A company’s culture is defined by its values, language, and behaviors, and it is the catalyst for how people work together to get things done, traditionally, in the physical workplace. With so many people now working remotely, sustaining that culture requires a fresh approach.
The key lies in is understanding and defining exactly what the desired and optimal outcome is, in terms of the culture, and from there understanding the behaviors that promote and support this, as well as the warning signs for those that don’t, as Paul Clarke, founder of business performance consultancy CONNECT Performance, explains.
He says: “The triggers for facilitating these behaviors being expected and automatic need to be put in place. These triggers are the key conditions that enable teams to thrive, for example, the right tools, the right direction, optimal levels of training, and sense checking that everyone’s motivation levels are on par and focused on the same outcomes and consequences.”
Alignment, he says, is the key word here. When people understand the correct behaviors and approaches towards getting the outcomes and results they want, they tend to be more aligned with the implementation of the steps towards successful remote working.
“Factor in an understanding of the outcomes you don’t want, and the triggers for the behaviors or reactions that lead to these, and you have a team with a well-rounded set of insights into what will help them and, crucially, what might hinder them,” adds Clarke.
My Management Accountant (MMA) transitioned to permanent remote working in March last year. Founder Martin Bown has worked hard to ensure that the firm’s culture of people empowerment, understanding and compassion, and being there for each other when life happens, remains as strong as ever.
Employees are also encouraged to be aware of each other’s personal circumstances, particularly during the pandemic, when lockdown required the team to pull together more than ever.
Bown says: “When our payroll manager was rushed to hospital in the middle of signing up our biggest payroll client, the whole team united and pulled out all the stops to cover the role and requirements, ensuring that nothing was overlooked or not completed. As a result, the client signed up for our services without realizing that the manager had been ill.”
The company uses the online platform Cultureblox to measure the way that employee behaviors align with company culture. Bown says: “The team can give themselves and each other feedback when they display values or behaviors, while we can also give constructive advice if behaviors are not in line with our values. As a remote team, we are very aware that people may become isolated, and mental health and wellness are a constant consideration.”
Retail tech software Hullabalook’s culture encourages transparency and celebration of its people, which it does in many ways, including through its ‘Friday reflections’ which take place every Friday lunchtime.
The business buys everyone lunch and everyone eats together as a team on a video call. Then, one by one, they go around the virtual room with each person reflecting on their week; what they have done well, what didn’t go that well, and who’s done a great job and deserves recognition.
Founder Bryony Elliot says: “We’ve been doing this since the business was founded in 2016 when we were only two founders and one employee. We now have over 30. Some people feel awkward or embarrassed about celebrating themselves or admitting that they did something wrong, but by encouraging authenticity in this way, everyone has a chance to express their feelings and look forward to a new week. It’s been a great way of preserving our culture as we continue to work as a remote team.”
Maintaining that cultural catalyst for high performance also relies on hiring the right people whose values align with those of the company. Relay Payments has codified its company culture within its values, language, programs, and success criteria. The business hires people who are not only great at what they do but align with our philosophies, as chief people officer Amy Zimmerman explains.
“Our team members describe our culture as innovative, engaging, supportive, and rewarding,” she says. “It is the catalyst for how the work gets done, and because it is so important to us and our success, we’re committed to investing in it very intentionally.”
The company’s policy on where work gets done is ‘anywhere’, however, to maintain connectivity between team members beyond the office walls it has created programs and rituals that include mental and physical wellness, recognition, learning and growth, fun, and have even created a virtual ‘water cooler’ for daily interaction.
“Again, with a focus on being intentional, we’re committed to building the best culture that we can to drive high performance which is necessary to accomplish our massive goals,” says Zimmerman.