Company Culture at a Distance

To build a strong company culture for all employees challenges leaders when working from home (WFH) becomes the norm. Most leaders say that “corporate culture” ranks very high up on their list of priorities, but if I looked at 100 managers’ budgets, I’d find almost no money at all dedicated to creating a culture (or even reinforcing the existing one). Further, if you ask most employees to describe the culture of their workplace, they’ll rarely say what the bosses wish they’d highlight as competitive advantages based on the culture.

Core Values Are The Heart of Culture

Does your company value fast? Are your norms based around accuracy above all else? Is this a top-down organization or a performance culture? Without knowing this, how on earth would you communicate it out to your remote or even local teams?

If empowerment is important, for instance, your desired culture won’t emphasize a hierarchy. If you want a culture of innovation, then reward failure every bit as much as success. Teamwork thrives when every employee values accountability and a culture of leadership.

Start here:

  • Work either with the senior team or the whole organization to draft what you believe the core values of the team should be.
  • Highlight any inconsistencies where you’ll have to improve the culture to match the goal.
  • Keep these values posted visibly and talk about them in alignment with projects, briefings and updates. For your work from home (WFH) employees, mail out postcards with the values printed on them.

Successful Culture Tips for Remote Workers

We must adapt some values for remote work anyway. If trust is a core value, then “always available” employees runs counter to that. Just because leaders panic now that “butt in chair” management can’t be monitored, if you say trust matters, don’t force countless status meetings and ultra fast response times.

Instead, motivate and reinforce the leadership and communications values of your organization and point out that you want team members to send their own status updates to match company culture goals.

Employee retention comes from the feeling that employees are understood, seen, and valued. This requires leadership to connect and communicate and deliver even more feedback and praise while employees work remotely. When the team isn’t gathered, it’s easy to feel invisible and left out. Add extra “attaboy” experiences where it makes sense.

Emphasize cultural values often in communication. “As keeping our customer well informed is very important to us, we ask that the customer never go more than an hour without a status update until their problem is resolved.” Make the norms match the daily language. “It’s only a win if all your teammates also feel confident that they can lead if you’re away for a few days. Can we train them up to feel even more prepared?”

Remote work thrives on everyone acting accountable to their projects, their teammates, and their leadership. Reinforce this wherever possible.

“Play” is Part of Company Culture

Or it should be. Developing a culture with many remote employees means that spontaneous hallway conversations are at a minimum. While the whole Zoom Cocktail Hour experience feels a bit tired already, finding ways to build in non-essential interactions becomes vital for successful culture.

Even working memes into company culture would help. As we build desired culture elements, leave in personal interactions, family talk, and all that. It’s vital. Again, people want to feel seen and understood. They want to know that their contributions belong. And part of this involves a sense of acceptance as a whole person and not just the role at hand.

Work Culture is a Verb

Remote workers have tasks and schedules and meetings and status assignments. None of these have a “build culture” task assigned to it. That means it’s up to you as a leader to keep culture in mind at every turn. With your knowledge that company culture improves employee retention, speeds instructional comprehension, and encourages stronger team dynamics, it becomes your project to keep it rolling forward at every turn. It’s simple but not easy. But the payoff is quite worth the effort in this regard.

Ref: Chris Brogan Media

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