The pandemic has had a major impact on company culture. According to a survey from global customer experience and digital solutions provider TELUS International, a majority (51%) cited feeling less connected to their company culture while working from home. And in another study conducted by Glassdoor, 56% of employees find a good workplace culture to be even more important than salary. Now more than ever, it’s important for employers to put company culture high on their priority list.
But with more flexible work arrangements on the horizon, what are the best ways to build and maintain an effective organizational culture? According to an article in Harvard Business Review, “it requires recognizing that culture is evolving despite being remote and that organizations need to invest a substantial amount of time and energy into keeping their cultures on track or steering them in new directions.” These five strategies will help any organization preparing to create, reinforce or reinvent its company culture to prepare for a hybrid workplace.
Document and communicate values
When you have a distributed workforce, it is even more critical to record and communicate company values. Develop a set of values that clearly articulate how employees are expected to make decisions. The documentation can take many forms. Some examples could include a handbook or posting a manifesto on the company website. It’s also a good idea to make this information public as a way to attract the right people to your team.
Hire for traits vs. fit
When hiring remote workers, looking for traits that will enhance the culture is crucial. It’s important to avoid selecting candidates based on “fit,” which can be ambiguous and sometimes turn into a popularity contest. Instead, hire for traits that align with company values. For remote teams where written communication is essential, it’s becoming more common to recruit for communication ability—even for positions that haven’t previously required strength in that area. For example, at Zapier, where their team is 100% remote, writing is one of the skills they explicitly include in job descriptions.
Embrace a remote-first attitude
A remote-first attitude means prioritizing policies that ensure remote employees are as involved in the culture as those in the office. This approach also provides remote workers the necessary information and tools to get their work done efficiently. Take Mozilla, for example. Because remote employees comprise almost half of Mozilla’s total workforce, the company focuses on making sure they are enmeshed in the company culture. Each full-time employee is flown to company headquarters for a week of cultural onboarding within the first few months. Then they’re paired with an experienced “Remote Buddy” who can help them navigate company culture and processes.
Consider cultural differences
With the recent shift to remote work and the freedom to employ people from across the globe, many managers find themselves in charge of cross-cultural teams for the first time. This scenario poses unique challenges as organizations begin to factor in cultural differences. One way to manage diverse teams is to ask team members how to best approach a task in their country or culture to gain a deeper perspective on problem-solving. It’s also vital to document major religious holidays or cultural events in other countries, which may affect workflow and the ability to meet deadlines. One example is the Chinese New Year when factories shut down, and most people in China and Taiwan take at least a week off. Using cultural differences as a means for your team to learn more about one another can go a long way in building a cohesive, inclusive workforce.
Keeping employees informed is essential when creating a solid company culture. Ensure all workers are kept abreast of new developments—both positive and negative. Then, if things go sideways, at least your team will know in advance. Another tactic is to collect frequent feedback through employee surveys. Once you identify any issues or concerns, you can address them immediately. Gitlab, for example, has one of the most comprehensive team handbooks consisting of over 13,804 pages. As part of its commitment to transparency, the company posts it on their website and welcomes suggestions for clarifications or improvements.
Organizations have an incredible opportunity to reshape company culture. And culture goes way beyond perks like foosball tables, free lunches and happy hours. It will also develop whether you pay attention to it or not. But the question is this—will it be intentional?