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  • Creating a great culture for Successful Remote Teams

    Deepa Kartha



    If a brand doesn't live on the inside it doesn't thrive on the outside

    -libby sartain

    Why is culture important now more than ever?


    Remote working is here to stay for the foreseeable future. When companies started working remotely earlier in 2020, the focus was on the basics - connectivity, tools, access, ability to work from home with commitments and distractions like children and care giving - the focus was at the business continuity level. With this situation dragging out for a longer time organizations have to figure out how they create a thriving culture with their remote teams. Most companies are starting from square-one and relearning how to create their culture.


    First- What is your organization's culture?


    Before all this what was your culture? And now what do you want your culture to be?
    Checkout this HBR video and identify your organization's cultural style



    Question to ask yourself - Does this culture still hold true or do you need to change it?


    This is a conversation to be had with the leadership team. You could also do a confidential engagement survey to see how your employees are engaged with the company and ask them the same question. If you have had a previous survey you could do a comparison between the two to understand variations.

    Example : Fast engagement survey



    Approaching culture building from the inside out



    As organizations are looking to create a remote culture out of necessity, they need to take into account the following

    • Individual employees situation
    • Team Bonding and Productivity
    • Employees connection with the company




    With all the imperfections of a workplace, going to work was an equalizer for most people where they had they needed to do their job.
    Working from home during a pandemic also means that different people are at different levels of internalizing and working through the change, both physically and mentally.
    Each individual is at various portions of the Satir curve.




    1. Understanding your employees current situation


    Understanding what your employees are going through is essential for managers to be able to assess the productivity as well as support the employees as they navigate through their WFH scenarios. Consider doing a weekly/biweekly confidential survey in the beginning and change to monthly as time goes on to understand the situation and have the data to be able to make process changes as you need to.


    Example : Confidential WFH survey




    2. One on one employee interactions


    Even if you might see the team all day on video conference, having 1-1 interactions with them is very important. These include
    1.  Periodic 1-1's : How are they doing, time to talk shop
    2. Social chatsMore personal conversations, and share with them about what is going on with you as well.
    3. Feedback and Feed-forward : make sure to provide them with feedback on specific things and feed-forward which is about positives and ideas about what to do the next time.
    4. Real time recognition in front of their peersTimely recognition is very important!


    Example : Manager's Toolkit for individual employee attention





    Teams have to reinvent themselves in the new remote world where they have to change how they 'form, norm and perform'.  They also need to start the following.
    1. Knowing each other better 
    2. Interacting and communicating differently



    3. Knowing each other better


    It is important for the team to understand each other and their situations better so they can understand what to expect from each other and support each other. In the absence of water cooler conversations and chats at work, this is critical for team success.  Especially when you have new members in the group, either new hired or newly formed project teams, the importance of getting to know each other virtually cannot be emphasized enough.


    Example: Fun team directory





    Example : WFH in the time of Corona Photo Gallery



    4. Working with each other more effectively


    Defining standard processes of team operation and the ability to each each other informed and aligned is a big part of being able to work together effectively remotely. If the teams don't have rituals, processes and documentation already, this is the perfect time to start.  This could include work and play.


    Example: Establishing daily and other periodic rituals and processes




    Example of virtual bonding - Fitness contest



    5. Employees connection with the company


    Employees connection with the company includes a shared vision, mission and values, as well as living it every day. It includes being part of the internal community, getting involved with the external community, being part of innovation, diversity and inclusion initiatives and business growth.


    Communication on what is going on with the company directly from leaders is critical as well. The ability for employees to trust leadership at this sensitive time will make a huge difference in the long run.


    6. Communication


    Communication at all levels especially directly from the leaders is a big part of what employees need to feel connected to the company goals.
    9. Frequent leader communications
    10. The ability for everyone to respond and react is a basic need.
    These are bonus if you have it for your teams.
    11. Pulse the employees
    12. Collect their ideas and feedback
    13. Have the ability for them to confidentially ask questions
    14. Confidentially complain about issues
    15. Publicly recognize people



    Example: Communication ritual and cadence




    7. Community Building


    The ability for employee to form virtual communities and pursue their passion plays an important part  in forming the employee connection to the company. This includes the following.
    16. Community involvement
    17. Engagement through Enterprise Resource Groups
    18. Environment to share passions and interests with each other
    19. Employees invitation to be ambassadors in social media, for hiring, in the community  and more.


    Example: Community building through social impact activities



    The ability for companies to engage the individual, create great teams and create a connection with the company all works together to create a culture that is inclusive and sustainable in the long run.



    Culture isn't one aspect of the game. It is THE game. In the end an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of it's people to create value

    -Lou Gerstner Jr. IBM