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How to Build a Strong Culture with a Remote Team

A robust remote company culture is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment, especially when you have employees who aren't in the same physical location.

Author Rachel McQuigge of WFHomie and GoCo

by Rachel McQuigge - August 7th, 2023


Building a strong culture is vital to the success of any organization. When people feel supported, engaged, and fulfilled at work, they are more productive and motivated to achieve results that benefit the organization. However, culture building can be a struggle for many companies — especially those with remote teams across different time zones or countries. This is challenging because establishing organizational norms is difficult when you cannot physically see your colleagues daily; it requires intentional effort. Fortunately, you can use plenty of strategies to build an incredible culture that both employees and managers will love!

How To Build A Strong Culture With A Remote Team

Remote company culture refers to the shared social norms and values that guide your business in a remote work environment. A robust remote company culture is essential for maintaining a healthy and productive work environment, especially when you have employees who aren't all in the same physical location. We discuss the pros and cons of remote work here, including the need for emphasis on communication best practices.

Remote company culture will differ from in-office company culture, but there are many similarities between them. Remote company culture requires intentionality in all areas, from defining culture, the onboarding experience, documentation expectations, team-building activities, and the focus on data-driven decision-making. 

Nail Down Your Company Culture

When building a culture with a remote team, knowing the company's purpose, values, and goals is essential.

Defining a good cultural fit for your company is vital. Think of who would thrive in an environment of trust and transparency, as determined by your organization. You want to avoid hiring those not aligned with your company's vision and working style. Hiring mismatches in culture and values will lead to a lack of productivity from the employee and a more complicated management experience for your team leads. 

You should also outline communication standards and expectations before hiring anyone new so there are no surprises once they start working remotely for you!

Make Psychological Safety a Priority

Psychological safety is a sense of trust and confidence in the workplace. Psychological safety underpins all DEI efforts and ensures possible precise and honest communication.

Psychological safety is essential for remote teams because it helps with communication, collaboration, and accountability. If employees don't feel safe being honest with each other when they disagree or have ideas that differ from the norm, then they will not share their thoughts freely. They will also be less likely to take risks when making decisions or initiating new projects.

For your team members to feel comfortable asking questions and giving their input without fear of judgment or ridicule from other team members (either in-person or virtual), you need to create an environment where everyone feels safe to contribute their ideas.

Create the Best Virtual Onboarding Experience Ever

A new hire is exciting and daunting, especially in remote work. Getting someone up to speed on everything the company and role are about is an arduous process for the hire and the support team. It usually takes a new employee 90 days to reach their full productivity potential. Ensuring a new hire feels well-prepared, well-connected, and engaged is the key to unlocking this productivity and retaining them. You can do a few things to ensure they feel welcome, ready, and included in your team. Make sure that they:

  • Know how to communicate with the rest of the team

  • Learn how to access resources when they need help or have questions

  • Are aware of company policies that might affect them (i.e., vacation time, paid time off, etc.)

Identifying and implementing technology that addresses your company's onboarding needs is key to a fantastic onboarding experience. The right technology ensures the new hire has access to all the necessary information and reduces the strain on the support team assisting with the onboarding process. 

Set Communication, Documentation, and Collaboration Standards

Set Communication Standards. The first step in building a solid culture is establishing clear communication standards. Employees need to know when they can expect responses from their managers, what is expected of them when they're working on projects, and any required documents for the tasks. This strategy helps keep everyone aligned with one another as well as prevents miscommunications that could cause issues later on down the road.

Follow Up On Standards. Once you've set your communication standards in place, it's essential to follow up on them regularly so that you can ensure that employees are staying on track with expectations both in terms of frequency and quality of output (i.e., giving feedback). This expectation is why documentation is critical; understanding everything needs to be communicated in a central location. Your standards will set how and where things are shared. 

Harvard Business Review includes additional tips on how to make remote communication work here.

Make Recognition a Company-Wide Habit

Embed recognition in the company culture by making it fundamental to the core values of your company. Make praise a daily habit, and set aside designated times and events to highlight and make it memorable.

When working with a remote team, you must reinforce the behaviors you want to see in your employees. No one will know when they're doing things properly if you don't give regular recognition. The best way to do this is by making recognition a company-wide habit.

Recognition is also key to having great morale within your organization. According to Gallup's analysis, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. A study between Gallup and WorkHuman found that when implemented effectively, recognition makes employees 56% less likely to look for opportunities elsewhere and 4x more likely to be engaged, among other findings. Recognition can help employees feel more motivated, improve their performance, and increase productivity. 

Recognition should become natural, a part of your organization's fabric. It can take many forms, including kudos, written praise, verbal praise, and bonuses.

Most importantly, everyone within your organization should give recognition often. The more frequently you recognize your team members, and team members recognize each other, the more likely they will continue to do exceptional work that benefits your organization and themselves. Frequent recognition also creates and sustains a culture of appreciation that motivates high performance in employees.

Offer Employees Learning and Development Opportunities

To build a strong culture with a remote team, you must ensure that your employees are happy. One way to do this is by offering them learning and development opportunities so that they can grow professionally.

Employees should be able to learn new skills or improve the ones they have already mastered at work. You should also offer training in the skills needed to do their job better and differently. For example, suppose one of your employees wants to know how to use social media more effectively as part of their daily responsibilities. In that case, you could provide training on how it works and why it's crucial for businesses today.

As long as there is mutual respect between employer and employee when it comes time for someone new here at work--and especially when we're talking about working remotely--everybody wins."

Be Intentional About Team Bonding

One way to build a strong culture with a remote team is to be intentional about team bonding. Team building activities are one of the most effective ways to help your team feel connected, but they don't have to take up a ton of time or cost you a fortune. Here are some ideas for how you can get started:

Plan regular all-hand meetings. You may not be able to meet face-to-face every day, but you can still meet in other ways! Set aside time each week for everyone on the team (or department) to call into a virtual meeting and discuss what everyone has been working on and what issues need attention next week. This regular meeting helps keep everyone informed about what's happening in their respective departments and allows open dialogue and discussion around upcoming projects or tasks.

Host social events virtually and in person when possible—whether once every couple of months or more frequently, depending on what works best with your budgeting constraints! 

Measure and Report Employee Engagement Data

Companies can use pulse surveys to complement their annual engagement survey. They are a great way to gather real-time feedback and measure how employees respond to organizational changes. They also help identify areas that need improvement so you can focus on them next time.

Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is a scoring system designed to help employers measure employee satisfaction and loyalty within their organizations. eNPS is a fantastic starting point for employee engagement data. The strength of eNPS is in its simplicity. Often with employee satisfaction surveys, the results become cluttered with data. eNPS gives you one actionable data point. This data point makes it quick and efficient to analyze and address. 

Final Thoughts

Remote company culture is vital for your company's success, but it can be challenging to implement. To ensure you get off on the right foot, consider what kind of culture would best suit your remote employees and be intentional in all your actions. It is essential to pay attention to your remote employee experience, especially during uncertain economic times.

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