Building a virtual company: lessons learned
Our workspace is constantly evolving. The classic culture of commuting and being in your office cubicle from 9–5 is outdated and does not reflect the inclusive, cross functional nature of today’s business world. When you are building an e-commerce platform with an interactive, multinational team of marketing, engineering, operation, product and business professional in 3 geographical locations, creativity isn’t just called for, it’s demanded. So how to you scale virtual teams to foster success?
When building Tamanna — a multi-brand online fashion marketplace — we had to decide how our internationally dispersed teams should be best set up for success. Lisbon represents Product, Engineering and Data, Dubai is established as our Marketing, Commercial and Creativity hub, while Kuwait, the first country we launched in, is our Operational flagship. People Experience (PX) is essential to success, we had to look at three main pillars and enable processes that would translate into Tamanna maintaining out entrepreneurial spirit.
1 Define your recruitment process
Whether you are interviewing as a Frontend Engineer in Lisbon, a Brand Executive in Dubai or an Operations Manager in Kuwait, our process is streamlined to offer candidates an inclusive experience where they get to meet various personalities from the business. After an introduction call with one of our PX Specialists, we invite candidates to deep dive with senior Tamanna members to discuss the candidates experience and the actual position. Candidates have the opportunity to display their expertise in a take home assignment or by presenting some of their portfolio in order to give stakeholders an understanding of their methodologies and thought processes. This step is often completed in the form of an open panel discussion where the relevant business stream leads will attend and again involves as many parties as possible so that candidate get a better feel for Tamanna and we get different insights into the candidate’s mindset. The process is thorough, efficient and empowers both the candidate and the business to make the best decision possible.
When scaling up businesses, everything does not always go smoothly. Lessons learned were gained through candidate surveys and open feedback discussions with new hires. After listening to our target audience, we realized that we need to improve our time to hire and implemented both internal SLAs and made the recruitment process leaner.
2 Ensures smooth onboarding
According to studies, 20% of all new hires resign within the first 45 days of their role. There are several contributing factors: lack of clarity about the role, unmet expectations from the recruitment process, general lack of communication from the new employer. Many of these factors can be removed with an engaging and inclusive onboarding process. Candidates have an emotional momentum when they decide to make the step to become part of your company — it is essential to keep this momentum going until and beyond their starting date.
So, what happens when you join? Tamanna has a dedicated team of PX Managers who focus on employee engagement, a strong company culture, and employee experience. The PX team will guide you through any administrative loopholes that you may be facing be questions regarding local labor laws, temporary accommodation if relocating or making sure workstations have been assigned to you. New joiners have an option to select what hardware they want to help personalize the experience.
Each new joiner is assigned a “Buddy” who will guide them through their first days and weeks. You will have the opportunity to meet and spend time with colleagues from Tamanna in to order to get a better grasp of what each area is focusing on. This helps to start nurturing personal relationships. A positive onboarding experience is continued by having milestones, feedback discussions and community interaction is implemented to continue prioritizing employee experience and engagement.
Getting an overview of Tamanna and a deeper insight into your tasks is obviously important. However, especially in virtual teams, it is paramount that new joiners are made to feel part of a community. This is achieved at Tamanna by having virtual events — something as simple as “coffee time” where work topics are not discussed. We also provide and encourage bi-weekly feedback for new joiners to help improve our onboarding and to make sure new employees are finding their way and integrating properly.
Before and during Covid, the well-being of our employees is paramount. Informal talks at the coffee machine and daily lunch with your teammates is restricted. Instead, we have instigated virtual lunches, created fun Slack channels around giving kudos, interacting in fun ways about hobbies or sharing personal stories around personal or business achievements. This is all with coupled with continued employee feedback and an on-going effort to adopt disruptive ideas to nurture Tamanna as a continued great place to work.
3 Empowering virtual teams
How long should onboarding last? Firstly, onboarding should not be confused with orientation e.g. access to collaboration tools, providing necessary legal documentation etc. Realistically, onboarding should last at least 12 months. In a work culture with an inadequate onboarding process, higher attrition will be a result and the employer will not be able to establish a working environment that people feel ingrained to.
For Tamanna to have highly productive teams, we needed to create a positive employee experience for our employees. If this is achieved, increased engagement and productivity will follow naturally. But how can you empower people working in virtual teams and not overwhelm them with tasks?
Empowering employees is a culture. It takes time where a mutual trust is built up and clear communication is key. Here are some attributes we are engaging with:
Setting clear expectations: we speak openly with our employees about their decision-making power and enable them as long as they are in line with company policies. These can also be nicely guided through quarterly OKRs.
Autonomy on assignments: When delegating tasks, it is important to trust employees to get the necessary results even if the method is different than yours. Here it is paramount not to micromanage and relinquish control.
Constructive feedback: When issuing feedback on assignments it’s important to be specific. Telling someone they “did a good job” doesn’t give any direction on areas or improvement for future tasks. Highlight actions or attributes and how they are important for the team as a whole.
Written by Talent Acquisition Team