Can a company’s culture thrive when most of the employee population works remotely? And what is company culture anyway, and does it require a physical building to act as an anchor?
For leaders who are used to working in an office environment with in-person team interactions, and now find themselves working from home, these questions and more have likely crossed their minds.
With the widespread push for office work to move to the home, companies that placed clarity and consistency of communications lower on the priority list, because they relied on the co-location of people to create a sense of culture, may find the virtual environment especially challenging when it comes to maintaining or improving that culture.
Yet, a renewed focus on communication can improve both company and team culture as well as customer experience. Placing a high priority on connecting people virtually in meaningful, helpful, and timely ways—and in ways that reflect company values—can help strengthen and maintain a positive culture that doesn’t depend on people actually meeting face-to-face every day.
Here are 3 tips to maintain company culture in a virtual world.
Lead with clarity and respect
In a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article, Amit S. Mukherjee, professor of leadership and strategy at Hult International Business School, wrote that crises act as leadership crucibles. Crises present opportunities for true leaders to emerge—or as McKinsey puts it, crises are where we see “… the value of ‘deliberate calm’ and ‘bounded optimism’.” Clarity, consistency, and honesty are useful communication tools for leaders today.
Set clear expectations and accountability measures
There’s no better way to support teammates doing their best work than to be clear about what the job is meant to accomplish, the goals they need to achieve, the timeframe in which the work needs to be completed, and the ways both parties will understand how progress will be measured. For example, Bain & Company touts a framework called Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as a popular tool for setting goals, citing that it helps leaders and teams focus on the right outcomes, align with company goals, adds measures of accountability, and allows for more confident decision making.
Recognize leadership within your teams
According to a 2019 Deloitte study, developing new leaders from within can help them hone critical skills, including managing through influence, promoting transparency, and thriving in a more collaborative and connected world. This can be challenging work for management, but observing with intention and (virtually) tapping, supporting, and encouraging those team members who stand out is vital to long-term cultural health.
Business leaders may be intimidated by the complex arrangement that the virtual work environment presents, but also have the opportunity to embrace it by seeing it as an opportunity to improve the way we relate to others, to our fellow employees, to our customers, and to our societies we live in.
Company culture is ultimately the manifestation of our ability to convey humanistic purpose, regardless of where our people are.
Interested in learning more? Browse the following:
- 3 Leadership Takeaways from My First 30 Days at Oracle During the COVID-19 Crisis
- 4 Ways to Boost Remote Employee Engagement