Maintaining Company Culture in Virtual Teams
Even in the best of conditions, achieving a strong and healthy corporate culture is challenging. However, it is important that organisations understand, and are capable of influencing, their culture, as it affects many factors which contribute to business growth and success, including staff retention; company branding and reputation; and organisational strategy. Moreover, the culture is often a basis for resilience when faced with crises like the current global health pandemic.
As Harvard Business Review notes, while strategy is purposefully devised and set out, “culture blends the direction of leaders with the knowledge and experiences of frontline employees.” Culture is not written and is often manifested implicitly through behaviours and practices.
However, in companies now operating remotely, workforces, managers and HRs are therefore faced with the challenge of building and maintaining corporate culture in a virtual setting without physical interactions. This means the in-person moments which previously shaped the company culture in many businesses and the physical cues which help colleagues understand one another are no longer there.
One potential effect of this is on the relationships between colleagues. In one survey conducted by Finance Buzz, 49% of respondents reported that they found it harder to build relationships when working from home. Indeed, communicating through virtual channels makes interactions more formalised and less spontaneous than in-office ones, so it can be a good idea to deliberately make time within team schedules for social interactions to keep colleagues connected with one another and maintain strong and trusting relationships.
Furthermore, instilling a clear vision and purpose is important for a productive company culture. Indeed, research shows that employees who locate meaning in their jobs may be more motivated and work more effectively. Leaders can play important roles in creating this. For one, the behaviours they display inevitably set the tone for the workforce. Furthermore, it is expected of leaders to convey the values of the organisation and articulate what makes the company culture distinct. In doing so, they can help build purpose, belonging and motivation.
To really understand how employees are experiencing the culture while working remotely, it is always useful to check in with them directly. Sending out culture surveys can help organisations to stay connected with the remote employee experience and understand if and where cultural improvements are required. Just as companies pay strong attention to business strategy, it is important for business health that the culture is being continuously worked on and maintained, not just amid contemporary challenges, but also in normal times.
- How To Build An Inclusive Virtual Culture With These 4 Effective Strategies, May 2020, Forbes.
- Building and maintaining company culture remotely, August 2020, DropBox.
- Building Culture Virtually – Sustaining company culture in a post-COVID world, Mercer.
- The Leader’s Guide to Corporate Culture, January/February 2018, Harvard Business Review.