is no reason, for example, for a sales executive working in Singapore to only service Singapore clients.

If a candidate is a good fit for the company and the role, it is a company’s responsibly to grow their knowledge across locations and arm them with the tools and communication pathways to operate effectively from anywhere. This model not only creates a more unified team with cross-country and functional knowledge; it allows global companies to widen their talent pools without getting caught in red tape. It also offers the best of both worlds when travel does resume, giving employees the freedom to work remotely and/or move about the region as they choose.

Hire for potential

Another hurdle many companies face today is that they are still trying to fill roles with people who meet all the criteria and can ‘hit the ground running’. With virtually every country across APAC suffering a skills deficit – particularly digital and IT skills – this is not a realistic way to build a team.

We are operating in an environment where skills have assumed greater importance to organisations than traditional roles or qualifications. Organisations must therefore hire and train accordingly. In particular, they must hire for potential and cultural fit in the first instance, with the expectation that they are responsible for upskilling on the job.

Many companies are currently halfway there in transforming their learning strategies, but there is still work to be done. Employees should have a robust support system around them that includes ongoing, on-demand learning, backed by strong management and feedback processes to help individuals grow.

Introduce greater career mobility

To leverage talent to the fullest, it is also important that global organisations look within their current workforces and start mapping out career plans that allow people to move in any direction across a company – up, down, sideways, or jumping into a new role entirely. It requires a mindset shift that takes people out of their skills silos to think strategically about how each person can add value and grow. It might mean teaching a receptionist how to code, for instance. It is about using the talent and existing knowledge within a business to train and redeploy someone in a whole new way. While it is a process that requires investment, it can help address skills deficits and build a culture of employee empowerment.

Focus on building a strong workplace culture

For global employers to continue to attract and retain talent across regions, they need to invest in delivering the best possible employee experience and entice people to work for them remotely. Components of that are:

  1. Flexibility of when and how to work (and where, increasingly so after COVID-19)
  2. Variety in the work
  3. Competitive compensation
  4. A focus on wellbeing and diversity
  5. The opportunity to develop new skills

Building community is also vital for teams working globally. Use technology to create dedicated spaces for celebrating special days (e.g. virtual birthday cards or online shopping vouchers), company milestones (e.g., digital badges for years of service), as well as calling out individual staff successes across company communication channels every week, are key.

Growing a global team without the option of travel or relocation is a significant challenge, particularly for large companies still acclimatising to the shift away from major city hubs. Organisations can manage this by rethinking how they hire, being prepared to upskill, and investing in building an inclusive, growth mindset culture to widen the talent pool.

Luisa Golgini is Senior Manager, Customer Success | APAC at Skillsoft