As we enter into another year of COVID some of us are struggling to find normalcy in our workplace, between juggling the ever-changing restrictions, balancing the needs of the organization, and ensuring the well-being of our team along with our own health and wellness. Now, more than ever, we need to put emphasis on the importance of building workplace culture that aligns with the business goals and allows our organization to attract, retain, and engage a healthy workforce. This will require us to re-assess how we manage our team virtually. Many organizations are weighing the pros and cons of heading back into the office as we see some trying a hybrid schedule in hopes of bringing back aspects of culture building that has been missing for many years. While workplace culture has never been more important than it is in today’s environment; management is continuously asking the same burning question, how do you build workplace culture remotely?
Here at Salopek, we believe that creating a thriving workplace culture is not contingent upon when, where, and how your employees work, rather it is built on the behaviors and attitudes that your organization fosters every day. A strong company culture motivates employees who are seeking alignment with their own personal values. They will decide to stay with an organization and out-perform management’s expectations because of the culture and the team they are working with. Creating a strong company culture is all about establishing and communicating the values important to your organization and your people; defining behaviours so everyone understands important codes of conduct; ensuring that managers are role models; and holding everyone accountable for their behaviours. In our virtual world, it is critical that senior leaders and management take every opportunity to connect regularly with their employees, both on a formal and informal basis and uphold through their behavior, actions, and words, the sentiments that form the foundation of the desired workplace culture. Regular reinforcement of desired behaviours and strong role models in our managers will be critical to building a remote workforce culture that ensures you are attracting, retaining, and engaging the right people to successfully achieve the goals and objectives needed to grow your business.
Below are a few ways that Salopek & Associates and some of our clients are building workplace culture virtually:
Define behaviours that align with your organization’s values:
Actions speak louder than words – this is very true when looking at building strong workplace culture. We often refer to our values to help communicate to our team what we want our corporate culture to look like. However, more importantly, we should be defining the behaviours that help support the values that we want to promote and encourage. If we can clearly define what behaviours and outcomes we want to see from our organization, as a team we will be able to measure our success at achieving said behaviours that align with our corporate culture. Your team will be able to recognize if they are following behaviours that align with your values as an organization. When looking at building a strong workplace culture, start with clearly defining a list of behaviours that support your values.
At Salopek our values are relationships, accessibility, expertise, continual development, integrity, progressiveness. We continually challenge ourselves to enforce and encourage behaviours that support our values. Here are some examples.
Relationships – At Salopek, we believe relationships are at the forefront of how we conduct business. We strive to foster strong relationships with our team, consultants, and clients. We practice this by ensuring we have routine weekly head office meetings where we spend the first 15 minutes connecting with the team on a personal level and giving recognition and shout outs to employees for work done well. Our whole team is present, including the President and Founder, to ensure inclusion and cohesiveness of the team. We focus on updating each other on projects that might impact other members of the team and look for ways to support each other. With our consultants Canada-wide, we host regular virtual “socials” for a chance to connect on a personal level, but also allow time to share best practices. With our clients, we make it a priority to check in routinely to ensure that the relationship between the consultant and the client is solid and they are satisfied with the work that is being done.
Accessibility – One of Salopek’s promises is to be available 24/7 for support – that means support for our clients and also for team members. We practice this by having an on-call person accessible 24/7 to take calls. Leading by example is key and it starts at the top. Our President and Founder is always accessible to support our team, consultants, or clients – we know we can expect a call back from her on the day we place our call.
Expertise – We believe in quality and expert advise. Everyone on our team is a certified HR professional or in the process of getting their designation – this is a requirement to be part of our team and it is something our team is proud of. We work together collectively as we believe that not one person is an expert in everything. Together we brainstorm and strategize providing a level of expertise that comes from a collaborative team effort.
Continual development – We are only as good as our team, and continual development is crucial to grow as an organization and develop our skills as leaders in the HR industry. Individual employee work plans include an annual goal focussed on learning and development, which Salopek supports financially. Developing a Professional Development policy which allocates a specific dollar amount per team member to spend on professional development each year is an excellent way to “walk the talk” and support the continual development of your team.
Integrity – This is a value that our Founder has built the business on – it cannot be compromised, no matter what the situation, even when it might come at a cost. The Salopek team is held accountable to a Code of Conduct that assures professionalism and integrity in all aspects of our work and how we conduct ourselves. We have a zero-tolerance for any behaviour that is offside our code and have ended relationships as a result. We believe this sends a strong message that our values and the integrity of our organization are above all else the most important thing.
Progressiveness through Transfer of Knowledge – At Salopek, we believe that we progress through transfer of knowledge both within the team and through the work we do with clients. Sharing information amongst team members is how we work everyday and it is a common practice for a Consultant to do a “shout-out” to team members through email or on a Zoom call as they are addressing a complex client issue. As a team, we celebrate the wins and collectively strategize on ways to continuously improve processes and procedures. We challenge ourselves not to dwell when faced with adversity, but to embrace it with curiosity for an opportunity to grow. With our clients, we ensure they progress by teaching as we work with them. Success for us is when our client have progressed to the point where they no longer rely on Salopek for support as they have built the internal capacity to effectively manage on their own.
The Importance of On-boarding:
Establishing a strong workplace culture begins with solid on-boarding procedures. This is the first introduction of your newest team member, so it is vital that you invest the time to properly layout key information about the organization, their work, expectations, the team and the working environment. Equally important is the relationship that you will begin to build with the team member. Make sure you tell the story of your organization and articulate the culture and behaviours that are important for the new team member and ultimately the success of the business.
Working virtually looks very different than heading into the office. It is important to clearly define the expectations in a virtual workplace.
Define the working hours on when team members must be available and when might be “shut off times” for them to disconnect.
Clearly define how engagement and contribution is going to be measured. Is it tracking how long a member of your team is logged into “Teams” all day? Or are their more valuable ways to measure performance virtually, for example: hitting deadlines, quality of work, client satisfaction, engagement in video calls, etc..
Set clear expectations for video calls and meetings including level of engagement, dress code, and appropriate working spaces
Rewards, Recognition & Team Building:
When trying to build workplace culture virtually it might be a good idea to review your organization’s rewards & recognition policy. Due to the lack of in-person interaction while working remotely, it is very important that managers and owners find ways to reward performance and recognize contributions of their team members. It is also important to try and bring that cohesive team synergy back into your culture through virtual team building activities. Here are some examples that our clients are practicing:
Rewarding and treating employees to a small, personalized gift when they were seen putting in extra effort on a project.
Taking 2 minutes at the beginning of each meeting to do positive shoutouts to members of the team for their contributions.
Reinstating a commitment to recognition by rewarding team members with meal gift cards to Uber Eats and Door Dash.
Initiating a new benefit perk such as providing gifts on employees birthdays, or implementing a “birthday’s off” policy.
Hosting virtual team events or remote sessions for employees to attend. Showcase a team member’s skill and build a virtual team building event around this (e.g. the employee likes cooking so conduct a small cooking class together).
Sending out ‘care packages’ regularly to the remote employees.
If you need support with building workplace culture in your organization, contact Salopek & Associates. One of our consultants will be happy to work with you on assessing your needs and developing a plan to foster a workplace culture that aligns with the business goals and allows you to attract and retain an engaged and healthy workforce.