Integration can be a challenge when you are merging businesses, but if, like Seably, your entire staff is working remotely from 19 countries, it can be even more challenging than most! People are any business's greatest asset and as our Seably AB family has grown it has become more important than ever that we integrate and build effective new relationships.
It is well-documented that wonderful things can happen when people have strong work relationships. Successfully working together means creating a positive workplace culture in an environment where people feel connected and able to share ideas and expertise. Get this right, and you have increased trust, confidence and better employee engagement.
A compelling list towards achieving any company’s goals!
Bearing in mind that training is our ‘thing’, it made sense to improve integration by doing what we do best! More specifically, with a cross-training initiative open to every person in the business. Primarily, we hoped everyone would gain a sense of the important part they play, both individually and collectively, to keep the Seably wheel not only turning but gathering momentum as we grow.
Integration through a collective goal from which we all benefit and grow.
As well as encouraging curiosity and growth, we hoped that cross-training would equip us all with the space to know our colleagues better. A superpower that cannot be underestimated with the absence of ‘organic’ bonding that comes as a downside to having a remote workspace.
So, a little tentatively at first…we started the preparation with some surprising results.
Setting up for success
Led by our Head of Content, Jessica Süßmilch, each department head created a training outline which defined the content and range of training activities which would be covered. Subject specialists within each department were identified and assigned to deliver the training. For example, in the marketing team, training was split between the whole team who each shared micro-classes in their areas of expertise with training on graphic design, social media marketing, content writing and marketing strategy.
The cross-training initiative was announced in our monthly Town Hall meeting and followed by a voluntary sign-up process supported by each department head. It was agreed the training would be over 2 full days with timings adapted for individual’s working hours, time zones and unavoidable work commitments!
We asked everyone in the business if they were interested in taking part and which department they would like to cross-train in. We were amazed that around 75% of the company was keen. Once the dates were announced we ended up with 40% of the business participating, due to holidays already booked, client commitments or concerns about managing workload.
What was the Outcome?
From improving relationships, gaining knowledge and exchanging innovative new ideas, the results were very positive indeed.
Everyone agreed that getting to know each other was a huge benefit and that stepping into someone else's shoes for a few days was insightful and fun. As well as gaining an understanding of what we do all day there came an appreciation of the challenges we face, the way we communicate, how we work individually and how we can work better together. This has built trust across teams and confidence in ourselves and the important part we all play.
Our subject matter specialists enjoyed sharing their passion and skills with their colleagues and nearly everyone gathered something of benefit to take back to their team. From a way of working to an idea to strengthen the business or a new way to improve an approach.
We were pleasantly surprised at the identification of a few hidden talents! Now we can grow our already awesome talent bank and find ways to maximise that talent to share resources when we’re under pressure or over-stretched.
The interest was fantastic but higher volume than expected, so planning and managing everyone's personal needs and workloads was a challenge. Some of the subject specialists spent a while creating courses for colleagues which added to their workloads and some of the team felt the time commitment of 2 days away from their everyday role was challenging.
We will repeat the cross-training in a few months' time and improve by experimenting with shorter sessions spread over more days. We will also have department-specific weeks to lessen the impact of everyone swapping at the same time and to ensure whoever takes part gets to meet everyone within the department.
We realised that building new relationships was a more important part of this initiative than we expected. It has empowered our people, increased appreciation for each individual's input and highlighted the expertise and talent we have on board. We may develop this further with smaller groups or break-out sessions for those that wish to learn more about a specific area of expertise.
With feedback from all the participants, we will also improve support for the subject specialists next time, with more guidance and details for managing expectations now we know more about what everyone is looking for. This may include more focus on working methods, which vary so much from department to department and which have proven to be a valuable area of cross fertilisation. We all love to work smarter, not harder after all!
Onboarding New Employees
There is also an idea to offer this as a part of everyone at Seably’s continuing professional training or as part of the induction programme when onboarding new employees.
100% of those who took part would recommend it to their colleagues, so whilst there is room for improvement and refinement in the future, we are confident that we have a great place to start from. Hopefully, each of the team feels the same and will repeat the journey with another area of the business next time!