Company Culture: Empathy, inclusion, and communication are crucial for global companies

Wednesday, 21 June 2023 21:13
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From left: Inspired Testing Head of People Kristi Vollgraaff, xSMTHS Head of Operations Kristina Gransee, and CloudSmiths Lead Software Engineer Rogan Matthew Endres.

Dynamic Technologies group companies Inspired Testing, xSMTHS, and CloudSmiths have a physical or remote presence in countries across the world and regularly use remote workers to service international clients. They are also preferred employers, with strong reputations, and high rates of employee satisfaction. One of the areas in which they perform exceptionally well is company culture.

Inspired Testing Head of People Kristi Vollgraaff, and xSMTHS Head of Operations Kristina Gransee share the importance of promoting a strong, inclusive, and empathetic company culture, regardless of whether employees are in-office, or working remotely and half a world away.

Kristi Vollgraaff, Head of People at Inspired Testing, says, “Modern, globalised workplaces challenge companies, including Inspired Testing, to re-think how we define culture. We can no longer have a narrow-sighted view of culture because it is now so much more than just providing a pool table and bottomless coffee at the office. Instead, modern culture is driven by leadership, leading the way by encouraging and discouraging certain behaviours and approaches. The focus lies on how things ought to be done to create an optimal environment.”

One of the most notable difficulties for home-based workers is the feeling of remoteness. Being removed from the physical hub of the office means less interpersonal bonding, fewer one-on-one discussions, and a loss of the type of company culture that turns colleagues into collaborators, friends, and even family. Companies need to ensure that they have processes and programmes in place to counter this loss of connection and help bring remote workers closer together. Understanding what your employees want, and what they need, is key to implementing the right solutions that are both effective and sustainable.

Kristi says, “A mindset where empathy is at the heart of insight, to both clients and people, should remain top of mind. As the adage goes, if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business. At Inspired Testing we strive to keep one another accountable to incorporate this mindset into our everyday decision-making.”

As a remote worker herself, xSMTHS Head of Operations Kristina Gransee knows just how important company culture is. For employees, it has a lasting impact on their working lives and even their career as a whole. Kristina knows internal communication is critical. She says, “It is not only important to engage in official communication, such as company-wide town halls, regular team meetings, updates, and so on. It also refers to how we connect across teams, build social connections, and develop a sense of trust and belonging for all.” She adds, “A strong and empathetic company culture is important for employee engagement, teamwork, and attracting and retaining talent. It creates a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, customer satisfaction and overall company success.”

Starting a new position in a distributed remote business can be daunting, admits Kristina. “Getting to know other team members and their responsibilities, learning the processes, understanding the company culture, and building a social connection, all while being physically apart, can be intimidating. As a remote business, xSMTHS has spent a significant amount of time and energy on creating an onboarding experience that helps new joiners find their feet quickly.” She goes on to add, “At xSMTHS we actively get our staff members involved through several initiatives. We implemented a decision-making process and encouraged everyone’s input and participation. This includes feedback mechanisms, employee surveys, focused workgroups, and special recognition programmes to celebrate achievements and contributions.”

xSMTHS also espouses a mentorship and buddy system that strongly facilitate knowledge sharing, professional development and relationship building within the company. Kristina says, “Our senior employees guide and support new hires or less experienced colleagues, which creates a sense of support and community.”

Being a remote worker can be challenging, but it’s also up to the employee to make it work. Rogan Matthew Endres is a Lead Software Engineer at CloudSmiths. He relocated from South Africa to the UK last year, but chose to stay with CloudSmiths because the opportunities, as well as the company culture, were not anything he wanted to give up. He says, “I first joined the company in September 2019 and was absolutely amazed by the change in the fun and exciting company culture. Being surrounded by so many other smart “techies” with such diverse industry backgrounds felt like I had been submersed in a pool of tech talent, which was both a humbling and exciting experience. Every day would bring about a new learning experience, whether it was brainstorming a new feature, sense checking / problem solving with team members, or even an informal chat with fellow colleagues around the coffee machine, arcade box or rooftop garden.”

CloudSmiths helped facilitate Rogan’s move to the UK, and even though he is primarily a remote worker, the company culture is still strong. He says, “I go into London once or twice a month to attend in-person client meetings or technical workshops, or just to catch up with UK colleagues for a pint or two at the pub.” It’s a system that works for him, and Looking at CloudSmiths’ popularity as an employer, their remote and home-based workforce is happy, functional, and integrated.

What’s clear is that for all three companies, communication is key to building a strong, sustainable company culture. By treating people with respect and understanding that are valued assets and human beings first, companies can create an environment that makes people want to do their best and invest their time and energy. It’s true what they say… you can only get out what you are willing to put in.