Сase studies
Overcoming intercultural barriers in a startup's two local remote teams
My client, a founder of a startup from California, USA, had a successful American business across construction technologies and IT sectors. The company had two teams: an offline office in the US and remotely-working staff in Europe. In such a scenario, a business is bound to face both managerial and intercultural challenges.

Kristina Roppelt
Intercultural Communications
& Soft Skills Consultant
Problem
Pretty soon the two teams had a number of misunderstandings and mutual complaints. Some European employees had difficulties with feedback and back channeling. Besides, they saw their American colleagues as people who followed their initial job description responsibilities too strictly, without being ready to think even slightly out of the box. Many felt underappreciated, while others experienced a lack of attention and involvement because of remote work. All these factors directly impacted the productivity of the team and the combined results. The founder asked me how to make it easier for the employees to work together in the absence of an established corporate culture.
Solution
I conducted a number of problem-solving sessions for the company’s management
We organized a series of online workshops for the whole team (50 people)
I created tools to collect feedback from the employees
The Europeans participated in additional workshops on communicating with American clients
I began by conducting a quality assessment of all issues. After talking to the CEO, HRD and key employees from both teams, we outlined several trouble spots in terms of communication. All employees also filled out an anonymous questionnaire, voicing the complaints they had about communicating with their colleagues.

The analysis showed that several group meetings would be required in order for the employees not just to form a theoretical understanding of cultural differences they had, but to also acquire communication skills necessary to work together (before my workshops, the team had never gathered in full).

Apart from issues of internal communication, the European team and I also worked through a variety of questions that had to do with communicating with American clients. I invited an independent colleague from the US to this session, so as to train the European employees to appeal to American values, while also having a chance to receive immediate feedback from an American person.

At the end of our cooperation, I recommended that the client hold joint video-calls and celebrations, so that the two teams would feel like a part of something bigger.
Results
According to the client, the founder and the CEO of the company, these workshops changed the corporate culture of his team drastically and helped overcome a looming communication crisis between the two offices. The tailor-made methods and materials solved the current issues of the team, and became the basis for on-boarding materials for future employees, helping to prevent potential misunderstandings.

The client also admitted to changing some of their standard practices (for instance, they created a shared Miro board, where the functions of all employees were outlined). Furthermore, they started holding joint sessions, and determined particular response and interaction time among the employees, despite significant differences in time zones.
Kristina helped me to bridge the corporate cultures between the offices of my company that was initially opened in the USA. When opening a new office, I immediately noticed how different the business cultures were between the two communities (globally and in America). Kristina conducted 3 workshop sessions for the whole team: it wasn’t at all about the language usage; it was all about the cultural nuances and difficulties that we went through in a very practical and interactive exercise for a group of several dozen people. She also helped our HR to better formulate the job descriptions for the new positions we had been opening, considering the cultural peculiarities of the American and global markets respectively.
Roman S., USA
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