August 11, 2021

The most common alignment challenges for global teams (and how to solve them)

Lucy Hitz
Lucy Hitz
Director of Content,

As COVID-19 continues to rear its head with a surge of the Delta variant, it’s likely that our teams will remain distributed for longer than companies had originally planned. In fact, companies like Apple have already announced that they’ll be pushing back their return-to-office date

For workers who have been forced to go remote because of the pandemic, our 2021 Goal Management Report found that the majority of us are working harder than before yet seeing fewer results. This tells us that our new, distributed way of work is impacting our ability to achieve our goals and burning out overworked employees. 

To avoid this, teams need strategies to help them work effectively and efficiently to achieve their goals, even when they’re spread across geographies. 

Align across teams with similar goals

Before goal planning begins, there’s a prerequisite: communicating across teams who have similar (or the same) goals.

Especially if your organization has overlapping roles and functional groups (i.e. Product and Product Marketing) or the same team type in multiple locations (i.e. Sales North America and Sales UK), it is absolutely essential to take time to connect. This upfront work can feel heavy but prevents collision points later. 

Here are the three necessary items to discuss in this meeting:

  1. Performance from the previous quarter. Take the time to celebrate and learn from each other—and make data-driven decisions about what comes next. What were your big wins and misses from last quarter? What worked in one region that should be rolled out or tested in another region?
  2. Areas of focus—and any roadblocks or unforeseen challenges that could throw you off course. What do all the teams in the room see as their areas of focus based on work and results from the previous quarter? What are potential areas for collaboration and disruptors? How can you address these together? For example, human resources partners across the globe should align on teams with parallel responsibilities to make sure that benefits are comparable across regions. If not, unequal benefits could cause tension and employee loss. 
  3. Areas of work where resources could be combined, where you need more resources, or where a reprioritization needs to happen based on business needs. For example, a Product Marketing team may be focused on expanding their marketing efforts to get new customers into the mobile app vs. the browser. When they share this with the Product team, they may find that the Product team has already completed a project that could contribute to this objective or has a similar shared objective as they look ahead to the next quarter re: developing product to enhance the mobile experience. By aligning on objectives and key results early, both teams are rowing in the same direction right from the start. 

Alignment from the top-down 

Once leaders across the organization are aligned on high level goals, team and individual goal setting can begin. A major advantage of goal setting is that it sets clear expectations and timelines up front. 

When goals flow from the organizational level down to the individual, it ensures that every team member–no matter where they’re located–knows what they’re responsible for and by when. This way, managers no longer have to spend time and energy sending out communications around deliverable timelines, progress updates, and work assignments. Instead, they can focus on higher value work.   

Aligning across global leaders also offers a more strategic advantage: when distributed teams go through the OKR process together, they may be surprised by the ideas that arise. That’s because each individual team member offers valuable perspective to the group, often with one shining light to the blind spots of another. 

Collaboration with intention 

Over half of workers surveyed for our Goal Management Report said that they need collaboration tools (like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google) in order to be successful in a hybrid work environment. 

While these tools are necessary and powerful, they must be leverage empathetically to avoid the “always-on” feeling that inevitably leads to burnout—especially when working with global teams with different working hours. Be conscious of when you’re sending Slack and email messages to your  colleagues halfway across the world – or even just a few states over. Business Solver’s State of Workplace Empathy Study has found that 90% of employees surveyed believe empathy is important in the workplace, and countless other studies have tied empathy to job performance

In practice, this could look like scheduling your emails to hit the inboxes of your remote team members during their work hours, not yours. 

Did you know? In, administrators can schedule notifications to be sent at specified times, making it easy for organizations with distributed teams to practice empathetic collaboration at scale. Learn more here.

While interrupting their slumber with the incessant sound of incoming mail is part of our concern, we’re also concerned about setting boundaries. A constant flurry of communication coming in round-the-clock makes it hard for workers to truly log off at the end of their workdays. Especially if it comes from a higher-up, workers can feel pressured to respond to requests or messages outside of their regular working hours. Take this stress off your teams by using collaboration tools thoughtfully. 

Whether your team is staying remote, embracing a hybrid work environment, or planning to go back into the office soon, we hope you’ll be able to put these secrets into practice. With strong communication and alignment, your team – distributed or not – will be best positioned to reach your goals. 

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