Would it surprise you to know organizational culture is consistently one of the top reasons why people join or leave a company?
After nearly a decade working for some of the biggest global companies in mining, technology, and engineering, I have found culture certainly trumps strategy.
Renowned management professor David Caldwell described culture as “all that invisible stuff that glues organizations together.” Culture includes purpose, values, approach, symbols, rituals and desired behaviors. Culture is comprised of things that are often hard to codify, evaluate, measure and therefore manage.
So how can we translate the intangible and invisible into the virtual world?
What do we want to be known for? How do we want people to feel when they jump into a Zoom call? How do we want them to describe what it’s like working here? Have we communicated the culture consistently? Has it sunk in? How do we know?
Nothing generates more ownership and buy-in than involvement, so look for ways to empower your people to help create the culture they always wanted. Involvement can be scaled accordingly – from a simple email request for suggestions right through to online structured focus groups.
Make the culture real, bring it to life. Talk about it, visualize it, and normalize it. Here are some concrete ideas you can implement now:
- Have simple Do’s and Don’ts for people to follow and anchor behaviors exemplifying the culture into day to day ‘working from home’ rhythms.
- Visuals make a difference – turn on cameras in conference calls, send desktop backgrounds demonstrating the culture for the team to use.
- Have a single source of truth where all employees can learn ‘how things are done around here’.
- Welcome new employees (virtually) in front of the team.
- Have new and current employees together in a reverse mentoring system.
- Use gifs and memes to add some color and personality, and explore tools to maximize collaboration and fun.
- Get everyone involved. Do a round robin acknowledgement of people who have demonstrated the values.
Don’t stop improving the culture. What are the success indicators and how will we know when we get there? Are we continuously learning from culture leaders within and outside of our industry, benchmarking, growth mindset? Collect feedback regularly and make adjustments.
If you are not experienced in running a remote team, you won’t get everything right the first time. Ask each employee to tell you what worked and what didn’t.
You don’t need to stop gathering feedback after employees are fully on-boarded. Set the expectation of regular feedback. Ask for it often, reflect on your efforts, listen to your employees, and make adjustments as needed. This culture of constructive feedback will help you, and let your employees know they are safe to speak their minds.
Connectedness is also key to strengthening culture, and that is different for everyone. I’ve seen virtual coffee catch-ups and online happy hours. You can incorporate some team building games into your regular calls or start a Slack channel to exchange photos of your pets or favorite travel destinations. We’ve begun sharing one personal and professional win during our weekly meetings, which always sparks interesting conversations and deepens rapport.
Today more than ever, a healthy culture is what allows a group of people to generate something much bigger than the sum of the individuals involved. It’s what enables organizations to achieve the impossible.