Building a productive and collaborative culture is undoubtedly a difficult initiative requiring the commitment of everyone, from the very top to each branch and department. Business owners and CEO’s acknowledge that employee engagement is crucial. They are allocating resources to build a great workplace culture such as staff positions focused on people and culture, and talent optimization resources such as The Predictive Index.
One workplace trend that is presenting a significant challenge is the move towards greater numbers of employees working remotely. There is great value in this trend including increased productivity, employee satisfaction levels and decrease of fixed real estate costs. In fact, one study found that 73% of all departments will have remote workers by 2028 (Upwork, 2018). So, the obvious question is, how do you build a productive workplace culture when you are managing employees who telecommute?
Here are a few recommendations for building a great workplace culture for your remote teams.
- Review/create Organizational Values: If your organization has not selected a set of values that guide direction and mold workplace culture, then, make it a priority to create them. If possible, involve all your employees in the process of selecting your values which will result in a sense of ownership across the organization. This process will boost your culture in a positive way. If you already have organizational core values, ensure that they are integrated and evident in the day-to-day business.
- Communicate culture: Workplace culture is kept alive by including
it in our conversation and our actions.
The challenge is to create a virtual world reflect the same values that exist
in the brick and mortar world.
- Incorporate workplace culture into each meeting by integrating core value and mission into the meeting objectives.
- Ensure that the values and mission are evident and visual. (incorporate them into presentation slides, emails, intranet portals, internal forms, etc.)
- Ensure that remote workers are subject to the same culture as if they worked onsite. For example, if your organization has an open-door culture at all levels, create a virtual open-door policy providing the same access and transparency. If the culture is high energy and fun, then plan for ways to extend this to all remote workers. For example, a virtual “State of the Company Pep Rally”, or maybe a virtual “Let’s go to the Movies” afternoon.
- It’s crucial to foster a team environment from Day
- Introduce new team members using video conferencing. Have your team introduce themselves and mix it up sharing fun facts.
- Devise a system where new team members are required to interact with other team members early on (mentor system, committee contribution, etc.)
- Encourage sharing of best practices among the team to draw new team members into the fold.
- As the leader, learn about your team members, strengths, areas for development, preferences, etc.
The challenge of managing remote workers is the tendency to have one-way
communication. Encourage open and multi-direction
communication to eliminate feelings of isolation and separation. Isolation and disconnection will lead to
- Establish a very specific system of
- One-on-one calls/meetings
- Group/team meetings
- Weekly status updates
- Schedule regular “all staff chats” using video conferencing as frequently as possible
- Employ chat tools such as “Slack” to encourage communication and exchange of ideas
- Keep it fun – for example, trivia question of the week, predictions of sports outcomes, discuss cliffhangers on commonly watched TV programs, etc.
- Establish a very specific system of communication
- Employ solid management skills
- Get to know each member of your team
- Quickly identify atypical behavior to catch potential issues
- Learn individual strengths to create best partnerships/groupings within the team
- Be cognizant of the need to vary management styles when working with a multi-generational workforce. Ensure that you are sensitive to their “comfort zone” and work to draw everyone into the same space for highest productivity.
Global teams across multiple time zones experience similar challenges and certainly could benefit by similar strategies to open two-way communication. Focusing on the workplace environment that you build for your remote employees will increase the advantages of a remote workforce. The alternative will create issues which will negatively impact your growth and financial success.