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Virtual team bonding: How to cultivate culture remotely 

Anna Hoffman
Lead, People and Culture Transformation

According to a recent Glassdoor survey, over 77% of employees look closely at company culture before applying for a job, while 58% of employees say that company culture is actually more important to them than salary

These figures aren’t all that surprising when you consider that company culture defines most of your life from Monday to Friday. It’s the sum of your company’s values, traditions, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. Culture is usually the reason why you love your job—or the reason why you hate it. 
So how can you make sure that your team or organization doesn’t neglect this critical part of the employee experience? Luckily, remote teams can still have a thriving, values-driven culture. I know because I’ve been making this a reality for 10+ years. Read on to learn from my experiences.

 Step 1: Identify your mission

First, identify the guiding principles of your organization. These can be in the form of vision, mission, and values statements. Do they already exist? Are employees and leaders aware of them and are they living them? If so, recognize and encourage those in your team that champion these values. If not, this is the first task you need to complete.

 Step 2: Establish how to live your values

Next, use your values to build your cultural foundation. If something like “Putting customers first” is key for your organization, review the performance goals and metrics that align, create recognition opportunities that celebrate, ensure onboarding covers who your customers are and how each role serves them. Bring this conversation into 1:1s, team calls and performance objectives. If “Diversity, inclusion, and belonging” are part of your values, make sure you look at your leadership and programs to ensure they reflect the commitment. Also, take a look at the training you are providing to make sure that employees know what this takes on their part to make this a reality. Do this for each of the guiding principles so that every employee can speak to them and cite habits and behaviors that support them.

Step 3: Cultivate culture together

Once these guiding principles are understood, and you have started putting words into action, it’s time to engage the community. If you previously had a strong office culture, and have been relying solely on video conference calls to stay connected, you may be feeling some loss of community. 

People create culture together. Refocus on community by trying some of these ideas:

  • Leverage instant messaging platforms and create groups that connect people across interest areas. You can start a channel for people to share pictures of their pets. A shout-out channel to recognize colleagues’ contributions. A community channel that shares training, development, and opportunities for people to learn or volunteer together.
  • Identify culture champions across regions and lines of business. Pull them together to listen to what is happening in their teams—where are the challenges, what have they been doing that is working—and share programs that exist and develop more content to get people engaged. Evaluate what is not working and consider stopping those.
  • Collaborate with Employee Resources Groups to support and partner on initiatives that are important to the people in your company.
  • Highlight personal stories in newsletters, blogs, and on your intranet that celebrate and give examples of how your community is showing up, living your guiding principles, and doing critical work.
  • Host listening calls that use polls, chat, and discussion prompts to engage and provide space for people to talk about what is on their minds. Be mindful of time zones and hold multiple calls so that these are convenient for all your employees.
  •  Start your meetings with something fun to get people engaged and warmed up. Personal connections are crucial as we work virtually. 
  •  As we all jump from video conference to video conference it can be tempting to go right into the work. Take a breather; check in on how people are really doing. Is the team getting what they need to do their best work? Have they stood up from their desk at all, eaten, been outside? Do they have a monitor and a keyboard so they don’t develop ergonomic issues?
  •  Evaluate if work schedules can be more flexible as parents have their children with them during the workday. Can teammates support each other and cover meetings or deliverables so that others can get things done, then switch off? Anything you can do to give support and flexibility builds stronger teams and engenders loyalty. We all want to work where we are supported.
  •  Invite speakers to share how employees can take care of themselves, their families, and their communities during this uncertain time. 
  • Get creative—if you used to have posters on the walls highlighting your values, make a virtual background for your video conference calls, or a desktop background. Perhaps your employee directory could display badges that celebrate and recognize people who are living and leading your values.
  • This is not a checklist to be completed once—add calendar reminders to keep trying new things on a cadence that works for your teams, keep things fresh, but also return to what works with consistency. A Friday thank you note, a Thursday team lunch, a “wish I was here” virtual background contest done quarterly…these are all examples of things that people look forward to, together.

Step 4: Review and improve

Finally, use the data that you have to understand where you are. Identify metrics you can use to assess how you are doing on living and leading with your guiding principles. What do your customers say about you? Regularly survey your employees to understand what is working and where you should focus improvements. Would they recommend your company to a friend? How are you doing on diverse representation in your company, on the leadership team, promotions? Once you have the data, make it visible and work toward improving where you find gaps and celebrating where you are doing well.

Culture is a team sport. Everyone must know the rules and expectations as defined in your vision, mission, and values, and do their part to make it real. Doing this remotely takes thoughtfulness, creativity, and a plan—which you now have. Start today and see what you can build together.

Want to join a company with a strong, values-driven culture? We’re hiring now. Explore careers at Oracle.

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Comments ( 1 )
  • Deborah Evans Wednesday, October 28, 2020
    I was absolutely drawn to the culture when I joined Oracle. This is a great article to remind us how to keep that culture strong and inclusive. Thanks for the guidance!
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