Where has company culture gone?
Even before Covid tore us from our offices, ‘company culture’ was a tricky topic. Does it require hiring the right people, or is it a product of how people are treated once hired? Can it be managed with incentive trips and free lunches, or does it require an overhaul of internal practices?
Add to that the incredible challenge of building culture across disparate states and multiple time zones – and you have a real mess on your hands. But all hope is not lost: smarter minds than ours have come up with some promising ways to reinforce culture in a quickly digitizing world:
1. Instate weird rules (this tip courtesy of HBR)
Culture is the collection of beliefs and behaviors that hold a group of people together, distinct from other groups. Part of that distinction involves being different – that’s where ‘strange rules’ come into play. By instating specific rules, unique to your company, you’ll help solidify what makes you, your team, and your company special. The weirder the better – for example, our Dallas teams used to have “themed Fridays” (yes, even via webcam) where everyone would dress according to a chosen theme – 80s prom, pajama day, topsy turvy day, etc.
2. Engage in healthy competition (think wellness challenges, sales targets, even # of books read)
There’s a reason people make their best, lifelong friends at camp, or on sports teams, or in extra curricular clubs. These shared interest groups give us space to have fun, learn, and make mistakes.
Right now Proven is engaging in a wellness challenge using the Peloton app (we’re name dropping Peloton because it’s free, easy to download, and iOs/Android friendly). By measuring minutes worked out – vs. intensity of workout, calories, etc. – the competition is inclusive for all fitness levels and goals.
In the same vein, a book club can be an excellent forum to discuss non-work related topics on a regular basis. Such informal meetings create built-in conversation starters that translate to great discussions even outside of the book club environment.
3. Clarify and promote unifying values across the business (again, thank you HBR)
In absence of physical proximity, shared values are what transform a random assortment of professionals into a cohesive team. These values serve to give your people purpose, direction, and meaning. Without them, work would feel empty and coworkers would be once again transformed into a “random assortment of professionals.”
You’ve probably already identified your company’s core values without realizing it – if not in writing then at least in company-wide discussions. Codifying these principles and sharing them publicly in meetings, email signatures, and the company website can help knit your teams together around a common goal and a shared sense of community.
Can everyone at your company, from executives to front-line workers, easily name your core values? Do they know why they do what they do? Do they understand their purpose? Getting to a point where everyone can express these values clearly will do wonders for team cohesion.
We’ve incorporated these ideas – plus a few extras (integrated trainings!) – into a handy infographic:
The moral of the story? Remote company culture doesn’t exist – unless you make it exist. No one has this whole thing figured out – certainly not us! – but we have noticed that increased video calls and the humanizing effect of seeing inside each others’ homes can help bridge the gap. Even the renewed dedication to Diversity & Inclusion has helped bring us together, stimulating meaningful conversations between workers who might otherwise not interact.
So although company culture might remain somewhat of an enigma, one thing is certainly clear – the more we can engineer situations for people to productively interact, the happier they will be. With that as your goal it’s hard to fail.