According to a Glassdoor survey, 56% of employees feel a good workplace culture is more important than salary. Presently, amid the global pandemic, business leaders have the responsibility to shape, cement, and leverage their company cultures and values to create the greatest impact for their organizations.

Your culture is the heart of your organization. It is a combination of your organization’s values, vision & mission, and short-term and long-term goals. However, keep in mind that an organization’s culture is not built overnight. They have to be nurtured and practiced for years. It is something that is continuously shaped and molded. Additionally, it is a collaborative effort from your employees, HR, and leadership team. HR, Managers, and Senior Leadership need to lead by example to create an environment according to the organizational culture. Doing so brings the entire team together, even if they are working from across the globe.

When your employees don’t share a physical office, creating a team culture can become quite challenging. When people can gather together, it is naturally easier for organizations to communicate a sense of common purpose, values, and goals and to create a sense of community. Without the opportunity to be physically together, organizations have to be innovative and creative in maintaining a virtual sense of Esprit De Corps. Luckily, it is not impossible. What is exceptional with the pandemic is that it is harder to see and be aware of remote employees’ choices and actions, which may make it even harder to validate the behaviors you want.

Clearly, remote working has become much more prevalent during the pandemic, yet, prior to the virus, many companies were practicing it, and very successfully. Many of them have no office at all and their entire workforce operates remotely. Regardless of the situation, corporate culture is crucial to employee engagement and retention of a remote workforce. So, how do you go about building a great team culture that helps you win championships when not physically together? What can you do, as an HR Manager, Supervisor, or Founder, to create an environment of positive behavior and continue to grow a positive company culture with a remote team? We have all read plenty of articles on building organizational culture in general. However, in this article, we will be more focused and take a deeper dive into practical ways to build and grow positive company culture, with a remote team. Let’s see how.

1. Talk about your organization values frequently

A big part of your organization’s culture is your values. Values are the essential pillars and a concrete understanding of how your organization operates and conducts business and hence they need to be at the forefront of your employees’ minds.

  • Incorporate values from day one: Add your values to the company website, intranet portal, etc. Keep it on top of everyone’s mind through value-centric activities and campaigns.
  • Establish digital peer-to-peer recognition: Let employees nominate their co-workers they feel exude company values and award admiration to those individuals.
  • Plan a quarterly round-up on values: Plan a quarterly initiative for employees to share their stories of how they integrated the company values into their workflow during the quarter. Provide any guidance if required. Employees depicting organizational culture should also be appropriately awarded.
2. Promote easy and free communication

When working from the office, turning to your neighbouring team member to clarify any instructions or confusion is absolutely normal. However, when working remotely, such luxuries are not available. So, it is important to ensure that employees have a dedicated channel for instant communication and can easily approach other team members. This also entails choosing the right tools for communication.

Fortunately, Microsoft 365 provides a suite of tools to maximize employee communication and optimize collaboration in times of crisis. You can consider using Microsoft Teams for instant communication through chat and video calls with your team members.

  • Develop a company-wide newsletter: Create a monthly internal newsletter to share the latest updates, goals, and achievements of different departments to bring the entire organization together.
  • Initiate a survey for feedback: Promote a culture of two-way communication and feedback. Allow employees to share their feedback about what they do and don’t like about the current culture and policies and ways to improve it.
  • Mandatory video meetings: Promote teamwork, bonding, and reinforce values when you see your colleagues face-to-face. There is no replacement for seeing your teammates face-to-face, even if it’s via a screen. It establishes trust and helps people feel like a part of the team.
3. Frequent communication from senior management

Senior management should ensure regular virtual town halls and encourage increased participation from all remote employees. Even most introverted employees need to feel visible and heard. A bi-monthly individual check-in allows for important conversations and concerns to be addressed before becoming out of control. It also makes the employee feel good that someone from Senior Management cares enough to take the time to call and really listen to what they have to say.

4. Plan informal communication sessions like virtual coffee and lunch session

Team Managers should encourage team bonding by planning virtual coffee or happy hours once a week or at least once a month. Ask employees to share their experiences with other team members. Invite the members of another remote team to meet over video chat during lunch once every two weeks.

