Here it is! My best advice for how to build a strong company culture when you have a virtual team.
My entire team is virtual, even team members who are right down the road from me are working remotely.
As the team grew, I started hearing people talk about company culture and how great our company culture is. It really caught me off guard. At first, I had never really thought about building a company culture.
I didn’t even think that a virtual team could really have a culture. Once I realized that we really do have a great company culture and once I started to see the benefits of that, I became fully on-board. Now, I see culture as one of the most important parts of our business with a lot of help from my team.
Here are seven things we’ve identified that are responsible for AdLeg’s positive company culture.
Strong Core Values
Your core values are going to, at first, be a reflection of you as the leader, but these shouldn’t be set in stone. These should evolve to become a reflection of your team. Core values are principles that your team can stand behind when they’re doing their work. It tells them what is most important, what is acceptable, what is not acceptable, and it really helps to unify the team and make sure everybody is working in alignment. If you don’t have a set of core values, I recommend sitting down and working through them.
And if you already have a set of core values, I’d recommend reviewing them. I just did this recently and we moved some of our core values around, combined some things, added some new things, and it was a really great exercise.
Clear Objectives & A Shared Vision
We have clear objectives and a shared vision. Ask anyone at my company what our objectives are and what the company’s vision is and they’ll be able to tell you because we talk about these things all the time. Everyone should be able to think big picture about the business and know exactly how their role fits in. Here’s something one of my team members said about this point, “It’s one thing to do your work because it’s your job because you need a paycheck to live. It’s a completely different thing to do your work because you feel that you belong to a group or a mission. That makes people like me want to give sweat and blood to help my group and to be valued and fulfilled.” If you want your team members to think like that, then you need a mission that they can get behind.
Make Sure Everyone’s Video is Showing
Now, this might be a given that if you have a virtual team you’re going to be meeting on Zoom, but I want to point out some things that work really well for us in our Zoom meetings that helped bring the team together. First, make sure everyone’s video is showing. I’ve been in Zoom meetings with clients and other companies and people’s cameras were off. It just felt disconnected. If you want your team to come together and to build strong relationships, then it should be required that when you meet, your cameras are on. Also, take some time to joke around and get to know each other. You don’t need to be all business all the time, especially with a virtual team, because when you’re not meeting and you’re just working on your own, it is all business all the time. Taking some time in your meetings to actually joke around and get to know each other better is a great use of time. We even have Zoom calls where all we do is play a game.
Now, these aren’t mandatory, but most of the team shows up anyway because we enjoy each other’s company and we want to keep building our relationship so that we work better.
Use Slack With GIFs and Emojis
As a team who uses Slack with a lot of GIFs and custom emojis, I want to read another quote from one of my team members, “Here we use slack to facilitate conversations not only around work tasks but also personal wins and fun things, while also completely abusing emojis and gifts in all channels.” This may sound completely unprofessional to you and you might be cringing at the thought of your team members using GIFs and emojis all over the place when talking about work inside of slack and that’s fine.
Not every team needs the same culture, but for us, this works really well. GIFs and custom emojis allow my team members to express their personalities. We have tons of inside jokes as a result and it helps bring the team closer together, while also having fun enjoying their work enjoying their teammates.
When speaking of Slack, one channel that I set up in Slack is called ‘Core Values’. This channel is all about identifying team members who exemplify one or more of our core values and calling them out and giving them praise. I didn’t know how well this channel was going to be received, but it turned out to be an amazing place for teammates to celebrate one another and to keep everyone focused on the core values. Here’s what one of my team members has to say about this channel: “It feels great getting a shout out, but even better giving one and showing your appreciation for your coworkers. Celebrating them a little bit and not letting achievements go unnoticed.”
We have another slack channel titled ‘Happy Notes’, where we celebrate wins. The ‘Core Values’ channel and the ‘Happy Notes’ channel are my two favorite channels in slack.
Several of my team members mentioned trust as being a big factor that contributed to our company culture. They mentioned things like being able to question the status quo. In fact ‘Question Everything’ is one of our core values they mentioned. In process-building, it’s not a top-down hierarchy and not only does this achieve more buy-in, but we actually come up with better processes as a result of getting everybody involved.
I also want to mention a cardinal sin when it comes to trust-building. You should not be recording any of your team member’s screens. I know there are softwares that do this, and some people think that if you have employees who aren’t sitting right next to you, they’re going to screw off all day and you need to be able to see what they’re doing and hold them accountable. Well, nothing is going to destroy trust more quickly than looking over people’s shoulder’s all day, even if you’re doing it virtually. Don’t focus on the process and what they’re doing so much as the result if they’re achieving the result you want. Then you can trust that they’re following a process that is helping them get there.
The last point I’ll make here is that you should be hiring people and only people who are a good fit for your company culture. It doesn’t matter how technically proficient you are at something. If you’re not going to fit into my company’s culture, I’m not going to hire you. If you can’t get behind my company’s core values and our vision, or if you can’t stand the thought of using GIFs and custom emojis in Slack, then it’s not going to be a good culture fit and it’s best for both of us if you go in a different direction. Not only would it be bad for you, but it would be bad for the team and would probably start to bring some of us down. One of my team members had this to say about hiring for culture, “You hire the right people. I don’t know what your hiring process looks like exactly, but we all get along really well, which is amazing.”
Bottom line – if someone’s not a good culture fit, they’re not going to make their way on to my team. Luckily, we have a great culture that a lot of people fit into, so we don’t need to turn away too many people because they’re not a good culture fit. That enables us to hire some of the best people in the world at what they do.
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