Research shows that building and maintaining a healthy company culture can ensure success in several aspects of a business. But how can you create this culture when your workforce is scattered across the country or even across the globe?
What is company culture?
Similar to an individual’s personality, a company culture can be hard to define – but it is easy to see the difference between a healthy and a problematic one. Often, the latter is the reason good people leave a company.
Culture is a set of shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices that characterise an organisation. Culture is the way the company carries out its work and the values it upholds as it does so. It is depicted in the direction the company is headed in and the steps it is taking to get there.
Unlike the core values of a company, the culture is in the behaviour of the people within it – what people say and do in the workplace (even if the workplace is a virtual one). A company’s core values might impact the culture but don’t necessarily define it.
Why is company culture important?
Research shows that 66% of job seekers consider a company’s culture and values the most important factor in choosing where to work. If you have good company culture, you will have 40% better staff retention and a 72% higher employee engagement rate. Highly engaged teams get better results in productivity, customer ratings and profitability.
So how to build a positive company culture in a remote workforce? Here are 6 steps:
1. Promote and uphold your mission and values
Companies with remote workers learn quickly that culture is not about a ping pong table in the staff room or a casual Friday policy. Upholding your values is the best way to build culture and, to do this, leaders must communicate and model the behaviours they want to see.
Make the company values a focus on everything you do and reward performance around them. Saturate your virtual and actual workplace with those values so they can be seen all the time. Put them on staff computer screensavers, in flexible working contracts, and at the foot of email salutations. Then, foster the upholding of these values through a reward system that works for your business, whether it be a public acknowledgement or a simple (virtual) pat on the back for a job well done.
2. Maintain mental health
A sense of isolation can build when a remote worker feels like they are not being heard. Space must be made for every staff member to speak up if they need to.
If there is a culture of blame or intimidation from the top down, employees will stay quiet and resentment will grow. To combat this, model openness and trust by acknowledging your own feelings and mistakes. Show that mistakes are a learning opportunity. Ask for feedback and check up on quieter team members. These are the employees who may not speak up at meetings but, when followed up, can often have amazing ideas up their sleeves.
When staff members work across different time zones or just different work hours, respect these hours by only calling and emailing within them. This models a good work-life balance and shows respect and trust.
Trust is also about the rest of the team trusting you to manage someone who is not pulling their weight, so make sure you don’t let inactivity slide. Saying that, keep the focus on output rather than hours to keep this sense of trust intact.
Physical activity throughout the day is also important for mental health and some workplaces get creative with virtual yoga sessions or movement reminders. Being innovative around this can be a great way to foster a culture of positivity and health.
3. Build connection widely
It is important to build connection throughout the company, not just among immediate colleagues and teams.
Take a few minutes for an informal chat at the beginning of virtual meetings, so staff members can share their lives with each other just as they would if they bumped into each other in the staff room. Some workplaces have a ‘no work chat’ policy for the first five minutes of each meeting.
Encourage informal morning teas and coffee breaks over Zoom or organise events like remote team lunches, book clubs, and raffle nights. It is also important to get together in person at least once or twice a year if possible, so remote workers can get a chance to put faces to names and foster closer connections.
In terms of company communications, share as much information about changes and developments within the company in wide communication channels. This helps avoid misunderstandings, gossip and miscommunications and prevents remote staff from feeling out of the loop.
4. Communicate regularly and assume nothing
Schedule staff meetings and one-on-ones with remote staff as usual. Don’t allow these staff members to shut off their camera or hide away – the same rules must apply as if they were working in-house. In-office workers should see that remote workers are also accountable, to avoid an ‘us and them’ culture.
Remote workers must be kept updated regularly, as it is possible to miss things from not being in the office. Make sure they are part of the dialogue and included in communications and team meetings.
Question your assumptions around how things are going and ask for feedback. Listen to opinions and communicate when you act on them. Whether you act on it or not, employees need to know that their feedback was considered.
5. Value team members and make sure they know it
Quantum Workplace found employee recognition is a top five driver of employee engagement. It is essential you show appreciation and there are many ways to do this both publicly and privately.
Try a recognition platform where people can nominate their team members for recognition, use shout-outs on a public channel, or surprise a team member with a card or gift voucher. It is not necessary to spend a lot of money, but a simple gesture can help show appreciation and maintain a positive culture. For a team, the leader could send out a cupcake to each member to share at a virtual meeting.
6. Support your new hires and people leaders
New hires need extra help when working remotely, so provide additional training and resources until they’re up with the play. Making sure they have access to all information and an open mode of communication via a mentor or buddy is important to ensure they don’t feel lost. If possible, plan in-person events soon after they begin to help put faces to names.
For people leaders, ensure they have the skills, tools and, most importantly, desire to carry out the company’s goals successfully. In order to have difficult discussions with their team members, they have to want to lead. Make sure they know how to hold team members accountable and approach and maintain obligations.
With all this in place, your company culture should help the business and its employees to develop and thrive, resulting in a great place to work, even for those whose desks are elsewhere.
For support with implementing and managing flexible work in your business contact the team at Freerange Works on 0800 04 FLEX or firstname.lastname@example.org