5. Encourage leadership among teams

Promote a sense of shared leadership in your team. It is essential when building a positive culture for remote teams. Do not leave leadership as a trait for senior management alone, rather give opportunities to other team members to rise to the occasion.

6. Creating a sense of ownership

Encourage your remote teams to take complete ownership of their projects and tasks in hand. Establishing such a culture becomes even more imperative when your teams are working remotely. If you want your team members to take ownership of their roles, Supervisors and Team Leads must encourage a team member’s participation to be more than just an order-taking drone. If done correctly, you will create a culture of autonomy.

7. Encourage a culture of innovation and sharing ideas

Encourage each member of the team to present a theory or idea they are enthusiastic about with the rest of their team. This will promote a culture of sharing ideas in the organization and soon, employees will come to appreciate the skills and wisdom of each team member.

8. Promote a culture of care

Showing care for your employees is important, especially when they are working remotely. Plan for health and wellness programs. It becomes a high priority when building a corporate culture for remote teams. Initiatives like Friday morning yoga and meditation, or evening slump-busting smoothies are good to have, but sadly they won’t be enough.

Employees need to know that the organization is truly invested in their health and well-being when they are not physically in the office. Regular one-on-one health and wellness check-ins are good to start with. Take time to discuss and understand their challenges– some may have specific reasons that require an approach of compassion. Show remote employees that the organization is invested in their mental health. Provide access to support groups and even a mental health package through your insurance. Ensure that the organization’s wellness program and benefits accurately match its culture.

9. Promote and practice the culture of maintaining work-life balance

Organize sessions to find out what prevents employees from taking leave, and work toward solutions for the same. Ensure proper rest and relaxation time for your employees along with fun and family time.

Promote your culture of work-life balance as a priority. Ensure everyone is taking enough time off to spend time with family. Implement and follow minimum or mandatory leaves for employees in a year.

10. Promote an organizational culture of learning

Build a culture of learning and development with training programs. Do not underestimate the role of online training programs for team building. Ensure that the training is well-organized, engaging, and includes opportunities for remote collaboration and discussion. Plan different training like onboarding for new employees, upskilling for existing employees, or compliance training for all employees. All training programs should have opportunities for teammates to come together and brainstorm their ideas.

Programs that require problem-solving are great for practicing teamwork toward a common solution. It is advisable to use a quality learning management system (LMS), and webinars so that employees can learn from each other, too. Organizations can also consider a “Train the Trainer” approach. This promotes employee interaction.

Organizational culture has always been one of the most powerful differentiators for any business. However, the need to manage culture intentionally is especially important now amid the global pandemic. Whether you are adding a new remote team or transitioning your organization to go remote, the HR department needs to be prepared to act as a point of contact for employees to rely on.

Make the most out of your organization’s culture and focus on fostering transparency to create an environment of trust so your organization can keep growing and moving the business forward. It is advised to focus on key talent, develop leaders, reward people for exhibiting company values, communicate more often, and more openly about your company’s culture and values. Produce a strong fabric of trust, harmony, and strong values. A crisis may significantly shift how your organization responds to the situation. It is surely an opportunity to strengthen your culture.

About the Author

Ajay Kaul

Ajay Kaul is a visionary leader and a trendsetter. He has been instrumental in leading the company through solid growth and international expansion. He has stood strong as a pillar to the evolution and success of AgreeYa Solutions, a leading software, services, and solutions company (ISO 9001:2015 and SEI CMMI certified organization) incorporated in the year 1999 and headquartered in Folsom, California.

Ajay has three decades of experience in building powerful and innovative solutions for businesses across various industries and verticals. His expertise and knowledge expand across enterprise sales management, marketing and strategy, global delivery, and mergers   acquisitions. Using his superior understanding and fine business acumen, AgreeYa has developed strong partnerships with Microsoft, Quest, HP, RedHat, and more. AgreeYa is presently among the fastest-growing companies in the Sacramento region.