Tips for Creating a Collaborative Company Culture in the Digital Age
Establishing a company culture is absolutely critical to maintaining team cohesiveness, effective collaboration and business outcomes. But today’s digital workplace is fast-paced, mobile and in constant transition—which can make the feeling of solidarity that used to come from sharing a single, steady routine difficult to replicate. Moreover, most large companies today are spread out across multiple offices with also employees working remotely either full time or part time.
Having a remote workforce has distinct advantages—it means more flexibility for employees, access to a broader talent pool for companies, and fewer travel and operating expenses for everyone involved. But there are challenges, too. Defining a collaborative company culture when employees are scattered around the globe is no easy feat. The following are 5 tips for making your satellite offices and employees feel like part of the same solar system:
1. Put content into context
Thirty years ago, trying to collaborate amongst international or remote workforces would have been unfathomable. Yet today, a doctor in Pakistan can weigh in with a medical opinion about a rash on the elbow of a cab driver in Detroit. Technology has an incredible ability to bring people together. Use it to your advantage.
If your employees aren’t located together physically, bring them together digitally whenever you can. Having a go-to place where your employees can collaborate on content and work together will not only empower them, it will empower your business. The more accessible and universal you can make it, the better.
Keep in mind; however, that no conversation is useful without both context and content. People collaborate on ideas in the context of a document or project they are working on, and rather than sharing it with everyone, want to retain control over who can see it and work on it. A default platform that allows employees to ask questions, discuss projects and collaborate will create a strong sense of community and establish a unifying culture akin to the one created in the break room. In fact, it may even be more effective.
2. Know when more is less
Too many different applications and tools can end up segmenting your workforce and prevent true cohesiveness. In an environment where teams are using the different tools to achieve true collaboration is destined to fail. It’s not only easy to become disorganized and lose track of details, it’s impossible to achieve results.
One of the challenges of having a distributed workforce is keeping everyone on the same page. When teams begin working in silos details fall through the cracks and no one works at their best. Minimize that possibility by establishing fewer, more straightforward processes. Automation and integration are key to maintaining productivity within your team. Using tools to achieve this will not only reduce stress on you and your employees, it will save time and help build a more thoughtful, deliberate company culture. Moreover, it will result in better results achieved faster.
3. Remove firewalls
In addition, you can also remove some of the legacy obstacles holding your company back. Firewalls in particular, which were originally developed to keep the bad things (like viruses) out, have instead become borderline insurmountable barriers that keep people from doing their jobs. Today they’ve become roadblocks to collaboration, making it difficult for employees, partners and even clients from accessing the data they need and working together. To keep your team – and your organization – connected, knock down your legacy firewalls.
Businesses are starting to move faster and faster as they embrace new tools and solutions; if you want to stay competitive and keep your employees feeling confident with this momentum, you need to ensure your processes are sleek and refined.
4. Articulate values
The single most important component of any company culture is the value system on which it’s based. With a distributed workforce, it’s especially important to identify and articulate those values from the start because it won’t be as easy for remote employees to pick them up over time as they would when working in a physical office.
Make a values list, develop a company manifesto, write a mission statement—do whatever it takes to clearly express what makes your company unique and explain what it values. That resource should form the basis for all major corporate decisions and set the tone for the workplace, whether that’s the company’s headquarters or someone’s home office. Employees who fully understand what’s important to their company feel more secure, act more confidently and usually perform better, no matter where they work.
Of course, underpinning all of this is collaboration. Without encouraging collaboration, the value
5. Reduce dependency on email
The way we use email today is not the way it was intended. Email serves its purpose as a simple communication tools, but it often leads to missed or crossed messages – It was never meant to be a primary means of communication or collaboration. This muddied form of communication isn’t particularly efficient or conducive to building strong internal relationships. In fact, it achieves the opposite.
Although it can be difficult to coordinate across time zones, setting up opportunities for the extended team to interact in-person or via video on a regular basis will ensure that everyone continues to feel connected and aligned. By providing a forum to brainstorm, initiate new discussions and build human bonds, you increase cohesion and remove dependence on outmoded forms of communication, like email.
People have been using technology to bridge the gaps between physical divides since the early days of the Internet, yet many enterprises are still figuring out how to make this work effectively. As consumers, we collaborate, share and communicate seamlessly on a daily basis. It shouldn’t be that difficult for an organization to borrow some of these same ideas and implement them at work.
Enabling your workforce to work remotely is liberating for your employees and advantageous for your business. Eventually, it will become the norm as workers gravitate toward jobs that give them flexibility and companies capitalize on the opportunity to grow faster and reduce spending. Until then, approach the concept of remote work intelligently, apply these five tips and you can enjoy all those benefits while still maintaining a vital, thriving company culture.
Edited by Maurice Nagle