To have a deeper understanding of maintaining culture while remote, we should look at what culture is and how it impacts employees and the company as a whole. Every company already has its own culture regardless of if leadership is aware of it or not. Each business has developed a culture that guides the everyday actions of its people. However, it is not unusual that a company leader is not aware of the elements of their own company culture. When this happens, the culture is not being guided and purposely shaped by leadership.
At the heart of company culture are the values of that company. The values are the core beliefs that guide daily business practices. Some common examples of corporate values are honesty, accountability, inclusion, passion, and teamwork. These values let people inside of the company know what behavior is acceptable and what is discouraged.
When a company clearly defines what their core values are, what their company mission is along with their goals, they begin to define their company culture with intention. It begins to comprise the shared values of the organization as well as shared goals. When broken down to the most basic elements, the formula for company culture is: Values + Behavior = Culture.
A corporate or company culture is exemplified by how its people act and interact in their day-to-day business. This means how they interact with those inside of the company and those outside of the company, such as customers and vendors. The values expressed through the actions and communications of the leaders of the company mold the culture. The interactions of leaders and managers with employees are a vital component of how the company culture is shaped.
Behavior is a key component to the formula. If that culture is to be maintained and stay healthy, then there must be accountability for the behavior of those in the company. That means the behavior of all, but especially of those in any leadership position. This is key to maintaining culture in the remote work environment. It is also a major part of building confidence in remote workers.
Company culture acts as a guide in what to do when nobody else is around. In other words, if an employee was faced with a decision but there was no supervisor to ask for advice on what to do, that employee would then act based on what they know of the company culture by default. If left with only option A or option B as solutions, the employee would have an understanding and have confidence in which option is the correct choice based on what they understand of their culture.
Remote employees depend on consistency and authenticity when it comes to their work for the company. “Do as I say not as I do” is never part of a healthy corporate culture. When that happens, there is a loss of transparency and a lack of clear guidelines for behavior. All individuals at every level must be held equally accountable to the company values and its mission if the culture is to remain strong and well defined.
When a culture becomes unhealthy, it is usually the result of a lack of intent-based leadership. Intent-based leadership is about purposefully creating an environment where people feel valued and instilling in them that their work has a purpose that contributes to something bigger than just the individual.
When this type of leadership is absent in a company, it is reflected in the attitudes of the employees when they interact with customers and with each other. Not all companies are aware of inconsistent behaviors that are currently defining their company culture. Regardless of whether they are aware or not, those elements are already impacting the organization.
These aspects of company culture are not set by the words written on a memo or shared documents from human resources. They are defined by the actions of the leadership, the managers of the company and the rest of the team. For example, if some managers typically act in an unempathetic way toward employees, then employees will follow suit with each other and clients. That lack of empathy will then spread through the company and begin to enable a toxic environment.
To maintain, shape and build company culture, organizations should emphasize their core values in their actions, behaviors, and communications with everyone they interact with from employees to vendors to customers. Every email, memo and meeting should be shaped with intention, by the core values of the company.
This brings consistency & authenticity to their culture. It becomes something their people want to nurture. When the culture is expressed in this manner on a daily basis, where employees work will not matter. They will still be engrossed in the company culture and act according to the values they are exposed to by leadership and management.
Create your company culture with intention based on your vision for the company and its values. Healthy and attractive company culture is not just a great recruitment tool, it is an excellent employee retention tool. It will help drive success at every level of the organization regardless of where its people are located.
Henry Kukowski is a writer, arts advocate, entrepreneur, and published author whose insights have been featured in Forbes.com. He has worked with thousands of businesses over the span of 20 years using the remote management tools that his company has developed. Using his experience and recent surveys of remote workers, university studies, and input from business leaders across the country, he’s released his recent work, Remote Work Technology, Keeping your Small Business Thriving from Anywhere.
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