How to Sustain the Company Culture While Setting Up a New International Team in a New Location

Company Culture
Remote

31 March, 2020

Frédéric Cerdan, Director of Engineering at Payfit, delves into challenges of sustaining the company culture when new engineering teams are being set up in a different location.

Problem

As your business grows, your engineering teams will be dispersed in more than one location. Setting up a new engineering team in a new location is challenging, especially when there are already engineering teams developing their own culture at the headquarters. We want to keep the culture fit while allowing this new team to bring in their own identity as well to encourage diversity. We also want to keep the same level of excellence by sticking to the same evaluation process, coding skills but adapting it to the local market and local competitors.
 

Actions taken

When managing teams in multiple locations, success is often attached to the leaders you will hire to build those teams, so choose them well. To build those teams you will need leaders that had already faced the same challenge before or that are a great culture fit, have the skills to build the team and confidence to solve conflicts and challenges.
 

First, hire the leaders you need to build the new team and provide them with objectives of quality instead of quantity. Excellence is something achieved in the long run and is an essential ingredient for a great impact.
 

Let the leaders build their own team and provide them with the investment they need to reach the objectives. Setting up a new team in a new location will certainly have a big impact on the business, so make the effort and investment according to your expectations.
 

When I moved to Barcelona, one of the challenges I encountered was offering flexible hours, remote work or social and food perks that are provided by all companies. Nothing is mandatory by the law, but providing a better quality of life falls under the cultural expectations when legally working in Barcelona. If we wanted to attract talent, we had to be competitive.
 

Lessons learned

  • Hire right -- don’t rush, do it right! It’s crucial to evaluate the local market and analyze your competitors when hiring the people that will be part of your new team. If you are setting up a new team in a country or city where everyone provides certain perks, align with the existing practice.
  • Loosen the reins -- neither act overprotectively, not micro-manage! As a leader, you are responsible to build the team and not making all the decisions. Work with the team to define the right OKRs aligned with the company objectives. As you build the team from scratch your role will change during the process-- first, it will be more operational, and later you will delegate more.
  • Empower the team you hired because they are who you choose to work with. You should vest your trust in them, allow them to grow and have the impact they are supposed to have. Defining OKRs with the team meant aligning them with the company objectives and giving them the direction.
  • Don’t neglect one-on-one meetings. Once the team is hired, empowered and is familiar with the OKRs hold meetings at least bi-weekly to report progress and unblock issues and monthly to follow OKRs.

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