The phrase “company culture” is typically associated with a traditional office setting. However, cultivating culture is just as important, if not more important, for remote field teams. In fact, a study conducted by Forrester predicted that 43% of Americans will be working remotely by 2016. Additionally, a study conducted by Kotter International and Harvard Business School professor, James Heskett, found that companies with “performance-enhancing cultures” experienced revenue growth of 682%, while those which did not grew only 166%. Based on these statistics, organizational leaders should be proactively thinking about how to promote company culture when their employees are not working in a shared office environment.
The Value of Vision
Culture is the glue that holds members of an organization together. However, it is impossible to foster culture if the mission and values of the organization are unclear, or if some members are working towards obscure goals that do not align with the company vision. David Northington is the CEO of Cloud Sherpas, which is the winner of the 2015 Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award. His company employs an almost entirely remote workforce. In an article published by Forbes, some of Northington’s secrets for success are revealed.
Northington is able to build trust throughout his organization by sticking to the company’s vision and never deviating from it. In some cases, Northington has had to sacrifice profitability for the sake of keeping with the company mission. He does this so that employees will not receive mixed signals, as he understands that a successful workforce is one that is working towards an identified common goal. By staying true to the organization’s mission, managers can standardize employees’ performance across a remote team. Managers and senior leaders are responsible for upholding the company vision and should be willing to directly handle problems that threaten the overarching organizational goals.
After an organization’s mission has been established and thoroughly communicated to all members, managers of remote teams should take the time to get to know their employees. The purpose of doing this is to enact management styles that complement the nature of remote work. If managers are familiar with their employees’ work preferences and lifestyle choices, they are bound to build a culture that their staff will embrace. Furthermore, involving employees in decision-making that affects their work, either directly or indirectly, will help remote workers feel more included in the company culture.
Camaraderie Is Crucial
Making sure that employees are connected to the organization’s mission and goals is paramount. Moreover, employees need to feel connected to each other in order for company culture to truly thrive in remote operations. Camaraderie is achieved through effective communication. Northington has been successful at cultivating company culture by utilizing an instant messaging platform that allows for constant internal communication to occur. Northington encourages employees to share problems they are facing on this platform; in a short amount of time, other employees respond to offer support and potential solutions. This practice helps to forge bonds between team members. If necessary, a manager can get involved and provide coaching to help the employee who is struggling. Employees can also use instant messaging to share successes they experience in the field as a way to keep engagement levels high across the team.
Since remote employees don’t have the same opportunities for casual communication as their office counterparts, managers should allow off-topic conversations to take place online. Of course employees should not be spending more time sharing funny stories than working, yet they should still have an outlet that allows them talk about non-work topics. Consider starting off-hours online gaming sessions for employees to partake in. This allows employees to interact with each other remotely in an informal way and can spark some healthy competition between team members. Another way to enhance camaraderie is to share relevant content amongst remote teams and managers. Not only does this practice reinforce organizational values, it engages employees and may spark discussions about the content between them. Content can take the form of blog posts and articles, or humorous GIFs and memes. Either way, shared content is something all employees can relate to, and is something for remote employees to bond over.
Northington also suggests hosting off-site, informal meetings to discuss matters pertaining to the company vision. Doing so keeps reminds remote employees of their role in the larger context of the organization, and also gives them a chance to catch up with each other in-person. Regardless of the medium an organization for communication, correspondence should always be kept positive. A positive attitude makes remote team members feel valued as employees who solve problems, not cause them.
With a solid company culture in place, your organization can enjoy benefits such as a strengthened brand image, increased employee engagement, and better goal alignment. By constantly reinforcing the company’s mission and primary goals, and bolstering relationships amongst remote teams, organizations are will be able to keep their culture alive in the field.
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