Starting a company is one thing – building, growing, and managing a global team is another. For remote and hybrid teams, scaling presents an additional challenge of making sure your growing team is strongly connected at work.
Mada Seghete is the co-founder and managing director of Branch, a mobile linking and attribution platform. She started the company in 2014 along with three other co-founders. Nearly a decade later, Branch just raised its Series F round of funding at a $4 billion valuation.
The company seeks to build, grow, and win as a team, together – quite the feat with headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, and 11 offices around the world. For Mada, connecting each and every employee to Branch’s mission is critical to the company’s success.
Mada discusses how Branch’s hybrid model has leveled the playing field among its international offices. She also shares how she empowers her leaders to bring members of the team together and feel connected at work.
Building a culture remotely
In addition to being a managing director, Mada is also the Vice President of Marketing at Branch. Mada wanted a way to connect her team and build culture at work. Yet with more than 600 employees scattered across the globe, finding a way to plan and execute this process was a job in and of itself.
It’s the reason why Branch created an employee experience position. This person’s main role is to help leaders and managers bring their teams together – not just for work collaboration, but also for social connection.
“This hire helps me with everything that goes into planning an on-site: finding fun things to do for my team, getting accommodations, helping create the agenda, making reservations for dinner, etc.,” Mada says. “We’re trying to do this for regional leads and more functional teams, because having someone who can actually help plan makes managers more likely to have these events for their teams.”
Even for department-specific on-sites, Mada encourages managers to build relationships with their employees through team dinners and other activities to foster a sense of connection in the workplace.
These activities allow leaders to recognize who their employees are and how they show up in their best way. Maybe you have an extroverted employee who needs a social outlet to be productive. Or maybe a more shy employee who needs some extra attention to get out of their shell. Bringing people together in a way that makes sense for them can help them feel connected and cared for at work.
Mada shares her own experience:
“Even introverts miss being around people. One of my co-founders is an introvert and I know that even he misses being around people not coming into the office. If you’re the type of person who needs to code or work independently, a lot of your time is already spent on your own.”
And while building connections between colleagues takes more work in a remote or hybrid office, there are benefits to the working environment as well. In a way, a hybrid or remote environment levels the playing field among global offices.
“Disconnection among employees and worrying about remote vs. in-person employees and what is going on in different offices is less of an issue now than it was before when we had some people by themselves versus 200 people in the Palo Alto office,” Mada says. “It’s less of a disparity especially because not only do we not have as many people coming in anymore, but we also bring the entire team together every few months.”
Future planning at Branch
When it comes to planning for the future and hiring for other positions, Mada wants to emphasize the flexible nature of Branch’s environment, as well as the company’s mission, to future employees. Connecting the team to the mission is really important to get everyone – no matter where in the world they are – on the same page.
“Our mission is to make a more open mobile ecosystem. We want our people to understand how each project and product at Branch is tied to the mission and how the work that they do on a daily basis is also tied to the mission,” Mada says. “I actually do onboarding sessions with all new employees where I talk about the mission. It’s not just the mission either – it’s also the values of the company and having them understand the differences that Branch has.”
“I did a big project on employer branding and one thing that makes us different is making sure that everyone involved in the interview process tells the same stories. I want to make sure we present a unified front on what Branch is and what makes us unique,” Mada says. “That has helped a lot in closing candidates and retaining people even amidst the Great Resignation. We’ve also had people even come back to Branch. In the past six months, we’ve had close to 10 people return to work at Branch.”
While Mada does not see a full-time return to office in Branch’s future – especially considering its global offices and their specific needs – she recognizes that there is a greater need for human connection at work. Without regular in-person time, this connection is critical in making sure that all team members are invested in company growth.
For Mada, though, she sees the future of work as hybrid, with every company having its own unique circumstances. Perhaps there needs to be more in-person collaboration based on the nature of the work. Maybe leaders have studied productivity and have seen that quarterly on-sites are good for maintaining connection and optimizing work production.
The key to hybrid or remote work? Helping your employees feel connected
Whatever environment your office has, leaders will need to get to know their employees on a deep level to understand what they need to give their best and how to help them feel connected at work.
When operating in a hybrid or work setting, consider implementing certain tools or apps to help. Airspeed’s Icebreakers and Intros Slack apps make it easy to help team members learn about each other and stay in touch, regardless of location. Not having a physical office doesn’t mean you can’t have a virtual one!