The Keys to Managing a Successful Global Remote Team
The Keys to Managing a Successful Global Remote Team
5 Questions with TheSoul Publishing’s HR Director, Aleksandra Sulimko
Aleksandra Sulimko is great at multitasking. She has to be. As TheSoul Publishing’s HR Director, she manages a global team of 1,700 people, 80% of which work remotely from more than 70 countries around the world. We asked her about how she makes it all work seamlessly.
1. First, what is most exciting about your role at TheSoul Publishing?
I’ve never worked at a place where everyone seems to be so enthusiastic about doing their jobs. TheSoul Publishing is an incredibly exciting company creating content that simply makes people happy, and you can see it in the level of satisfaction we see in our employees. We are at the forefront of remote working with employees on six continents. We established our remote structure years prior to the pandemic. That means instead of building the remote experience we’re perfecting it. It has given TheSoul Publishing a big advantage.
I think new employees come in as fans of the various brands and then continue their commitment to TheSoul as they see the company’s commitment to them and their career development. You know you are working for a special company, when on a daily basis you are not only inundated with resumes from candidates -- but you can feel the passion from those already onboard and part of our talented internal team.
2. How do you successfully manage a remote workforce?
It is definitely important to give employees a process and structure. Proven tools, like those created for project management, are helpful. Using them ensures transparency and enables managers to monitor progress in distributed teams. This also allows individuals to organize their working day themselves with a high degree of personal responsibility. The basics of managing people are the same anywhere. People are fundamentally motivated to do good work and this doesn’t really change in a remote work environment.
Our production and design procedures allow us to streamline the hiring process and find the right people from a global talent pool who best fit our remote-first culture. Our managers need to trust employees to do their work properly while also offering support when needed. Bottom line: we look for talent that shows us that they are self-starters and looking to go way beyond the bare minimum.
3. How can technology help HR professionals?
HR needs to adapt to the realities of today, and tech is a huge part of that. Finding the right balance impacts business output, ensures safety, and keeps employees both happy and productive. We’re already seeing companies onboarding other new types of technologies that will help maintain social distancing and keep employees feeling comfortable and safe when they are meeting in person.
Technology can help effectively vet and assess new candidates and share their details with team members. It can also act as a selling point to attract the best creative talent. Candidates see a tech savvy company as one where people can fulfill their potential, and enable your global HR management team to work smarter, not harder.
One aspect where conventional wisdom may be outdated is the gratuitous usage of videoconferencing. TheSoul Publishing is actively trying to have fewer calls in favor of asynchronous communication. This allows us to save time by avoiding unnecessary meetings that prevent team members from focusing on their priorities. It also allows us to proceed without concern for timezones, allowing more seamless collaboration. Finally, this system allows every point or decision to be fully noted, leaving no room for confusion or miscommunication.
When it comes to technology implementation overall, it’s not as easy as buying the newest software and gadgets. HR leaders need to work with internal teams to identify and effectively implement the right collaboration software. We also use digital-first learning management systems to ensure all employees have access to self-education and personal development.
4. Do you promote a specific remote work environment?
There’s no secret formula. We strive to create a comfortable virtual/digital environment and give teams cutting-edge equipment and software that can help them be efficient.
But it’s increasingly important for HR to be not only flexible but also dedicated to providing full support to each business division across every region to help improve employee well-being, empowerment, and career development. HR should work toward creating the best-possible situations for their teams to be successful, no matter where they’re located, and create environments that lead to increased productivity.
Business leaders must work with HR to develop agreeable work schedules on a personal level. Team members will then feel empowered to take ownership and invest more of themselves in their work. Managers should regularly use internal surveys to measure engagement, improve current processes, and implement new technology tools.
5. You mentioned at the start that TheSoul Publishing was a remote forward company prior to 2020. Why do you feel the company is well positioned for future success with a remote workforce?
Our company’s remote working process has not been dramatically affected by the pandemic. Our founders come from an IT mentality, and TheSoul Publishing has always looked to establish working environments for people who are ready and able to work independently.
Before the pandemic, the digital content team at TheSoul Publishing was more than 80% remote. We spent years honing a remote-first workplace and have already overcome many challenges that businesses are just now facing in having to adjust to this normal.
We go beyond just making things work. Our initiatives include well-being webinars, online courses and training modules, and a planned high-level series of speakers. Decisions on remote-focused activities are based on feedback garnered from our global team members.
We know we need to evolve fast to understand the overall sentiment of their global teams and always strive for consistent communication that leads with empathy.
BONUS: How do you see this shift to remote work playing out over the next few years?
With many companies having to adapt quickly over the past year, it’s putting more immediate pressure on HR departments while showing us a glimpse of what a future remote generation could look like.
A recent survey indicated that nearly two-thirds of people would be willing to work remotely on a more permanent basis, and the reality is that HR professionals need to prepare for this increase in demand. In order to keep up with this fast-moving shift in the workplace, businesses will need to adjust to a post-pandemic workforce that is already becoming accustomed to spending more time away from the office.
It’s clear: either adapt or it will become more and more difficult to retain and hire the types of employees that will help your business flourish.