“The big transition with a distributed workforce is going from synchronous to asynchronous collaboration. Not only do we not have to be in the same spot to work together, we also don’t have to work at the same time to work together.” ~ excerpt from Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
In an effort to get work done more productively and efficiently, employees are increasingly requesting to work remotely, whether it be from home, a coffee shop, or a coworking space.
Many companies are embracing this trend due to advances in technology. It’s changing the way we work and the way we hire. And by supporting a remote workforce, employers are discovering that their talent pool expands widely.
No longer are employers limited to hiring candidates who live in their city or state. With today’s technology and resources, communication and collaboration can be just as effective between coworkers living in Idaho and North Carolina as it is between colleagues with offices down the hall from one another.
Thousands of companies and workers have proven that work really can get done from anywhere. The real concern that most employers have is, “How do we foster a strong, positive, happy, collaborative culture when team members work hundreds, if not thousands, of miles apart?”
Seven Ways to Foster a Creative, Productive, and Collaborative Culture, Remotely
While building a great culture within any organization can be challenging, there are key guidelines that companies can follow to help ensure their remote work culture is innovative, creative, and productive. Below are seven things we do at Acceleration Partners that have helped us develop a positive, high-performance, and, dare we say, fun culture with our remote team members.
1. Hire the right people.
As Jim Collins writes in his book Good to Great, “Start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ Start by getting the right people on the bus (your company), the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” For a company with remote workers, the “right” people are likely to be those who want or need to work from home, who really know how to work as a team and like doing so, and who are willing to help their team members–even if it doesn’t directly benefit them or their department.
2. Use onboarding for new hire success.
Once you’ve hired your superstar remote worker, it’s essential to have a comprehensive, in-depth onboarding process. Onboarding introduces new hires to the social and performance aspects of their jobs and provides opportunities for them to learn what’s required in order to function effectively within your organization. Onboarding sets them up for success, makes them feel welcomed, and better prepares them for their new job.
3. Invest in technology.
Technology plays a vital role in a company’s ability to have a remote workforce. It’s important to have software, hardware, security protocols, and other tools in place that will safely support information sharing and make communication easy. Here are a few helpful tools in our toolbox:
- Zoom: Zoom is our go-to tool for our bimonthly company-wide meetings, individual team meetings, and occasionally, client meetings. Zoom allows us to see each other’s lovely faces and share our screens, which makes it effortless for team members to interact and collaborate with one another.
- Skype: Skype gives us the ability to communicate and collaborate in real time. Team members use Skype to video and phone conference, send quick individual or team messages, send photos and files, and to just keep ideas and communication flowing. It’s also incredibly reliable and compatible with just about every platform available (e.g., Mac, PC, etc.).
- Asana: Asana is a productivity and task-management tool that allows our team members to share, plan, organize, and seamlessly track progress of the tasks each member is working on.
- Basecamp: Basecamp is a project management tool that helps team members manage multiple projects at a time with to-do lists, file sharing, chatting, messages, calendars, and time tracking.
- TINYpulse: TINYpulse uses anonymity and simplicity to assess how workers feel about everything from their job, to what they’d like to see from the company’s leadership team. Each week, a one-question survey is sent out to every team member and the anonymous responses are provided to the management team. This allows the company’s leadership to constantly take the pulse of their organization and stay up to date on the environment and any issues that might be arising.
A fantastic feature of TINYpulse is the “Cheers” section. Even if a team member doesn’t participate in the survey for that week, they still have the opportunity to send “cheers” to their peers. Cheers can be for recognizing the work their peers are doing, thanking them for being such a great team member, or just making them feel valued.
4. Conduct face-to-face company meetings.
Twice a year, the Acceleration Partners team gets together for a few days for team building, training, and face-to-face collaboration. Even though we see each other’s faces via Zoom and Skype on a regular basis, there’s a lot to be said for occasionally interacting face-to-face, sharing meals and laughs, and learning team member’s in-person personalities. Face-to-face meetings are also an important time to bond and create fun memories.
For example, at our summer meeting in Boston, we held a scavenger hunt around the city. Team members were joined together in small groups with matching T-shirts and given a list of clues to solve in order to figure out which landmark locations to go to. Once there, they had to take group photos or videos and submit them to the scavenger hunt organizers. Afterward, everyone met up at a restaurant for dinner and spent the evening laughing and sharing stories of their adventure. This “Great Race” was a great way for team members to get better acquainted with one another, bond, and team build.
5. Promote professional development.
Investing in the personal and professional growth of your employees is critical if you want to cultivate a culture of continuous learners, forward-thinkers, and motivated leaders who know how to inspire others to reach lofty goals. At Acceleration Partners, we offer two professional development programs: AP Fellows and Next Level Leadership (NLL).
AP Fellows is more focused on management training and base-level leadership skills and NLL is geared toward leadership training. However, both programs are really about creating a collaborative culture, with connected team members who are invested in the growth of the company.
6. Be transparent.
At many companies, topics such as company financials or what’s going on operationally are held close to the vest by the top leadership. At Acceleration Partners, we share all that information and much more on our biweekly Zoom calls. We encourage our team members to ask questions about what’s happening within our company and about the direction we’re going. On occasion, we also discuss the anonymous TINYpulse questions, especially when they relate to a topic that’s best answered by our CEO. He takes the time to answer them and invites further discussion from team members.
When company leadership is transparent, credible, respectful, and fair, it fosters a culture of trust. And the more trust team members have in their coworkers, managers, and company leadership, the more empowered they’ll feel to be open and honest about their work and areas where the company can improve.
7. Create a culture deck.
A culture deck is a visual representation of the things your organization holds near and dear. It tells the world who your company is, what you’re about, and what you value. It also conveys your company vision and the expected behaviors of your team members.
Check out our recently released Culture Deck as an example.