To anyone who follows WFHomie on social media, it will come as no surprise that we attended Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Besides the gorgeous locale and the scrumptious food, we took a lot away from our experience at Web Summit. These takeaways will augment our existing branding, the way we continue communicating and providing value to our partners, and our product roadmap moving forward.
There were no watershed moments at Web Summit, but there were moments that reaffirmed we were moving in the right direction.
We got a chance to engage with hundreds of potential customers in person and give our value proposals in real time and validate the magnitude of the challenges we’re solving and how we are solving them.
We got a better sense of what the market is crying out for in the remote-first space, and what our unique contribution really is and could be.
In this retrospective, we will take a deep dive into the actionable lessons and insights we gleaned from hundreds of interactions with people who work in multicultural virtual teams attending one of the biggest tech conferences - shoutout to Web Summit for bringing together over 42 thousand attendees in Lisbon this year!
There is room to grow for our team building and culture building solutions
There were 1,519 startups at Web Summit, many were remote-first, but there were few who were specifically aiming to improve the experience of other remote-first teams.
We were also surprised how much broader our market was geographically than we originally conceived. There was a lot of interest in our team building experiences by multinational virtual teams largely based in continental Europe.
We originally thought that primarily focusing on North America would be where our value proposition would resonate the most and be the best use of our resources as an early stage startup.
Bay-area, YC-backed, or generally US and Canada-based startups are known for investing in their employee engagement and company culture and making it a point of pride. It turns out that European startups are also seeing the value of engaged teams and lower turnover and are following suit!
Questions from Remote Team Managers in Europe
There were concerns by some of the attendees that popped by our booth about the logistics of virtual team building events.
These concerns usually fell under three categories:
A lot of European team managers had smaller budgets than their counterparts across the pond. Our sales experience thus far has largely been pitching to companies based in North America albeit managing multicultural virtual teams. Remote teams in Europe generally had more moderate budgets at their disposal to devote to employee morale.
Of course there are still a handful of skeptical team managers who don't see value in investing in their employees' experience, but they’re becoming harder and harder to find.
Some attendees we talked to needed assurance that their remote teams could attend and enjoy our virtual events and team building experiences in their language of choice. We can’t accommodate every language, but we can offer team building events in multiple languages including English, Spanish, and French, for People Ops professionals managing multicultural virtual teams.
That said, we do handle teams in multiple, often conflicting, time zones. We have gotten great feedback from customers about our ability to bring far-flung and disparate diverse teams together.
In the end, we can create better products in terms of virtual events if we focus more on time zones rather than language when addressing our international customers managing multicultural virtual work teams.
What is culture building and why do we care so much?
WFHomie provides remote-first and hybrid teams with actionable, proactive insights into determining when employees are disengaged and provide the tools in which to engage them. We know remote-first teams can be burdened with the cost of replacing employees due to undesirable turnover.
We don’t want Big Brother. We don’t want to monitor employees and poke them with sticks to dance for their bosses. We simply don’t want to do this. It took a lot of verbal gymnastics to convince fellow attendees and potential customers we did not want to be an employee monitoring software provider.
We believe the real value of employee retention analytics is to aid customers in keeping top-performers engaged in the company culture which in turn will keep them productive.
Employee engagement is typically assessed through eNPS. Annual surveys asking questions like ‘how do you feel on a scale of 0-10?’. We find this approach lacking and want to provide our customers with comprehensive tools to find, track and address employee engagement pitfalls before they become problems. We want to be an all-in-one tool for building a team culture.
Employee experience results from when your employees encounter your company’s culture.
Our CEO’s talk at Web Summit was a huge reason we went to Lisbon in the first place, and it was all about culture.
Pavla conveyed all that she had gleaned from co-founding and building culture in a startup whose goal is to support other remote teams.
But what is workplace culture? Culture is the shared character and personality of your business and the people that make it up. It's what makes your startup unique and is the sum of all your values, beliefs, interactions, and behaviors. This is at least our virtual culture definition.
Culture should be created before not after its core business objectives have been set and achieved. Culture is a dynamic, organic living thing that every company has and grows since from the beginning.
Company values and culture shouldn’t be a secret, something read between the lines. No, it needs to be in black and white, literally written down.
Therefore, companies need to be deliberate about how they maintain and shape their culture. Especially in a healthy remote work environment, culture needs to be defined and communicated explicitly, allowing team members to exemplify values regardless of their physical location.
The strength of a company's culture is tested not when things are going well but in times of high stress and crisis. Culture should be what burnt-out employers fall back on, not the first thing management casts aside when the chips are down.
If you attract and keep people who care about what your business is aiming for, they will be able to self-regulate and won’t need to be prodded to do great things, as they’ll already be doing them. A sustainable culture leads to productivity on auto-pilot.
Why does culture and employee experience matter?
Employee experience is how team members encounter company culture.
In a remote and hybrid work environment, building trust between team members requires a deliberate, proactive effort.
So how do you build camaraderie? People only trust people they know and understand. In remote, team leaders need to put deliberate effort on creating opportunities for team members to build relationships and trust in a non-work related setting. Familiarity is the foundation in which trust is built.
One of the easiest ways to do that is enabling people to have shared experiences, which lets them create shared memories - something to bond over. This helps them build relationships, which is the key prerequisite for building trust. Virtual team building activities are not HR nonsense, they’re vital in sustaining remote teams.