Q: How do you establish and maintain a company culture when you have multiple offices and some employees working remotely?
A: This is a common challenge for organizations adapting to the evolving nature of work with increasing need for telecommuters, decentralized offices and a remote global workforce. Creating and maintaining a thriving culture is more important than ever. To do so, an organization’s mission, values and behavioral norms (also known as “the way we do things”) must be identified, communicated and integrated into every aspect of business operations. Start by infusing cultural values into existing management systems, then maintain a sense of community through unifying stories and traditions.
Encourage employees and managers to speak the same language by using the values and common phrases in internal communications, interviews and orientation sessions. Hire and promote employees who have the right skills, ability and passion for these values. Ideally, bring new employees in groups to central headquarters to build camaraderie and a common cultural experience.
Organizational stories, norms and traditions help sustain enthusiasm and solidify the culture. Repeatedly share the start-up story, milestones and testimonials that represent the purpose and passion behind the organization. Create recurring events and customs (founders’ day, recognition awards and so forth) to celebrate together.
Be creative! Try virtual competitions for the best employee video showcasing company values or use social media (blogs, tweets) to build buzz. We look to companies such as Zappos that have effectively capitalized on their culture as a unique differentiator. Locally, the Nerdery has created a niche culture that is literally propelling it into space; employees launched a coin etched with their core values into the stratosphere to celebrate their 10th anniversary.
Erica Diehn, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Management, at Opus College of Business, University of St. Thomas.
This article originally appeared in the Star Tribune on January 13, 2014. Used by kind permission of the Star Tribune.