Every company has its own personality, and most companies are driven by a clear set of values as well as a guiding mission statement. However, as a company grows, and especially as it begins to take on a remote workforce, it can become more and more difficult to maintain a strong sense of company culture. And then, the coronavirus hit. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages, employees across the world are suddenly working for home and facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty. In these moments, a shared company culture becomes more important than ever. Let’s take a look at how you can scale your company culture, especially if you are managing a newly remote team. We’ll also look at some helpful tools that will allow you to establish effective collaboration, no matter where your team members are.
Why company culture matters
The term “company culture” can sometimes seem like esoteric business-speak, but it truly serves as the foundation for your business. According to The Balance Careers, company culture “refers to the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees work.” A strong company culture binds your employees together and gives them a purpose greater than just their jobs.
For example, the company REI defines itself through its mission to promote stewardship of the outdoors. This concept infuses the way the business operates, from the fact that it invests 70 percent of its annual profits into outdoor communities and nonprofits, to the two paid “Yay Days” it gives to its co-op employees so they can play or volunteer outdoors. As you can imagine, REI attracts a fiercely loyal, outdoor-loving workforce.
The challenge of maintaining company culture while scaling
It’s easy to define a strong company culture as a small startup where you and your first five employees wear all the hats in the company. However, as your company grows and you hire more workers, top managers won’t have that same face time with employees. Each department will start to create its own culture, and the threat of isolated silos will grow.
The coffee giant, Starbucks, struggled to maintain its company culture of inclusivity as the number of its stores multiplied. After a high-profile instance of racial profiling by employees, the company decided to close down all of its 8,000 U.S. stores on May 29, 2018, to provide anti-bias training for all of its 175,000 U.S. employees. That’s one way to help keep company culture strong, but most businesses can’t afford to stop work to give their entire workforce a refresher course.
Company culture can fray even more when your business brings on remote workers or if your team has been forced to work from home due to the coronavirus. It’s easy for remote workers to feel isolated. Managers cannot assume that company culture will survive on its own. They must actively promote and model their company culture and work with remote teams to establish effective collaboration. Through strong collaboration, managers can build trust among their employees and keep the company culture strong.
Tips and tools for effective collaboration
Define your company culture
If you haven’t yet thought much about your company’s culture, now is the time to do it! Start by creating a mission statement and then begin defining your company’s values. What type of company do you want to run? If you need an example, check out this in-depth article from Bluleadz on how HubSpot developed one of the best company cultures around.
Establish company culture during the onboarding process
Teaching your employees to adopt your company’s culture starts from the very first day they show up for work. Rather than just reading your corporate mission statement, show your next generation of leaders what it means to be a part of your company. One great way to do that is to start with a fun icebreaker that will relax the mood and start building trust. Here are seven icebreaker games we love.
Model the culture you want to see
Company culture comes from the top. Workers take cues from their bosses, whether those cues are positive or negative. That means you must model the culture your company represents if you want your employees to really believe in it. For example, if you say you want to give your employees a voice in the company, then ask for honest feedback. Answer the tough questions and real concerns and implement good employee suggestions.
Give your remote teams the tools they need to thrive
The best way to create a strong, collaborative relationship with your remote workers is to give them the tools they need to stay connected to your team. Instead of letting them work in the wilderness, keep them in the conversation. Take a look at our recent article, Essential remote team management tips to increase productivity, where we list specific collaborative tools, like Slack, Asana, and Workfront, that you can use to keep your remote workers in the know.
Host online video meetings
There’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting when it comes to developing trust between employees. However, in our world of mandated social distancing, the next best thing is a video meeting. Seeing coworkers in real-time can help your remote employees feel like part of the team and will allow you to showcase the values of your company’s culture that make your business stand out. Take a look at this article we wrote about online meeting basics for companies of any size. In the article, we offer specific tools to help every video meeting be a success. (Tip: Did you know you can host interactive polls with your video conferencing software? Give it a try to get real-time feedback from your remote workers.)
Reward your remote employees
The best way to bring your remote employees (or any employees, honestly) into your company culture is to reward them for their hard work and success. As Valeriy Bykanov writes in a post on Medium, “I can’t recall a single case when even the quietest team member would mind receiving virtual presents or well wishes from colleagues.”
If you want to show support to your remote employees, host a virtual happy hour, throw a virtual party, host a fun Poll Everywhere Competition, or send out gift cards. Here are nine ways to celebrate wins with your remote team.
You can scale your company culture
It takes work, especially in these unpredictable times, but you absolutely can scale your company culture, whether your business is growing fast, or you’ve had to send your tight-knit workforce home for the foreseeable future. All it takes is a clear view of your company’s values and a dedication to effective collaboration.
To learn more about how to effectively manage your remote team, host engaging online meetings, or collect authentic feedback from your team, download our remote work toolkit.