How do you build company culture in the age of remote workforces?

By Cam Upshall, Director & Co-Founder
on February 19, 2019

How do you build company culture in the age of remote workforces?

By Cam Upshall, Director & Co-Founder
on February 19, 2019
Building a great company culture is an important step in driving business growth. It helps build your brand identity, and allows you to attract and retain great talent.
Remember how Netflix reinvented HR with its culture deck? It included then-revolutionary ideas such as allowing workers to take time off whenever they needed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Netflix is now one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. (It's worth noting that the person who drafted the deck ultimately parted ways with Netflix precisely because of the culture she built. Netflix has since created an updated version of its culture manifesto.)

While there's growing focus on building better office cultures, the workplace itself is evolving. More companies – including ours – are shifting work out of traditional cubicles and building global teams. Without splashy, motivational murals, remote teams need to rely on something more explicit to define company culture.

Since free-flowing doughnuts and nap pods aren't an option, how do you build culture in remote companies? Here's how we do it at Rare Birds.

Culture is a conscious effort, and it's baked into the team's process
Culture is often regarded as the byproduct of a workflow or team personalities. While that's true, it also needs to be intentional, and clearly cascaded throughout the team. In a remote workforce, expectations and standards need to be explicitly defined at the onset, not learned on the job. In our team, for example, culture is maintained through agreements about cut-off times, do-not-disturb modes and regular catch-ups. Communication tools allow us to be just as collaborative and feedback-oriented as physical teams.
Prioritise values before to-dos
Remote workplaces run smoothly with a lot of automation: deadlines come with ready-made reminders, every task is documented, feedback is painstakingly detailed. It's less ambiguous, but eventually it can be less exciting too. Without a strong set of values, employees will simply approach their deliverables like a daily to-do list. In a remote workplace, all members must see and understand the value of their work beyond a 'completed' checkmark. This can be accomplished through regular 'showcase' sessions where everyone gets a bird's-eye view of the project's progress. Leaders must also build a thorough onboarding process where the company's story, values and mission are relayed to new members.
Delegate mentorship and growth
Constant one-on-one mentorship can be a scheduling nightmare if your team works across several time zones. Remote team leaders should encourage initiative and closer collaboration in their teams. For example, responsibilities such as onboarding or growth research can be delegated to ad-hoc teams or senior members. This helps them build better relationships with each other (as good as a relationship on Slack can get) and makes new members feel at home faster. With the right environment, remote work can be an opportunity for growth.
One last tip…
Maintaining a strong company culture doesn't happen overnight – it requires clear intent, a bit of observation and discussion within your remote team.

What we've shared are only broad strokes of how we maintain our own culture, and we've been inspired by practices in other virtual companies. But remember that culture is unique for every company. Your values, work policies and mentorship style will all be up to you – and your team.

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