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Managing teams with members in different countries and continents is no longer something that only applies to major corporations. With the rise of remote working, even small businesses may find themselves faced with this challenge. This is where company culture plays a massive role.
One significant obstacle when dealing with an internationally dispersed workforce is how to bring everyone under the wing of the same culture and ethos.
This is not a problem with a single solution, but rather one which needs a multifaceted approach to conquer. With that in mind, here are methods for promoting a close-knit company culture which will positively impact remote employees.
Get to grips with time zone differences
It’s easy to overlook how disruptive time zones can be until you’ve tried to wrangle a global team. Unless you’re sensitive to the scheduling snafus that might arise, you might either end up isolating certain employees, or inconveniencing them instead.
A little mindfulness when arranging virtual get-togethers is all it takes, and rigorous daily planning prevents foibles. Aim for an optimal point in the working day, rather than scheduling meetings at a time that’s convenient only for you.
Strike a balance with video calls to improve company culture
Virtual meetings are a good way for remote workers to feel connected with the rest of their team, and are essential for employee training. However, that doesn’t mean you should overload everyone with video calls throughout the day.
There are a few reasons to strike a balance here, the most important of which is that virtual meetings are more intense and draining than face-to-face conversations, which leaves attendees feeling overwhelmed. They are also a hindrance to productivity, so make sure there’s a particular purpose for each call to justify the time taken out of the working day.
Another point is that virtual meetings can feel like a form of micromanagement, with workers being put under scrutiny by managers about the progress they’ve made.
So don’t overdo it with video calls, and don’t assume that this is the only way to encourage cohesion within a team.
Recognize employee achievements
Rewarding team members for hard work and recognizing their achievements will make them feel valued, and bring them into a positive company culture quickly.
In fact, recognition is so important that it’s worth handling it in a formalized, standardized way, rather than doing it ad hoc when the mood takes you.
This is possible thanks to the likes of Mo’s employee rewards platform, which is part of a growing number of services that are suited to this purpose. Moments of success can be celebrated publicly, and won’t just be consigned to an email chain or an instant message that quickly gets lost in the deluge of other correspondence.
It also helps to be inventive with the kinds of rewards and incentives you offer, aiming for a personal touch rather than something generic. Remote team members will appreciate being treated as individuals, rather than as interchangeable cogs in a machine.
Be clear and consistent to improve company culture
Clarity is important for managing remote teams, because there’s less direct control and oversight than in a traditional office environment.
Basically, you want to set down what is expected of each employee without being ambiguous, whether that’s in relation to shift patterns and working hours, or personal conduct and performance targets.
In particular you can’t afford to be lackadaisical with managing flexible working. This must be a clear policy, and one which applies consistently across the organization, or else it could be exploited, or end up as a point of contention between different employees if it’s open to interpretation.
Likewise, if flexible working isn’t something you want to offer, make this clear from the get-go. Workers want to know where they stand, rather than being left to make up their own minds on such critical elements.
No matter how much work you put into establishing a close-knit culture that works for remote employees, if you don’t hire people who fit this mold, you’ll be scuppered from the start.
As such, when you’re recruiting team members you need to approach the selection and interview process from a cultural perspective.
Don’t just look for those with the right qualifications and experience, but also consider how they respond to behavioral questions that hint at their suitability.
Listen to feedback
While it’s good to hire those who are naturally attuned to your desired company culture, that doesn’t mean you should be rigid in how you handle this aspect of your business.
If team members have problems to raise, or questions about practices and processes that need answering, you must be open to their input. After all, it’s a two-way street and not a dictatorship that you’re trying to handle.
This feeds back into the idea of recognizing achievements and offering rewards and incentives, since this is a form of positive feedback that helps to perpetuate the communicative culture you’re hoping to encourage.
Wrapping up on Company Culture
As a leader, it’s wise to realize early on that mistakes will be made and new initiatives will have their issues to iron out. This applies especially well to company culture, since in a remote working context there are all sorts of unexpected complications that can arise to upset your best laid plans.
Being prepared to accept and deal with dilemmas early on is a must. Don’t be disappointed if it’s not perfect on day one, but be patient and you’ll reap the benefits in the long term.