Although committing to your company’s culture in a remote environment takes time and a financial commitment to succeed, it is essential. Focusing on transparency, communication, engagement, expectations, and accountability will help build a strong foundation.
This article shares a company’s real-world actions across these areas in order to maintain its culture in a remote work environment.
A Case Study
At the start of the global pandemic, nearly 120 employees across ATG’s three locations were asked to work from home. While challenging, this was viewed as an opportunity to refine and grow – new hire expectations were set, and there was a team commitment to continue to meet sales goals regardless of what lay ahead.
While the recruiting team went to work, the leadership team focused on the foundational needs to effectively onboard new employees and integrate them into the company culture. Virtually, the leadership team met every day for the first five months of the pandemic to not only ensure the safety of their employees, but also to maintain their identity as a team.
With safety as a top priority, transparency and communication were key to keeping employees calm, engaged, and successful. In order to help everyone remain focused on the same goals, ATG implemented Monday morning company-wide kickoff calls. Each meeting includes the status of monthly goals, general company information and news, employee shout-outs, and more. The consistency in starting each week together as a company provides a weekly foundation and establishes the mindset of a team working together, despite being in remote work environments.
Due to rapid growth and the increasing amount of new and unfamiliar people, ATG established monthly breakout sessions during kickoff meetings by randomly placing 5-8 employees together in a chat room. These small group conversations allow employees to meet new people and connect with each other.
In addition, ATG’s leadership wanted transparency to begin before an employee was even hired. So, the new onboarding process was revamped to ensure transparency about what a career at ATG is like. The look and feel of its career webpage stays up to date and clearly articulates the type of person desired as a teammate, not just what the company is looking for at the talent level.
In order to have the type of work environment that values employees, it is important to maintain clear lines of communication, both from the leadership team and to the leadership team.
Each month, ATG holds a town hall for the entire company for an open, transparent discussion on the state of the company in which the president provides updates on current goals, achievements, and plans while including time for questions and input. A live online questionnaire is used, and employees can vote for questions on-screen during the meeting. Topics include what an employee needs to be successful, what updates are needed to improve internal software and systems, recommendations to create a better work environment, reinforcement of the company’s mission statement, and more.
Employees are encouraged to ask questions and receive feedback from senior leadership. These meetings allow employees to anonymously suggest ways to improve transparency, company knowledge, and culture. For example, one new employee benefit that was a direct result of the town hall meetings was implementing 16 hours of paid volunteer time off per employee annually without the need to use any standard paid time off.
Company values are considered to be the core of a company’s culture and should be issued to all employees to outline the behaviors and mindsets of employees to create a uniform vision. Face-to-face communication is vital to upholding visions, values, culture, and relationships. With the pandemic, ATG had to adjust how its employees communicated, as they could no longer communicate in person.
In another effort to maintain communication values, ATG directed that all internal calls must be conducted via video meetings first before turning to e-mail, text, phone calls, or instant message. This has been an enormous relationship builder and has provided a sense of belonging for newly hired employees. Of course, for communication that does not require a face-to-face conversation, e-mail or internal company messaging directories can be used.
Since how people communicate is as important as what people communicate, information should be shared in a way that helps the other person most effectively receive the information. Team personalities, work styles, and learning styles all impact the group’s workflow and can either drive success or create unnecessary roadblocks.
Understanding each team member’s individual needs and work style became even more important in a remote environment. To aid in this, consider investing in a company-wide personality assessment specifically geared toward professional team building. For example, when ATG invested in such an assessment, its management team was trained on each profile type to learn and understand each employee’s results and where they would best fit within the organization.
Managers and employees also have access to “relationship guides” that can be used for peer relationships as well as employee to supervisor relationships. This has also been used as another tool in determining areas of improvement, opportunities for staff, and potential holes in training that should be addressed.