Michael Jordan knows a fair amount about team performance, and he believes that “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” The importance of teamwork is no less in the corporate environment. But to turn colleagues into teammates, you need a healthy team culture in the workplace.
That’s why any organization with their eye on the big prizes, like longevity and industry impact, needs a united team. So how do you go about building a great team culture that helps you win championships? Start by following the tips we’ve provided for improving corporate culture in the office.
But what about your remote workers? How do you go about building corporate culture for remote teams? Because whether they’re part-time contractors, full-time employees or part of the extended enterprise, corporate culture is still key to employee engagement and retention for a remote workforce.
Building Corporate Culture For Remote Teams 101
When employees don’t share a physical office, creating a team culture can become challenging. Fortunately, it’s far from impossible. Let’s explore tips for building culture among a remote workforce.
1. Make communication easy as pie
Obstacles to clear and open communication might be ‘molehills’ for in-office teams, but they become mountains for remote teams. Teams often use communication “band-aids” when they work together in-office. Turning to your neighbor to clear up an instruction is normal.
In remote teams, these quick fixes aren’t so simple. Instead, employees need dedicated channels for immediate communication and more clear communication upfront. This means choosing the right tools.
Many teams find they need a combination of tools. For example, Slack for quick chats and themed channels, and Trello for project communication. Start with one platform, evaluate the type of communication that it serves, and identify what types of communication might be better met by a second or third tool. This way, confusion about how to use each platform is reduced.
Casual communication is a cornerstone of team building for remote teams, too. So, provide casual channels (e.g. an actual #random channel on Slack) for less work-focused chatting.
On a management level, schedule regular one-on-ones with all remote employees. Even introverted employees need to feel visible and heard. A bi-monthly individual check in with a direct manager prevents any important conversations from slipping under the radar.
2. Encourage shared leadership in the team
Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon, once said: “hire great people and give them freedom to be awesome”. Do one better and not only hire great people, but give them the freedom to lead other people into awesomeness, too.
Creating a sense of shared leadership is essential to building corporate culture for remote teams. So how do you do that? Simple. Don’t center leadership on management alone, but give opportunities for employees to rise to the occasion.
Encourage employees to share their experience with others by creating a remote “lunch and learn” schedule. Invite the members of each remote team to meet over video chat during lunch once every two weeks. Or give each member of the team an opportunity to present a theory or idea to their team. Soon, employees will come to appreciate the skills and wisdom of each team member.
Most companies want to encourage innovation when they create a remote work culture. So, motivate employees to take risks and test ideas by creating remote task teams for research and experimentation.
For example, a team task to improve the user experience of the “view cart” page on your website. Allow the team to choose a leader to guide their investigation, and report back on their ideas and findings. This can be a great approach for remote team building, too.
3. Build community through subgroups
Preventing isolation is an obvious concern for team building for remote teams. Even with great communication tools, employees can still become disconnected from their team. One way to prevent employees from passing like ships in the night is to help them form subgroups within the team.
Start geographically. Maybe you have a couple of remote coders in Bangkok? Make sure they know about each other and encourage them to meet up every now and then to foster a connection.
Sometimes, helping remote employees find their tribe(s) isn’t as simple as pushing map pins together. When geography isn’t on your side, take advantage of technology, like video meetups. Find out what remote employee’s interests and goals are, and create virtual meetups with teammates with the same interests.
Take care to avoid employees becoming isolated within their subgroups. Cliques that keep to themselves and exclude other employees will damage, not strengthen a remote team culture.
Rather, make groups visible and easy to join. Encourage employees to mix it up by forming different groups. One employee might do a coffee-shop morning with two employees who live close by, and a virtual meetup with other colleagues who are interested in artificial intelligence later that week.
4. Prioritize health and wellness as part of corporate culture
When working with remote teams, it’s easy to assume that employees have a better time of finding work-life balance. But dodging the daily commute and working in their slippers has a darker side.
Many remote employees feel awkward about taking leave, with 55% taking fewer than 15 vacation days annually. Overall, most remote employees find that work bleeds into their personal lives more easily, and they have a harder time making healthy choices.
Unfortunately, your remote team can’t win championships if all its members aren’t fighting fit.
That’s why you need to make health and wellness a high priority when building corporate culture for remote teams. Sadly, perks like Friday morning hikes, or 3pm slump-busting smoothies won’t be enough. So how do you convey that the organization is really and truly invested in employees’ health when they’re not physically in the building?
Regular one-on-one health and wellness check-ins are a good start. Take time to discuss and understand employees’ challenges – some may have specific reasons to work remotely that require sensitivity and a nuanced approach. In these sessions, find out what prevents employees from taking leave, and work toward solutions so that they can get some R&R (rest and relaxation).
Secondly, ensure that the organization’s benefits scheme reflects its culture. If work-life balance is a priority, consider annual health assessments with professionals in each employee’s physical area. Don’t forget to show remote employees that the organization is also invested in their mental health. Provide access to support groups and even a mental health package through your insurance.
5. Build team culture through training
Frequent training can unify employees across teams and distances. So don’t overlook the role of online training for team building for remote teams.
Make sure that your training is well-organized, engaging, and includes opportunities for remote collaboration. Whether it’s onboarding, upskilling, or even compliance training, all training programs should have opportunities for teammates to work together.
Scenarios that require problem-solving are great for practicing teamwork toward a common solution. Use a quality learning management system (LMS) with collaborative tools like discussion forums and webinars so that employees can learn from each other, too.
Building Corporate Culture for Remote Teams: Tricky, but Rewarding
Overcome the challenges of team building for remote teams by taking care of employees’ work-life balance, bringing them together in groups, opening up communication, and encouraging employees to share leadership of their team. Don’t forget regular online training for teamwork opportunities, or investing in virtual team building activities to keep them engaged.
Turn isolated employees into powerful teams united by a healthy corporate culture, and watch your organization’s trophy case overflow!
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