Mike Lane is the CEO of Easeproviders of robotic process automation based solutions for the digital advertising industry.
The advantages of working remotely are obvious: flexibility, productivity and a multi-site team full of talent. While all of this influences how a remote team functions, culture and engagement ultimately increase a company’s employee retention, recruitment, and satisfaction. Whether you’re leading a remote workforce or transitioning from in-person or hybrid mode, one thing is true: you need to expand what you offer and engage employees in unique ways. This means addressing your overall cultural guide.
“The whole package” – your policies, benefits, communication and productivity tools, corporate transparency, and virtual environment – should reflect this cultural guide. Virtual culture cannot be an afterthought, it is an integral part of your business strategy. When you optimize your virtual culture from within, you attract better talent, retain the people your business is known for, and set higher expectations for the industry.
Put people first and make sure the benefits match.
Your benefits should match your employees’ needs, and you should be proactive in determining what they need. Watch what others are doing. Find people with data. Hear what employees and new hires are looking for.
For example, at Fluency, we seek to introduce fair leave policies, such as a miscarriage policy that is part of bereavement leave. This means people won’t have to use sick leave to grieve a miscarriage. By instituting these types of policy changes (and making sure people are aware of any changes you make), you can avoid operating on outdated beliefs.
This is just one example of an equitable employment advantage; you will need to assess the needs of your own team to ensure your policies are appropriate. Good perks ensure people are excited to come to work because company support is the norm, not the exception.
Evaluate your HR manual and give it credit.
Many companies abandon the human resources (HR) manual to gather dust, largely unused and unread by management and employees. Historically, HR manuals have been monolithic documents built primarily on legal compliance checklists written by lawyers.
To increase the quality of your virtual culture, your manual should embody what is unique about your business while meeting the needs of staff. It should also reflect management’s objectives and articulate the operation of the business.
You also have to bring the culture of your choice to life every day. Fluency has daily company-wide virtual meetings (formal on Mondays and more loosely structured on other days). Here, everyone has a facetime with the leaders and other colleagues. It is also an opportunity for leaders to model elements of our manual and our HR values. It brings our policies to life and makes our virtual culture more engaging.
Balancing tangible and intangible rewards.
Modern total compensation for remote workers includes tangible and intangible benefits. Tangible benefits can include perks like bonus structures, flexible hours, local gym memberships and more.
Intangible benefits include demonstrations of appreciation for work, virtual community gathering, and talent recognition. In other words, it’s all the things that make a business fun and well suited.
At my company, we make sure people feel appreciated at all levels. Sure, we’re offering a 401(k) retirement plan and four weeks of vacation for all employees, but we’ve also sent personalized chocolates to every employee on Valentine’s Day and hosted a virtual happy hour for female employees. on International Women’s Day. With intangible benefits like this, be proactive and distribute them early and often.
It’s easy for virtual businesses to offer surface-level benefits that don’t make a real difference to someone’s life. Sending personalized chocolates is a moot point without fair and equitable overall compensation. Master the art of effectively leading a virtual team by looking at the big picture.
Focus on internal growth and foster an environment that welcomes leadership changes.
How do you foster an environment that not only survives leadership changes, but thrives on them?
One way is to focus on growing from within. Future employees will have the chance to achieve their leadership goals. A team is more likely to welcome a carefully selected interim leader from within than someone hired in a hurry.
Internal leadership opportunities are particularly important as more people have the ability to take time off thanks to flexible HR policies. From extended maternity and paternity leave to mental health leave and more, there are likely to be times when someone may need to fill the leadership role temporarily. When the process is fair and transparent, the team is more likely to accept new leadership and thrive.
To foster an environment that prioritizes growth from within, understand your employees’ long-term goals and help them achieve them.
The virtual culture is built from the founders and leaders.
In addition to having a diverse team of great people, everything we’ve done to strengthen our culture has succeeded because leadership has supported and lived through our initiatives.
This engagement is key to building trust, community, and fairness, in addition to things like writing an HR handbook that reflects your team’s needs, an open approach to leadership development, and whatever else you can’t write in a cultural guide (like being accessible to your team and affirming your appreciation). It’s a multi-faceted skill set you need to learn if you want to be a successful virtual leader.
As a founder or CEO, it’s up to you to generate the remote environment you want to see. Keep humanity in mind and a thriving culture will follow. That is a virtual work culture that brings the whole package.