Every company, big or small, has its own culture. But how do you approach building culture in a remote team?
The company culture is like the personality type of the company. It defines the atmosphere in which people work. Culture includes several elements such as the mission, expectations, assumptions, work environment, ethics and values.
If your team fits in within the company culture, they will feel that their values are consistent with those of the company and as a consequence they will be happier and will enjoy much more their work.
Building a culture is something that should be done intentionally, for both co-located and remote teams. It is such an important success factor that you should really spend some time thinking about the type of culture you want to build.
However if you have a remote team, there are a few things you need to take into account.
Why? Because a physical office can provides visual cues that will speak about your company’s culture without saying a word. An open floor plan may speak to a high level of transparency. Designated areas to relax might speak to a well-being culture.
However, remote teams don’t have any of these visual cues and must rely on whatever it is explicitly communicated to them.
You cannot expect your new hires to absorb the culture just by working with your remote team as it would happen in a co-located one. They don’t have that 5 minutes chit chat in the kitchen over a cup of coffee. Nobody smiles at them in the corridor after they’ve done something great.
So what can you do to build a great culture in a remote team?
1. Hire employees who stand for your values.
When working remotely, the team is not working face to face so they don’t have the chance to observe and absorb the norms and the unspoken language. Therefore it can be harder to detect if someone is not a good fit.
Hiring problem solvers and self motivated individuals is almost always a safe bet. The combination of these skills with the company’s values and the training provided will most likely give great results.
2. Create an on-boarding process
On-boarding usually takes a week or two. Your main goal should be to make your new team member feel welcome as well as make them understand that communication is the core value of the company.
Have face to face meetings where you will go through your values and rules. Make sure they have the tools to communicate with their own team as well.
A good idea is to create an on-boarding board in Trello for each new employee where you cover the background of the company and lay out all important tasks for the new employee to complete during the first days (mostly paperwork). You should also cover and give access to any projects the new hire will be working on as well as explain workflows, priorities and what’s expected of them.
3. Have regular meetings
Meetings need to happen often and managers should involve all team members to inspire and lead. The tone should be clear and honest to avoid miscommunication or missing critical information.
Meetings should go beyond status updates in order to create a cohesive bond between team members.
4. Use a chat tool
A great tool like Slack can do wonders for your company’s communication. However make sure your team don’t use emojis or sarcasm in excess as it can lead to misinterpretations and confusion.
For example if I post a question and someone replies with a checkmark, what does it mean? Does it mean that the answer to my question is yes? Does it mean that they have read my question and they are looking for an answer? Does it mean that they are telling me that is a valid question?
As you can see a single checkmark can create a lot of stress and confusion.
5. Always try to use video
I’ve worked with people for months and I’ve never seen their faces, allegedly because their internet wasn’t working well or for some other reasons (excuses?). Honestly, we are human beings, not robots, and we have technology to bring us closer together even if we are a thousand miles away.
Showing your face makes the team trust you and it is key for building a great culture in a remote team. Moreover, seeing your facial expression and reactions to comments and questions adds emotion and a more human touch to conversations.
Using video keeps the team more focused and active during any meeting.
6. Give public recognition.
A shout out during a meeting for a job well done will really boost your employee’s motivation. By doing that you will be showing the whole team that you care and that you have no problem in giving recognition to others.
You don’t have to wait for the next meeting as you can also give a shout out via chat which would be a great way for the rest of the team to also express their congratulations (which can also be expressed with emojis!)
I hope these tips are helpful for you to build a great culture in your remote teams. Let me know in the comments if you have ever struggled with this and what did you do to solve it.
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