How To Build A Strong Culture With A Remote Team: 8 Ideas
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Looking for ideas on how to build a strong culture with a remote team?
This task takes top priority whether you’re new to remote work (thanks to COVID-19) or you’ve been operating in the virtual space for a while.
Your company culture is like a compass your team will follow, steering them in the right direction and influencing all their decisions. It provides them with a framework for working, communicating, and collaborating as a unit no matter where they clock in.
Fail to get your company culture right, and you may have to deal with miscommunication, lower productivity levels, tanking employee morale, high turnover rates, and more (yikes!).
So in today’s guide, we’re sharing our best tips and ideas for how to build a strong culture with a remote team. But before we get to those, let’s start with:
What Is Remote Company Culture, and Why Is It Vital For Your Company’s Success?
Remote company culture defines an organization’s mission, values, and the principles its employees will share and uphold. These guiding beliefs help your team excel and thrive despite being miles apart.
Company culture is important for remote teams because it:
- Explains your company’s purpose
- Shows employees why your organization is unique/different from your competitors
- Defines how you do things as a company
- Gets employees excited to contribute to your organization’s future
Remote teams with positive company cultures instill a greater sense of accountability in their employees. Teams are less likely to slack off because they know people are counting on them, and their work matters to the organization’s success.
Having a solid company culture and upholding these values is also one of the best ways to retain remote talent.
At a traditional office, company culture may evolve through shared experiences, in-house collaboration, and team-building activities. But building a strong remote company culture takes a bit more effort to get right.
How To Build A Strong Culture With A Remote Team: 8 Ideas
Company culture plays a big role in managing remote workers in 2021 and beyond. So use these remote company culture ideas to get your team on the same page:
1. Define, Share, and Keep Updating Your Company Culture
It’s essential to define your company culture in a document, infographic, slide deck, etc. You’ll use this anytime you write a remote job listing, onboard new remote employees, or have a question about your next move.
Your company culture should outline your:
- Brand story
- Communication protocols
- How you define a good cultural fit
Many companies now publicize their company culture slide decks, such as the image above from HubSpot’s Culture Code, if you need a bit of inspiration here.
Keep your company culture dossier in a centralized location where all your employees can access and refer back to it (like a shared knowledge base). You’ll also want to discuss it during your virtual onboarding sessions.
But don’t take a set-it-and-forget approach here. Your company culture should be a dynamic, evolving process. So continue to check in and update it as your company grows and your team learns more.
2. Create a Psychologically Safe Space
According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, creating a psychologically safe space means employees have ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up [*].”
Remote companies that provide a virtual safe space:
- Promote active participation
- Ensure everyone feels supported
- Encourage diverse thoughts and ideas
- Make people feel comfortable sharing feedback without fear of retribution
- Emphasize that it’s okay to take risks and make mistakes
Including this aspect in your company culture creates a foundation of trust, mutual respect, and psychological safety for all employees.
3. Give New Employees the Best Virtual Onboarding Ever
Your company’s virtual onboarding process sets the tone for how new employees will feel and think about your organization. You want them to have everything they need to succeed and feel like they’re part of your team.
So in addition to sharing your company culture, you’ll also want to discuss:
- Your remote work policies
- How employees contribute to the company’s success
- What’s expected of them
- How performance is measured
- Your communication guidelines
- Your collaboration protocols
- How you define a healthy work-life balance
It’s also a smart idea to introduce new employees to the rest of your team. You could hold a video call with everyone, but this might intimidate introverted new hires. So you may want to send out a questionnaire for them to fill out and share with the team instead.
Ask them to fill in as many answers as they’re comfortable providing. This quick introduction will help your team connect on common ground when they do finally meet.
Questions like these make a great jumping-off point:
- Describe yourself in 160 characters or less
- What’s your favorite book/movie/TV show, and why?
- What’s the last album you listened to?
- Describe your favorite way to unwind and relax
- Do you have any pets? What are their names?
- What superpower do you wish you had?
- What’s your spirit animal?
Give your team your new hire’s Slack handle so they can welcome them, talk about these icebreakers, and get to know each other.
Don’t forget to add these best practices for your virtual onboarding process too!
4. Create Communication and Collaboration Standards
Stellar communication skills are the backbone of successful team collaboration. They help teammates speak to each other respectfully and efficiently, so they can accomplish more and reduce confusing back-and-forths.
Collaboration protocols show employees how to stay connected. They outline which tools and software should be used when (such as Slack vs. email). These guidelines ensure smooth collaboration and help keep everyone in the loop.
