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How Your Remote Team Culture Can Kill Your Growth

How Your Remote Team Culture Can Kill Your Growth

March 30, 2020

Introduction

Like any good manager, you need a plan. If you expect to apply the same principals for in-office team members to remote team members then you will spend more of your time than you would like fixing problems and playing catch up. Take time to consider what you want to get out of your remote team members and build processes and strategies accordingly. Think about what will help them succeed and have those strategies in place before you do any hiring.

Employees Want A Place Where They Fit

No matter if a team member is working remotely, at HQ or at a satellite office, they are looking for belonging. To do this team member needs and values must be in line with those of the company. This means having a connection to the company’s work environment, mission, values, ethics, expectations, and goals. In a standard workplace environment, these values are not just written in the employee handbook, they are discussed by team members, embodied by the leadership team and discussed during unofficial meetings and team building events. When working remotely your company culture could be etched into the wall but without the right reinforcement, it has little meaning.

Because in-office culture is heavily based on leadership behavior team members have role models that reinforce the company culture. There is little such guidance in remote teams. Of course, as a remote worker, you can get an idea of how the leadership team operates, but without seeing in person how a leader engages with other team members in real-time it is hard to get a complete picture of what drives the leadership team. That is why remote teams need to have a more deliberate team culture.

Along with the leadership team, human resources needs to reinforce the mission, values, and behaviors that drive the organizational culture. For remote teams, these values usually just live on the website and in the employee handbook. Your communication tools, payment systems, project management tools, and news feeds do not have a powerful enough representation of the company’s values.

The Difference Between A Remote Team Culture & An Office Team Culture

There is not much research into the differences between remote and office culture so all I can do is speak to my experience which is likely different from that of many other people. The biggest difference that I have noticed is the ability to be in the right place at the right time, as well as know where you stand in the organization. When the only interactions that you have are through online chats and the occasional conference calls you don’t really know what people think about you. When in the office you can have a casual walk to your cubicle with your boss or your boss’s boss. You can have an elevator ride with the CEO or invite a director to a casual coffee run. There are so many ways that you can better understand your favorability and professional growth opportunities. You also develop a group of work colleagues that you might spend a bit more time with. More coffees, more happy hour drinks, more walking around the block. All of these individuals give you non-verbal signals that help you understand what people think about you in the organization and how that might impact your growth. You can even use this to your advantage and show up a little early or work a little later to make sure that you have that extra time needed with the people that you want feedback from. None of this exists on a remote team. Relationships are based more or deliverables and the 2-minute conversations you have before your conference call begins. I find that productivity is far higher, but getting integrated into the organization is harder.

94% of executives and 88% of employees believe ta distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success

Deloitte

What Makes A Great Culture

Having a great company culture is a core reason for the success or failure of an organization. I think most leaders would be in agreement that they would like to have a positive team culture. Of course, you can write your values, mission, and vision on the walls of your office, but without buy-in from the leadership team, the words mean very little. Leadership’s ability to lead by example is one of the most powerful ways to reinforce company culture.

Employees want to know that they are making an impact. They want to know that their daily lives have meaning. Creating a culture that is clearly connected to a positive impact on an industry, community or customer will create an environment where team members see the bigger picture and are more likely to buy in and contribute to the success of the company culture. Making sure that the company leaders understand what drives team members to deliver is important to making constant improvements to the culture of the company.

Don’t Ignore Your Remote Team Culture

Just like the culture of any organization, remote team culture needs to be lead by example and will have more impact the more team member understand the impact that they are having. The biggest difference between the two is how integrated team members are in the culture. Going to the office and seeing culture reinforcement through messaging, behavior and leadership make it far easier to communicate the cultural norms to team members. To create the culture remotely you need all of the same things with the addition of a conscious effort to reinforce the culture in every team member touchpoint. That means taking the opportunity before and after conference calls, in team messaging apps, in emails, in project management tools, and in any other shared resources that the team uses for productivity.

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