Building and establishing a consistent culture across your remote and multi-site teams is a tough task – but as a business leader it will also be one of your most important ongoing challenges.
Remote workers miss out on the daily interactions you get in an office; they may even live in a different city or time zone. If the culture and environment are not understood it can lead to feelings of isolation on one side and jealousy on both.
To ensure that your company values and culture are practiced consistently throughout your business, you must instil them from the top down and control the narrative. This creates the right message every time. It will help to prevent people creating their own realities; “Am I being excluded?” – “Are they receiving preferential treatment?”
Here are my tips to help you to create and maintain a consistent company culture.
Communication is key
Regular communication is the best tool to effectively bridge the gap between head office and your remote teams.
You are better off over-communicating. Use an array of tools to create dialogue with your workers – from instant messaging sites like Slackbot to video messaging sites like Skype. Finding the right line of communication for each team will help everyone to feel connected and understand how each task is progressing.
Feedback is a cornerstone of effective communication. By implementing regular pulse surveys that collect data-driven insights in real-time, you will get an overview of your company’s culture and dynamics, and give each member of staff a voice. This will help establish what you should stop, start, change and continue doing throughout your organisation, to ensure that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
To effectively communicate with your team, you need to be open to speaking with them whenever possible. It can be difficult to find the time for everyone, so create the systems for them to be able to contact you as well. Leaving messages unanswered will make your staff feel unsupported. If you work from a different location to someone in your team, the time in-between calls or emails will be amplified. Make commitments to each other and agree the correct channels and the best times to contact each other.
Regular face-to-face meetings will forge stronger bonds, and making the effort to meet someone at their workplace goes a long way. With the most important meetings, the tone and meaning comes across best face to face.
Empower your staff to want to improve the culture
Empowered employees are a dream come true for any business leader. They will solve problems independently, take ownership of their responsibilities and ultimately drive your company-culture forward.
Simon Sinek from the New York Times suggests that empowered employees have the power to make decisions without a supervisor. They are entitled to go off script, bend the rules and do what they see fit if they believe it is the right thing to do for the greater good of the company – This highlights how an empowered employee will use every tool at their disposal to complete a task.
If you want to create a culture of empowerment throughout your organisation, you must first make it clear that you have faith in your workers.
Remote employees require freedom to perform their duties to the best of their abilities, this means you must trust them to be responsible for their duties and accountable for their actions. By instructing your remote workers to wait for your approval before making any key decisions, you will slow down operations and create frustrated and disengaged employees.
It’s up to you and your designated team leads/managers to empower your remote employees to work independently and take on their own leadership roles.
Remote workers may struggle to understand your cultural vision. By setting clear and regular expectations you will prevent any confusion or divergence from that vision.
Dave Nevogt, co-founder of time-tracking software suite Hubstaff recommends that you publish your expectations in a manual or staff handbook. This is a good way to present an easily-digestible vision of what is expected of your workers and the types of behaviours, methods and attitudes that you value. By creating this physical document and updating it when necessary you will prevent your expectations and cultural visions from becoming distorted.
Remote employees need to know exactly what is expected of them, whether you designate specific slots in which to do this or implement your updates on a task-by-task basis is up to you. The important thing is that your team knows what you expect from them and what goals they must achieve to be a success.
To effectively sustain all the previous tips, you must demonstrate consistency and regularity with your actions, tone and communications.
You (and your leadership team) are role models and ambassadors for the culture of the business. With that at the forefront of your mind, make efforts to consistently present the ethos of the business in the right way – so the rest of your team will follow suit and reflect your desired behaviours.
Ensure that you apply the same standards and expectations to all your workers and communicate them in a consistent way. Pay careful attention that you are not saying one thing to one team and the polar opposite to another – this will send mixed messages and encourage a disjointed culture that will permeate throughout your organisation.
Most workers are very observant and they will likely notice if you are ‘walking the talk.’ Demonstrate the way you want people to act and sustain it into your everyday operations. This will trickle down throughout your organisation and help to build and sustain a unified culture that extends to your remote workers and multi-site teams.
All the best practices highlighted in this article will hinge on regular communication from you and your designated leaders – the more familiar your staff are with you, the more likely they are to feel like a valued part of your organisation.
It is important to note that there is no such thing as too much leader–involvement or communication. They are your most valuable tools when trying build cultural alignment across all of your operations.