Since we can’t cover all that needs to be said about this point, consider these guides a must-read when you’re done here:
- 8 Tips To Improve Remote Work Communication
- Best Practices and Tools for Working Across Different Time Zones
- 6 Tactics To Boost Remote Collaboration
All these tips help create a more productive, collaborative virtual work environment.
5. Always Show Your Employees How Much You Value and Appreciate Their Contributions
Research shows working toward a company’s financial targets doesn’t motivate employees. But when employees receive praise and recognition, they’re much more eager to contribute to the company’s purpose and mission.
It’s easy for remote employees to feel “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to their supervisors and team leaders. Not hearing feedback may lower their self-esteem or make them feel as if their hard work doesn’t matter. They may also feel confused about whether they’re doing well.
So that’s why leaders should go above and beyond to show their team how much they value and appreciate their hard work. These ideas can help you express gratitude and motivate teams to keep on keeping on:
- Send kudos to employees in Slack. A simple shout-out for a job well done provides employees with a boost of confidence. Doing this in a public space also allows their teammates to chime in with their praise and fun emojis.
- Recognize one “employee of the month” and write up a brief description about what makes this all-star so valuable to your team. If you do this in advance, you can also ask teammates to write a short blurb about why they admire them too.
- Surprise employees with a thank-you note, gift card, care package, etc., to celebrate milestones like birthdays, weddings, new babies, and more. These show you care about your employees on a personal level (and not just as a cog in your machine).
- Send company swag on work anniversaries to encourage them to feel proud about being part of your team.
Do these small yet thoughtful acts, and your employees will feel seen, appreciated, and special. And when they feel as if their work matters, they’ll be more motivated and loyal.
6. Offer Employees Personal and Career Development
Companies that value their employees want them to succeed and become the best versions of themselves. So your company culture should provide access to professional and personal development.
To show how much you want to invest in your employees, consider:
- Offering an education stipend for employees to use on continuing education, online classes, and personal development courses.
- Hosting “lunch and learn” sessions, where speakers share their knowledge over a virtual conference while the rest of the team eats their lunch.
- Arranging Q+A sessions with higher-ups in your company, such as the CEO, CFO, Chief of Staff, Head of Marketing, etc. Allow them to share their knowledge and inspire others to follow their lead.
- Establishing a mentorship program to connect newer employees with seasoned veterans. You’ll help build a sense of belonging and motivate employees to learn new skills and tips from their peers.
When employees engage in these career-building activities, they’ll feel more loyal to your company and grateful for the opportunities.
7. Make Room for Team Bonding
Remote employees have a tendency to feel isolated when they’re working solo. That’s why team leaders should strive to open the lines of communication and get employees to connect on a personal level.
These social connection times will strengthen team bonds and allow teammates to understand each other better. The more connected they feel, the better they’ll collaborate.
It’s easy to do this with non-cheesy remote team-building activities such as:
- Water cooler Slack chats, where employees can drop in to discuss non-work-related topics whenever they need a break. They can share relevant news and fun facts, ask silly questions, and bond as work friends.
- Virtual happy hour or coffee breaks
- Monthly book club/movie nights. Employees can vote on a book to read and meet up every month to discuss it. Or they could choose a movie to watch together virtually.
- Holding friendly competitions, like who can walk the most steps per day, sleep the longest at night, hit the gym most often, etc.
- Schedule “Donut meetings.” This Slack app pairs employees from different teams or departments to help them get to know each other better.
Make sure everyone knows the rules for what’s discussed on your Slack channels and video calls. Just because they may not occur on work time doesn’t mean employees can use crude language or discuss offensive topics. Everyone should be respectful and feel comfortable engaging.
8. Ask for Feedback and Measure Employee Engagement
The only way to know if your employees are happy is to ask them. So get in the habit of sending out monthly or quarterly anonymous surveys to gauge how well your company’s upholding its values.
These employee pulse surveys give you a peek at what’s working and what needs work. They measure employee sentiments and may clue you into issues you had no idea even existed.
Try to create questions that dive into work issues, general happiness and mood, collaboration, relationships with management, and more.
This constructive, candid feedback will help ensure your team leaders and other employees stick to your company culture and create the best remote work environment possible.
So Now You Know How To Build A Strong Culture With A Remote Team…
These eight ideas for how to build a strong culture with a remote team help get leadership on the same page and spread your ideals to the rest of your team.
When your remote workforce is driven by your values and mission, they’ll have a clear purpose and expectations to motivate them. So don’t be surprised if you notice higher engagement, productivity, and loyalty as a result.
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