How do you keep employees engaged when your team members are hundreds of miles apart? It depends on who you ask.
Businesses operating from a glass-half-empty perspective are quick to conclude you can’t. According to SHRM, concerns about productivity are driving returns to the office, even as the majority of employees seek remote and hybrid roles.
Sitting in a corporate office, with everyone wearing the same company swag, can physically bring your team together and streamline collaboration, but even that won’t revitalize weak engagement alone—it’s culture that makes the difference. And culture isn’t a place; it’s the shared values and standards that guide how people work. Virtual work can be successful.
When employees are strongly connected to their company culture, Gallup reports they’re 3.7 times more likely to be engaged at work. For any dispersed workforce, success begins with learning how to build team culture virtually. Leverage these remote work culture ideas to activate your organization’s full potential.
1. Embed Culture in Your Virtual Onboarding Process
First impressions set the tone for every relationship—and they shape the way employees interact with clients, managers, and peers. Effective virtual onboarding should not only set expectations, but also foster trust and shared beliefs to help new hires integrate into your culture.
Here are a few topics you can cover in your remote onboarding process to build team culture virtually:
- Company values: Thoroughly explain what each of your core values entails and provide examples of how team members put them into action.
- Team introductions: Ensure your new hire gets a warm, on-camera welcome from everyone on the team, and let them know who they can reach out to for different needs.
- Collaboration protocols: When should team members share ideas or work independently? How can employees ask for support? Answering questions like these about working with remote teams can help new employees navigate your culture and contribute their skills and ideas. Consider placing relevant instructions and resources in a shared virtual folder.
Adding culture-related tasks for your employees to complete, like posting a self-introduction in your company’s digital water cooler, can also help them familiarize themselves with your virtual team environment.
2. Plan Virtual Team-Building Activities
Productive company culture is grounded in mutual trust and solidarity between team members. Virtual team-building activities help your employees build rapport by getting to know each other beyond work-related interactions.
Brainstorm activities that align with your ideal remote team culture. For example, companies that want to prioritize critical thinking could host strategy-based virtual team-building games for remote workers like Werewolf or a virtual murder mystery, which challenge players to pinpoint secret “villains” within a group. Teams that value creativity could stretch their imagination with improv exercises or Pictionary. The right activities speak to your culture and make it enjoyable.
3. Create a Clear Remote Communication Policy
Great communication keeps employees aligned with the same business goals and values, while ensuring leaders stay transparent. Create a clear policy that outlines how and when each communication tool—such as email, Slack, or Zoom—should be used. For example, text messages may only be appropriate for urgent requests.
Your communication policy can also explain the frequency of team and client meetings, after-hours communication expectations, diversity and inclusion policies, vacation request processes, and how to leverage project management tools for task-specific communication.
4. Show Employee Appreciation
Recognition of employees who actively participate in your company culture is key to building a successful virtual team. It gives team members examples to follow, motivates your workforce, and makes dedicated employees feel seen. Consider giving weekly shoutouts to individuals who make meaningful contributions and rewarding those who most exemplify each of your core values each year.
Of course, it’s important not to leave any employees behind. Be sure to regularly show gratitude for all individuals on your team and shower employees with praise and gifts on their work anniversaries.
5. Celebrate Company Wins
While honoring individual successes is important, celebrating company wins as a team can bring your workforce together and boost morale. When your organization hits major milestones like an annual revenue goal, be sure to announce it at an all-hands meeting or on a company-wide channel—ideally, somewhere that sparks conversation between employees. Show gratitude to your employees for their efforts as you do so.
6. Hire Excellent Culture Fits
Building culture virtually really begins with hiring the right people. Culture fits—people who naturally align with your company values and mission—can have an incredibly positive impact on your organizational success.
To assess cultural suitability, employers must ask questions that uncover what motivates candidates. Examples include:
- What is your ideal working environment?
- Describe the best manager you’ve had.
- What excites you about this job?
- Do you prefer working alone or working with a team?
Savvy interviewers also recognize how to read between the lines, often engaging in casual conversation to assess how well employees can collaborate with their peers and managers. Partnering with a staffing firm like ATR International can equip you with the expertise needed to identify the right culture fits with accuracy and speed, all while expanding your talent pool.
Elevate Your Virtual Team Culture with Support from Staffing Experts
Figuring out how to build team culture virtually doesn’t have to feel like solving a complex equation. Implementing simple strategies—like planning monthly virtual team-building activities and showing employee appreciation—can keep your team aligned, engaged, and productive.
As your business grows, experienced recruiters can help you identify candidates who can naturally integrate into your organization while providing your desired skillsets. At ATR, we get to know the ins and outs of your company culture and business goals to ensure the right fit—and we’re constantly building our network to ensure we’re only recommending the best.