How do you retain your company culture when you have a remote workforce?
Retaining who you are and what is important to you as a company is more challenging when you aren’t in the same physical space on a regular basis.
Yet, many companies with international teams and other remote situations have been successfully enjoying solid culture throughout their organizations for years.
How do they do it?
The best companies know that culture is what makes or breaks them. Culture defines who you are as a company – your corporate identity. It sets the standard and tone for the way your workforce works together. It’s what gives people a shared identity – team, a sense of belonging. And it’s the glue that holds people together when the going gets tough.
But when people aren’t in the same physical environment on a daily basis, adopting and sharing the same tone and standards in thoughts, behaviors and actions can be challenging.
A remote or hybrid environment calls for being more “on purpose.” And this is not a bad thing. Many companies have lost their culture because they have simply taken it for granted. Setting intentionality is what will revive this, whether there is a remote component to your workforce or not.
Here are some things to consider as you seek to reinforce culture with a remote workforce.
1. Add virtual ways to share the company story and tell it often.
As you revisit your values, norms, and priorities in light of considering a remote and hybrid workforce, realize that the way you do things may change, but it doesn’t change who you are and what you stand for. At the same time, you will want to seek to make your company story memorable in creative ways more frequently and in different ways to emphasize identity. Look for seminal touchpoints to share this, such as announcing company-wide changes, annual meetings, company marketing collateral, and key celebrations. Include virtual ways to strengthen this, such as online meetings, video interviews and story markers in communications and at the bottom of email messaging, shared drives, and chat mechanisms.
2. Define what it means to live company values.
Most companies outline their values, but they do not take the time to define what these look like in action. For example, if one of your company core values is creativity, what should that look like in behaviors, actions, work, relationships, outcomes, etc.? You and your executive team should be firm on what all of your core values look like in action. Further, take the time to discuss what these might mean and how they might show up in a virtual or remote setting. Test these thoughts with your employees for feedback and buy-in – this is key. Then decide how you can weave this into your communications, your meetings and other touchpoints, and how to integrate this into your performance standards.
3. Communicate with greater intention.
This means not only increasing your communication, but heightening the way that you connect, such as using video when touching base virtually. Be sure that you set expectations around your communication methods and protocols so that this becomes part of your shared “way of operating.” Place greater emphasis on culture during your onboarding of new employees and leave time for discussion around this. Consider building in an accountability component for the direct supervisor of a new employee, ensuring that they have discussions around what your cultural markers are and how they show up in and at work. Devote intentional time for listening to the employees as well, especially in virtual meetings. Take the pulse on what their challenges are, what they are learning, and opportunities they see for improvements and working better together.
4. Reinforce the importance of each employee’s part in the company community.
Help your employees feel known and part of the team and help them to see how they fit into the bigger picture. Systematize some teambuilding exercises that help everyone to get to know them personally and vice versa, and that identify gifts each brings to the table for greater outcomes. A sense of inclusion and contribution is paramount. Be sure to capitalize on ways to recognize employees in both face-to-face and virtual settings for visibility, appreciation, and teambuilding. Consider cross-training or mentoring with different people to get to know others more rapidly across teams.
In your planning and process to define, strengthen and reinforce culture, please also remember that including your workforce in discussions at key points in various ways will pay great benefits. Allowing the entire employee base to give input means that they will also feel ownership and responsibility for the outcomes.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.