A strong culture is essential to attracting and retaining the right talent to help you achieve your company’s mission. It guides the attitudes and behaviors you expect employees to share, and defines the environment in which you expect them to work. This is important whether your workforce is co-located, fully distributed, or hybrid—though building a company culture remotely requires some different considerations.

Begin with your core values

Organizational values should be at the center of your company culture. Every company decision, from how you build products and communicate with customers, to who you hire and how you manage employees, should be based on your values. Define them, so they can be used consistently across your organization. 

For instance, one of Zappos’ core values is “Deliver WOW through service.” Their customer service is exceptional, with employees enabled to provide solutions in any way they deem appropriate. But they’ve also extended this value to recruiting, promising to get back to candidates within three days. Every employee—regardless of their department or location—is expected to go above and beyond during their interactions with others. 

When your entire team operates around shared values, you can create a more consistent work experience for everyone—whether they’re co-located or remote. Here are some ways you can incorporate your core values with remote teams:

  • If you value feedback, create a Slack channel for peer recognition.
  • If you value philanthropy, plan a company-wide holiday toy drive for foster children, or partner with a local retirement community to write holiday cards to residents. 
  • If you value fun, get together for a virtual game night.

Introduce your company culture early

Well-defined values will allow you to screen candidates for culture-fit, and shape new employee attitudes and behaviors early on. This can be particularly important for remote employees, who may not see those attitudes and behaviors play out in the physical workplace. 

For example, one of GitLab’s values is collaboration. Everyone is encouraged to chime in on any subject, and employees are expected to take suggestions seriously. But a new employee may not intuitively act in this way. They may see an opportunity for improvement, but not want to step on anyone’s toes. Or they may wonder why people from various departments are chiming in on their work. If they’re not in the office, they may never see that this type of collaboration is the norm, and may never pick up on the behaviors that allow the company culture to thrive. That’s why GitLab outlines all of this in their employee handbook.

Company culture and values are more likely to be adopted when they are shared and celebrated throughout the employee lifecycle. Proudly share information about your company culture on your career site and throughout your recruitment process, and incorporate it into your employee onboarding process. Celebrate employees who exemplify your values, both privately and publicly, to encourage desired behaviors.

Put the right tools in place

The right remote work tools can better enable you to build your company culture remotely. In many cases, technology is needed to replace the face-to-face interaction people experience in the workplace. Consider your values to build the HR tech stack that will fit your needs. For instance, 

  • A performance management solution, like ‍Small Improvements or 15Five, can enable remote goal setting, continuous feedback, and performance check-ins. This can be really helpful if you have a culture of feedback, and want your team to be able to access KPIs asynchronously.
  • An instant messaging platform, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, gives employees an informal communication channel. This is key when they can no longer tap their colleague on the shoulder in the office. These tools can also be great for team building because you can create channels for employees to discuss mutual interests, like sports, cooking, or fitness.
  • A People Operations Platform like Sapling manages everything from employee onboarding to offboarding, helping ‍remote teams feel connected and share the same employee experience. 

Final thoughts on building a company culture remotely

Building a company culture remotely is fundamentally similar to building a company culture for a co-located team. Being intentional about it from the beginning can help you build a more cohesive team that shares the same values. However, it’s important to be more explicit about your values, and desired behaviors and attitudes, with a remote team. Without the physical office environment, communication becomes more important to building a strong company culture that will guide your team toward your mission and vision.


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