On our recent podcast episode, where Luis talked with Shauna Moran of Operate Remote, topics included how to make your remote team members feel connected with company culture. Shauna describes how, when she worked at Shopify, she was sent a box-load of products that helped her feel connected with her new employer.
This struck a chord with me, as I have received a similar ‘culture drop’ from a company I work with. I got a delivery in a branded box that includes a t-shirt, mug, mouse mat, stress ball and even a bottle of hot sauce. That one delivery told me so much about the company that I was going to work for, but the most important was the message that they valued me.
But why are these companies investing in corporate swag to their remote teams? What’s the big deal with company culture anyway? Isn’t it a waste of money? And what makes a great culture drop anyway? All good questions. Let’s try and answer them.
Why is Company Culture Important for Remote Teams?
A few years ago, you didn’t really hear people talking about company culture. Now, the phrase is everywhere. It’s rise to prominence came about as recruiters tried to attract first millennials and then Generation Z to the workplace. The theory being that those groups of people value the culture of the company they work in more than previous generations.
The concept of company culture is, to steal a phrase from Good Omens, ineffable. It’s not so much about your brand (although it can be linked with it) as it is about the experience of working for a particular business. What are the values? What are the expectations?
Company culture can be Team Tacos on a Tuesday or a global recycling policy. It might be a commitment to fundraise for a certain charity or tied into the corporate mission statement. It can be about promoting diversity or cherishing the past. And of course, it can be about trusting your staff and allowing them to work when and where best suits them.
The benefits of well-defined company culture are increased staff engagement. It all ties into belonging. If we go back to the most basic human needs, belonging is the third most important after safety, food, and water. When people feel like they belong they are happier, and that makes them more engaged and productive; it also improves staff retention.
Beyond that, though, a strong sense of identity in a company helps build the brand. It helps build your reputation too. In this time of #metoo and company’s being brought down by their toxic cultures, having a strong, positive culture makes a business stand out.
Culture and Remote Teams
Building that sense of belonging is particularly important with remote teams. If you work with others in a co-located space, you’re bound to have a lot in common with your co-workers. You’ll sit in the same queues of traffic, maybe support the same sports team. Your kids might go to the same schools.
If your colleagues are on the other side of the world, it’s a little different. That’s why building a sense of team identity is more important for remote teams, and it’s something you should invest time in. We’ve shared some suggestions for building a sense of belonging in the past, and company culture is the cornerstone of that idea.
What Makes a Good Culture Drop?
So, what can you do, to give your remote staff an injection of corporate culture? There are as many answers to that as there are companies. It helps to go back to basics and understand how your company culture came together in the first place.
Who Are You?
The fundamentals of corporate culture come with what the company does. How did it get started, and what is the product or service it delivers? The box I was sent contains a good example. It was sent by a content provider that prided itself on creating ‘hot’ blog posts – hence the bottle of chili sauce! It was a great metaphor for what they wanted me to do; spice up their client’s content.
If your company has a long history, then something that ties into the time period of its foundation might reflect that. Or perhaps your home office is in an area with a particular sense of identity. How can you bring some of that into your employee’s homes? A baseball cap for the home team, coffee from the local brewery or a candle with scents of the city could all be answers to that question.
What Do You Stand For?
Values are at the heart of company culture, but how can you reflect that in a package delivered to remote workers? Branded merchandise can help here, with a reusable coffee cup or water bottle made from recycled material.
Or maybe your company has ambitious fundraising targets. If so, send your remote staffer information about the causes you support and connect them with ways to get involved. There are online challenges such as virtual marathons like this one for Diabetes UK, or the Ration Challenge which people around the world can sign up to and be a part of something bigger, together.
Share Your Vision
What are the company’s aims for the future? If you have a mission statement, is there something in that which suggests ideas for a culture drop? Even if all you do is share the mission itself, you’re giving your remote staff something to focus on. Mugs, post-its, and mouse pads are all ways of keeping your vision front and center.
Other Things to Consider
We often stress the importance of communication when it comes to remote teams. One way you can reinforce the message about staying in touch is to include something that makes that easy or fun. As a fun example, you could send some selfie props and ask your new team member to use them creatively and share an introductory pic with the rest of the team. A headset with mic is a useful addition to any remote team members kit.
You can also look for ways the contents of the kit can bring your team together. If you have a team Facebook page, Google hangout or slack chat, then you offer opportunities for your team to connect and share their swag. Maybe you could offer a spot prize to the person drinking out of their mug in the most interesting place. As long as it means your team starts to come together and bond over the items, you’re winning.
By now, we hope you can see the advantages of sending your new staff a culture drop to help with the onboarding process. But why stop there? Stay in touch and reinforce those messages with regular mailouts that reinforce the feeling of belonging.
Consider an awards program. Every month you choose a team member who has most reflected the company’s vision or values and send them a trophy – and they have to display that in their webcam at any team meetings they attend. They needn’t cost the earth you could even just make it a postcard or construct-it-yourself trophy printed on some card.
How about birthdays? In the office, the standard is for an internal mail envelop to do the rounds collecting a buck or two and a signature from everyone on the team. A designated person then organizes cake or a gift. This is completely doable remotely, too!
Only this time, the remote person collects donations via PayPal and uses it to order a cupcake delivery from bakery local to the birthday boy or girl or orders a gift online to be delivered in good time. In essence, think about all the ways that your culture is expressed with office-based staff and try to come up with a virtual equivalent.
The Essential Ingredient
We spend our days matching up the best remove techies from all around the world with great opportunities. We’ve seen a lot of different remote work setups and we know what makes them successful. We do our best to share that with everyone, via this blog.
But by far the most fundamental element of remote team success is making the right hiring decisions. If you have an opening on your team, we’d be happy to help you find the perfect fit for your company culture (who is also a technical ace). You can learn more about how we do that by clicking here or get in touch to talk things over.