The Culture Chat: How to Preserve Workplace Culture in Remote Teams
Remote teams are a hot topic these days, which will only become more and more important as organizations allow remote working. But how do you preserve your organizational culture when your people are in many locations? Rebecca Achurch of Achurch Consulting and Tim Sarrantonio from Neon One talk to us about their experiences in this latest episode of the Culture Chat podcast.
Guest post by Rebecca Achurch
People are the glue that will hold your company together. The secret to keeping them happy is not perks, it’s purpose. And with the right systems and processes in place for continually communicating that purpose, you’ll have a great chance of keeping your team’s interest for the long haul.
Culture is the “vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits” to name just a few, of your organization. It’s your company’s personality and purpose!
With or without a brick and mortar, your members and customers can – and should – still get a singular feeling after every interaction with someone from your organization. Your employees can – and should – still have a positive view of their workplace.
What if your company doesn’t technically have any doors or if your team members work remotely? It’s easy to understand why someone might think the culture doesn’t come through in a virtual setting, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! And if you want high performing, engaged and happy virtual team members, here are some thoughts to consider.
- Understand what makes your culture unique and embrace it. For starters, make sure during the interview and onboarding process you clearly articulate the “personality” of the organization. What better way to find out early if potential employees will embrace – and personify – your company culture.
- Engage regularly, be transparent and emphasize collaboration. Popular help desk software and proponent of remote work Help Scout knows “remote culture clicks when everyone has access to the same information.” But, as Alex Maximo of E27 reminds us, “Just dumping data on them does not really work. In this regard, working with remote teams will run you the risk of having information silos.” To prevent silos, miscommunication, and cracks in your company culture, it’s essential that your organization is working and collaborating as one unified team. They need the tools to share information and projects, communicate in real-time, and meet as often (or more often) than in-person teams might. Beyond just arming them with the right software and technology, managers should “model the way” when it comes to setting (and keeping) meetings, communicating openly, and cultivating a “one for all, all for one” team environment.
- Create a sense of camaraderie. Fun is a word most people don’t use to refer to their job – unless, that is, they work for a company with a strong corporate culture. It might feel easier to unite the team when you can hold impromptu special events, like treating everyone to an afternoon sundae bar or Friday night baseball game, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the same for your remote team. You may just have to exercise a little more creativity and foresight. You can sponsor a virtual “happy hour” or lunch and learn regardless of where staff is located. And don’t forget rewards and incentives – these can be easy to overlook when you aren’t physically seeing your employees’ hard work day after day. Make sure you remember to show them how much their efforts mean to you and the company by acknowledging them or use a tool like Prop Fuel to gather insights and recognize employees throughout the year!
- Find a way to check in and gauge employee happiness. Yes, measuring employee productivity is important. But there’s another metric – happiness - that will help you foster an engaged and committed workforce. Every company, whether it is remote or not, should perform at minimum a yearly employee survey. When operating without the physical cues you’d get in a traditional office space, you must find a way to regularly get employees’ honest and open feedback on their work experience. Creating a sense of transparency and trust is key in a remote team, but formalizing a process around feedback is a good way to create benchmarks and understand where you can improve.
- Don’t scrimp on talent development programs like corporate mentors and company-wide philanthropic activities. Go the extra mile. A talent development manager (or team) is necessary for not only implementing employee engagement programs but also for supporting company leaders in their own culture efforts. As Chris Edmonds explains in his blog for HR People + Strategy, “Savvy executives know that culture refinement is a project that never goes away. It requires constant intention and attention from senior leaders. And, HR has vital knowledge and skills that can pave the road for senior leaders to proactively manage culture.”
Just like with any other company, growing your remote organization takes time, focus, and, yes, a commitment. One of the greatest benefits of the virtual workplace is being able to hire the best of the best employees, regardless of location. With a distinct and inspiring company culture, you’ll have a very good chance of retaining your hard working team well into the future.
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