Suddenly pulling your onsite workforce into a distributed environment can be a stressful undertaking for even the most seasoned managers. But this is the reality for thousands of people across the country and around the world — and it’s not likely to end any time soon.
But as companies figure out how to communicate, how to get work done, and how to keep a positive mindset while working virtually, another important question arises: how are we going to promote our company values and culture when no one works in the same room anymore?
Here are five effective ways high-performance companies can promote their values and maintain their cultures even when they’re working in distributed environments:
1. Don’t assume you know what your employees need
While most HR and culture executives strive to be in tune with what employees need to be productive and to support the way they work, the new working situation has thrown many people for a loop. You can’t always know what employees are struggling with or what will be very helpful to them in order to live out your company values — so ask! When scheduling lunch and learns, guest speakers, or happy hours, ask employees to weigh in on what’s going to be the most inspirational or helpful topic to hear about.
2. Reward behaviors that embody company values
The most effective way to reinforce your company culture is to catch employees in the act and reward them. This is easier in an office where you can acknowledge employees in person, but with effort you can move that habit online. For example, recognizing employees via a weekly email, in private messages or review sessions, or with impromptu gifts and acknowledgement can be very motivating. There are also incentive apps like Fond, Blueboard or Kudos can help you positively reinforce those cultural behaviors.
3. Create a digital headquarters
Individual relationships are important, but so is having a big picture sense of who is working within the company and an opportunity to mingle with them. Many companies are using Slack channels or their Learning Management Systems (LMS) to create a visual company directory with information about each employee, such as their photo (or company-sponsored illustration), start date, and fun fact. Then you can let that directory come alive with “town halls” where a leader or executive gives an informal talk or Q&A.
4. Build formal and informal opportunities to engage
Working in an office allows employees to absorb some of the company culture by osmosis — it’s in the way everyone interacts around the watercooler or huddles for spontaneous meetings. Without those physical opportunities to engage, it’s important to provide opportunities for formal meetings (stand-ups, check-ins, etc.) as well as informal meetings (paired sessions, buddy mentors, Donut meetings, etc.).
5. Don’t skimp on collaboration tools
We’ve already mentioned the Donut and Blueboard, as well as an LMS to facilitate company culture building, but there are hundreds of other collaboration tools that make it easy and natural for employees to connect with each other. If you take a look around, you’ll find many tools that will bring unique advantages to your company, such as free Slack apps like Icebreakers to introduce new employees and GoodRipple to help employees communicate more freely.
There’s no firm answer on how long companies around the world will need to work remotely – which means you need to figure out how to maintain your culture on a distributed team now so you don’t lose any of your hardwon progress. Consider how one or more of these five suggestions can help you share, reinforce, and reward employees based on your unique company culture.
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