In the last year, Zoom meetings, "pings" and digital whiteboard sessions have replaced in-person collaboration for many teams, complicating traditional team-building strategies.
Over the last year, companies around the globe have adopted remote work policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. During this time, round-the-clock Zoom meetings, virtual "pings" on popular messenger services and digital whiteboard sessions have replaced traditional in-person collaboration for many remote teams. To learn more about building company culture in remote and hybrid work frameworks, we spoke with Josh Christopherson, CEO and co-founder of iCÜE and the CEO of Achieve Today
"The companies we work with have seen a shift where maintaining company culture becomes even more difficult when employees are working from home. The traditional culture events like office parties, lunches, even hallway conversations went away," Christopherson said.
"Everything had to translate to working from home and Zoom meetings. People have felt the culture shift. Even those who loved working from home felt their connection to coworkers change," he continued.
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Hybrid work: Building company culture
The traditional office experience affords employees a number of opportunities to engage with team members, from happenstance watercooler talks to impromptu midday meetings. However, fully remote and hybrid work models add a layer of complexity to day-to-day interactions, traditional team-building and supporting company culture.
"Culture comes from the feelings you have working and collaborating with those around you. It comes from the mission you and your colleagues are working to achieve. It's finding ways to lock arms in a common vision together, and have fun doing it," Christopherson said.
However, facilitating this type of environment in a hybrid model is one of the biggest challenges of this work dynamic, Christopherson explained.
"If some of your team works from home and others are in the office, you can immediately see where things can quickly fall apart or, at the very least, begin to fall apart," he continued.
There are a number of strategies companies can implement when building and supporting company culture in nontraditional work arrangements. For example, Christopherson emphasized the importance of scheduling and the role management plays in aligning teams.
"Managers should find ways to set schedules so that teams can collaborate and work together and be in the office together," he said. "Sometimes departments rotate working from home so that the coworkers you need to work closest with are together at similar times or overlap schedules."
Carving out time for group outings
Historically, many companies have used extended team getaways and shorter day trips to give employees a break from typical business operations and focus on team-building exercises. While carving out time for these trips may require additional logistical challenges with remote and hybrid employees, these trips could still be fundamental to an organization's long-term health.
"Time has proven to us during this pandemic that while collaborating remotely in Zoom meetings can help move business forward, it doesn't build culture the way talking together in the same room can," Christopherson said.
"Seasonal or annual trips or gathering can make a huge difference and I am a huge proponent of events that bring people together," he added.
If these trips aren't possible, Christopherson suggested companies could implement tools enabling teams to "set goals together, chat in a community, get coaching on challenges they are facing, and take courses to learn and grow."
"This helps drive culture when it can all be done in an inclusive environment that brings people together toward a common vision," he continued.
The Great Resignation of 2021
There has been plenty of discussion about the potential Great Resignation of 2021 as employees look to change positions in the months ahead. For example, 49% of employees plan to land a new position in 2021, according to a March poll on Blind, an anonymous network for professionals.
At the same time, a number of companies are starting to bring employees back to the traditional office. After more than one year of remote work, the office could have plenty of empty desks in the months ahead, as an April Blind survey found that one in three employees will quit "if WFH ends."
Companies may look to implement team-building strategies in the months ahead to retain top talent amid speculative turnover.
"The key will continue to be retaining and also attracting new talent to your company. Coworkers talk and share their experience on the job. Employees who are proud of what their company is doing to help them grow on the job will share that, and the culture will improve and attract others," Christopherson said.
To accomplish these goals, Christopherson emphasized the importance of social media platforms.
"Social media has become a powerful tool. Managers and companies that don't recognize that are falling behind," he said. Your employees are posting and sharing their experiences online and with those around them."
Additionally, Christopherson said culture and learning tools "can alter your business dramatically," while making note of iCUE Technology and the use of BrainCo FocusCalm headbands.
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Whether the great resignation of 2021 comes to fruition remains to be seen. Turnover—en masse "tsunami" or otherwise—is an inevitable part of business operations and the hiring process in general. However, building and sustaining a positive company culture could pay dividends for companies in the long run.
"Embracing technology and then giving your managers the training and tools to succeed will be what sets your company apart. Your employees will see the changes in their lives and then talk about it and share it," Christopherson said.
"Talent will come and stay. You will see changes to your bottom line and it will be big. It won't happen overnight but the numbers have proven time and time again, if you care about your employees, they will care about you," he continued.
Online learning and micro-credentials have been popular offerings as workers looked to retool and boost their resumes during the coronavirus pandemic. Christopherson also discussed providing educational opportunities to help retain top workers.
"Some of the best company cultures we are seeing are businesses that are helping employees learn and grow on the job, but also helping with challenges their employees face at home," he said.
"Courses on parenting, marriage and relationships, happiness, even meditation helps your employees appreciate that your company cares more about their life outside of work."
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