How to Build Culture in Your Remote Team

MARYNA DEMCHENKO

Published: 05 Aug 2019

Building Virtual Teams

For many companies, it makes good sense to take their development operations to nearshore destinations where the talent market is less competitive. The often-held assumption is that building team culture from afar is an unattainable goal, but the evidence says that it’s possible to have one that promotes the right values. 

While some leaders are weighing the pros and cons of remote engagements, companies like GitHub, Zapier, Buffer, and TeamWeek have already built exemplary team cultures. This article aims to touch on simple ways to build a culture where your remote team members can thrive. 

How to build culture? First off, define values

 

Where does the culture building start? Having a set of values to center your culture around can point you in the right direction.

What’s in it for the employer? When a company strives to cultivate values and hires people that resonate with them, they measure things like productivity and efficiency. These are the indicators that team building is working. But the bottom line is – a good culture makes employees happy. Happy employees mean productivity, and therefore more profit for the company.

Every organization has its own definition of company culture. If you struggle to come up with your own, you can learn from and get inspired by examples of companies that have a strong culture in place. The reason for their success is partially the set of values they share. 

Zappos

When we think of amazing organizational culture, the example of Zappos is the first thing that comes to mind. This company’s culture is based on assembling and keeping around people who share their values. Being a good cultural fit is essential for getting hired at Zappos. No matter the position, all employees must undergo a four week training in the call-center where they are trained their ten core values. With a screening process like this, Zappos only constitutes employees that fit in well with their corporate culture.

Twitter

Twitter culture is all about setting up an environment where every staff member is motivated by the company values. They have a lot of fun along the way too, from rooftop meetings, unlimited vacation time, yoga classes, and other perks. Twitter holds Hack Week where everyone can come forward with an idea no matter how crazy it sounds. 

This way, Twitter is building a culture where like-minded people can inspire each other for better work. This company is not afraid of making the workplace a fun and friendly environment. 

Nike

The famous “Just do it” logo is also the company culture that their employees swear by. Employees are keen on living out the principles like “Be a sponge” or “If you have a body, you’re an athlete.” The kind of culture where everyone is energetic and nothing short of addictive. The principles this company promotes results in products that stay on the bleeding edge of innovation. At the same time, the employees are focused on creativity and thinking outside the box. 

Defining a set of values you want to promote will help you find the right people to adopt it, which takes us to the next step.

Hire for a culture fit

Selecting candidates for any role, you probably aim to see if their hard skills are up to scratch. But hiring for remote positions, it’s also essential to identify candidates who resonate with your company values. 

With your remote hires, you can’t simply assume that they will naturally adopt and stick to your company values. As a leader, it’s your job to form and nurture your company culture. Hiring people that are tailor-made for remote work should be your step one. To succeed in virtual team building, you will need to pull together a group of self-starters that thrive off of working independently. It should be reflected in your job descriptions and emphasized throughout the hiring process. 

Be transparent about the values you promote 

After you have defined your culture with a set of values, document it, and make sure it’s available for every staff member. Needless to say, this document requires a great deal of writing so it’s inspirational, clear and articulate. 

There always will be a difference between how the culture is intended and how it actually takes direction. Thus, the values should be continuously refined and altered as your company grows. Because culture is more difficult for your remote employees to grasp, your HR team should go an extra mile to affirm it. HR managers should regularly survey the employees and otherwise take the temperature of your virtual team. 

You can promote your company culture on your blog or have a special section on your website. Companies that bet on company culture to pull top specialists don’t hesitate to promote it excessively. 

Slack-based culture: Using collaboration and communication tools

When it comes to communicating with a distributed team and its members, over-communication is your best friend. It involves asking and confirming understanding of each message, constantly sending updates, and if necessary repeating the same message across different channels. This is where communication apps come in handy.   

The increasing popularity of remote can be partially explained by the common adoption of digital tools that make collaboration easier than ever. They allow you to always stay in touch with the team as well as to reinforce your culture. 

Chat and communication apps

Text communication is the fundamental thing in working with remote teams. Keeping in touch with the team using chat tools like Slack will let you stay in the know about work-related tasks, as well as coworkers’ outside of work interests. The best thing about chat tools is that they create a sense of a real conference room. Your team can discuss ideas, receive vital updates, and monitor a task status. 

You might wonder how to build a culture with only a chat tool at hand? Let your personality shine through communication so your remote employees get to know you better. Encourage remote workers to do so. Use gifs, smileys wherever they are relevant. Create off-topic channels leaving your remote employees space to get to know each other while keeping work-related channels for work. 

Collaboration tools

When it comes to collaboration, we have plenty of tools that let us know what everyone is working on at any time. Pay attention to Trello and Confluence that can help with completing tasks, monitoring the project status, and meeting deadlines. 

Collaboration tools are the cornerstone of the company culture because they promote transparency and responsibility. They provide the needed autonomy without isolating team members from the rest of the team.  

Video conferences 

Face-to-face communication should be an important part of building a team culture, so make sure you schedule video conferences with your remote team. Be it formal or informal, one-on-one or all-hands meeting, interacting with the team members on a regular basis will keep them engaged and help create a stronger bond than with chat-based communication. You can use Skype for Business or Zoom to plan regular video check-ins with your team. 

Informal communication can help establish a strong sense of connection between team members. Think of having informal video sessions during lunchtime where work is not allowed to be talked about or provide the opportunity to get to know the coworkers by randomly pairing them in video meetings. 

Afterword: What’s essential for team building with remote employees?

Culture is important, and more so for distributed teams. If you come up with the right values, are on a way to a motivated, happy, and productive team. A set of communication and collaboration tools will help you reinforce and support the company culture and create a bond between remote workers. It’s also necessary to hire people who thrive working independently. Your steps towards building a company culture could be:

  • Create a set of values you want to nurture inside your team
  • Refine your values based on how employees respond to them
  • Make your culture understandable for everyone
  • Hire mature self-starters who thrive working independently
  • Invest in communication and collaboration tools
  • Use video meetings to create a bond with your team
  • Ensure informal communication is also in place

Building your remote team with NCube

Hopefully, our pieces of advice will be helpful for you, and you will succeed in creating a positive and inspiring environment for your remote employees. We at NCube know first-hand what constitutes a productive remote team. We’ve helped many technology leaders worldwide in setting up strong technology teams in Ukraine that they will work with for a long time to come. 

 

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