How to Keep Your Corporate Culture Alive Remotely
Is Your Organizational Culture Changing Because of COVID-19?
Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has incited a lot of change in organizations – changes in the way people work, the way companies communicate, and what the work environment looks like, among many other things. On a positive note, many of these changes have allowed organizations to revisit programs or policies that may now be out-of-date and make adjustments to fit the shift to a largely remote workforce.
One area in particular that the pandemic has compelled companies to consider is how to keep employees engaged and ensure the company culture is upheld (or even improved) after having to quickly shift to a 100% virtual environment. Parents are juggling working full-time and assisting their children with distance learning, individuals are struggling to find human interaction in times of quarantine and social distancing, and companies are looking for new and innovative ways to keep their employees engaged despite being spread out geographically.
How to Have a Strong Remote Work Culture in this Virtual Environment
The following are tips on how to ensure your company culture is maintained, and maybe even improved, while employees are remote.
To Start, Examine Your Company’s Culture Pre-Pandemic
This may seem obvious, but to start, companies should set aside some time to take a close look at their pre-pandemic culture and policies and make adjustments as needed to fit the current environment. Identify areas for improvement or changes that may need to be made to ensure that your employees are engaged and productive at home. Harvard Business Review recently wrote an article providing a few helpful tips on how to ensure your culture remains adaptable throughout the pandemic.
Allow for Flexibility
I’ve attended quite a few webinars lately featuring panelists who are discussing what they are doing differently, what changes they have made since the start of fully remote work, and what is working best for them. While each company is different, one factor they all seem to have in common during this time is that their employees need and want flexibility. Providing employees with the flexibility to work during the hours that work best for them is a relatively easy adjustment that provides some balance and control to employees during these unprecedented times.
If your company doesn’t already offer flexible scheduling, be sure to set clear boundaries and expectations up front – for example, employees may need to plan on being available during certain times for meetings with coworkers, managers, or clients, or there may be expectations on turnaround times for internal or external responses to calls or emails. Be sure to clearly communicate these expectations from the beginning.
Frequent Communication and Transparency
Communication is key – I can’t stress that enough. Setting up All Hands or department-wide meetings at a regular cadence will help keep remote employees connected and informed about company initiatives and goals as well as upcoming events and any changes that may be on the horizon. This is also a great time to reinforce the company culture and values to the larger group.
In addition to the larger meetings, managers can set up one-on-one meetings with their employees on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. These one-on-ones are more informal and can be used to check on the employee’s wellbeing, accomplishments, and challenges. Here’s a great article on effective workplace communication techniques.
Many companies are trying new and innovative ways to keep employees engaged and provide some of the human interaction that so many individuals are missing. Some examples include virtual trivia nights, cooking classes, cocktail-making or wine tasting events, paint nights, yoga or fitness classes, and happy hours or lunch hours.
Another impactful way to keep employees engaged is to encourage them to occasionally set aside 10-15 minutes to connect with each other individually. Being in a remote environment removes the hallway chats and water cooler talks as well as the ability to just pop over to talk with someone in a nearby workspace. Encouraging employees to engage with each other independently allows for that informal knowledge share that may be missing in the virtual environment.
Onboarding and Training New Hires
Onboarding and assimilation can be challenging in the remote environment, but there are ways to foster engagement and buy-in with company culture even when onboarding a new employee virtually. To set the tone, consider doing the following:
- Mail the employee everything they need to get started prior to their first day
- Include some company swag in the new hire’s welcome package as an added bonus
- Consider also including some basic office supplies – notebooks, pens, etc.
- Provide the onboarding schedule ahead of time
- Set expectations for the dress code in a virtual environment
- Encourage current team members to reach out to the new hire – this can be a quick email or IM to say hello or scheduling time to chat over coffee or lunch
Training also may look a little different, but there are many online learning options that companies can consider as part of their virtual training program. Another training option that has proven to be effective in a remote environment is interpersonal communication skills. Programs such as DiSC or SOCIAL STYLES can help employees (and leaders) identify their individual and colleague's profiles and gain an understanding of their unique work styles. These are especially helpful training programs for bringing your remote team together.
Keeping your company culture alive and well while working remote may sound challenging and maybe even a little intimidating. However, promoting employee engagement through open communication, team building activities, and flexibility will make your employees feel valued and included.