7 tips for working successfully in an international team
Nowadays, it is common for many people to work in an international team. Probably most of you lived abroad once in his or her life or knows somebody who did. About one-fifth of all German students is doing a semester abroad. Especially the Erasmus program at European universities makes it easier for students to gain experiences in other countries, for instance through a semester or internship abroad. But not only study brings people into foreign countries, also interest in different cultures or better career opportunities can be reasons to emigrate. These are examples for a trend, that there tend to be more and more international teams in the working world. This has many upsides, but there might also appear some difficulties.
At CELUS we right now are a team of 28 members coming from twelve different nations and three different continents. This often leads to funny or confusing situations. Overall, we all try to meet these situations with humor and not to hold something against each other. For our daily working life, we as a team identified seven strategies to master all challenges and work successfully in a good team spirit.
1. Speak to each other
First and most important: communicate frequently! If jours fixes, weeklies, dailies, or quick standups — every communication is a good one. There might be some misunderstandings from time to time, but speaking about it helps to eliminate those in the future. Also, we are aware of some differences between the cultures of our home countries and try to respect this in our reactions and behavior
Nicole Lontzek, Head of Marketing:
“Communication is a key aspect of a healthy company culture. Especially when working in an international team it is crucial to communicate proactively and openly. Take into account the different backgrounds of your team when communicating, since communication is the link between all.”
2. Help foreign team members
One has to keep in mind that a foreign team member not only has a new job, but also might have a new place to live, a new language to learn and much paperwork to manage. It can be very challenging and hard to newly build up all aspects of private and working life at once. A company should therefore support its employees as good as possible and have a contact person for advice and support.
Esmira Alieva, Head of HR:
“Adapting foreign team members not only in the company but also in the country is a crucial aspect. Sharing everyday experience and give your helping hand in situations that might seem easy. Even buying a metro ticket or opening a bank account can be a challenging task for a newcomer.”
3. Get to know each other personally
An important thing for the team spirit is to not only knowing each other in a working context but also to have a good basis on a personal level. For this reason, we regularly have team events at CELUS, like hiking or playing games together. Also keep in mind that foreign colleagues might not built up a social environment yet and are happy about new contacts.
Alexandra Zelena, IT Recruiter:
“Knowing each other on a personal level is important in any team. Though, for the international one it is even more important to take the cultural peculiarities into consideration, which definitely should not be underestimated. On the other hand, cultural diversity gives more ideas and more points of view due to the difference in mindsets. This can help in many situations, for example in a brainstorming process.”
4. Broaden your horizon
There are many situations, in which cultural differences are visible in daily working life. People themselves might not even notice that their behavior is not appropriate to local customs. However, don’t let this stop you from taking up the topic. If you talk about customs in cultures and countries, you will probably learn many interesting facts about other countries as well as getting a new perspective on your home country.
Rui Calsaverini, Head of R&D:
“If you only surround yourself with familiar things and don’t work on expanding your perspectives, you will find yourself rehashing the same solutions to all the problems you encounter. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to move to another country to do that. But doing so will surely increase your reach and give you a newfound appreciation for diversity.”
5. Allow remote working for everyone
During the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone, who was able to work remotely, should have done it. This was a big challenge not only for the employees that had to organize themselves but also for the employers that had to take care of the working environment — from the technical and social side. At CELUS the collaboration worked perfectly fine, only the internet connection of some team members was a problem, which could be solved through a new WLAN-router. CELUS allows unlimited remote working for every employee. This decentralized structure makes it easier for remote workers to be part of the team.
Alexander Pohl, CTO:
“We are a cloud native company, and that means everyone should have the freedom to work wherever and whenever they like. So, it is only logical to live up to those standards and also give that freedom to your employees via unlimited home office. This increases not only the flexibility, but it also confirms that the company has full confidence in its employees’ autonomy and working skills.”
6. Beneath all differences: find a common basis
Beneath all differences, it is important to find a common basis that is independent from culture or country. This can be anything almost everybody loves. At CELUS that special thing everyone has in common definitely is cake. We always have a lot of cake for every occasion — for example on birthdays, to celebrate corporate successes or as a bet amount. Everyone can easily get in touch with every team member and have a chat during cake time.
Joris Bethune, Business Development Manager:
“Introducing cakes to the daily business life is not hard and you get so much out of it. You can communicate and get to know your colleagues cross department. In the end everyone can shape the Startup and create an atmosphere she or he wants to work in.”
7. Have clear company values and a vision
What is a very important part for every company, but especially for those with an international team, is having visible and highly appreciated company values. This helps the team as a whole, as well as each team member individually, to identify themselves with the company. Also, a clear vision for the future helps every employee to understand his or her individual role within the company better.
Tobias Pohl, CEO:
“Each and every company has values. Not all know them and actively follow them, but every time a group of people come together, they will form common believes and values. Values are also influenced by cultural backgrounds of team members. That fact makes highly international teams like in CELUS incredibly exciting, but also challenging at times. Standing behind values and openly show them gives the team the strength and the feeling of safety they need in an unknown environment. That´s the most important responsibility of a leader because Innovation and revolutionary new ideas rarely happen in environments of fear and uncertainty. Providing a zone of safety and a clear heading shows all team members where we are going and their part on the journey.”