How To Build An Inclusive Virtual Culture With These 4 Effective Strategies
A virtual culture is more than Zoom Happy Hours and random meme sharing. It’s a space where each employee feels comfortable, safe, respected and treated like a valued member of the team; it’s where they feel like they belong.
A recently conducted remote work survey by FinanceBuzz revealed, 46% of workers feel isolated from their team and a reported 30% admitted it’s challenging to collaborate with their colleagues. While no two cultures are identical, healthy ones have a similar foundation: they support the happiness and growth of their employees while fostering a culture of inclusivity, collaboration and engagement.
According to research conducted by EY’s Center for Talent Innovation, “39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleagues check in with them, both personally and professionally.” Furthermore, “when people feel like they belong at work, they are more productive, motivated, engaged and 3.5 times more likely to contribute to their fullest potential.”
These four effective strategies will help managers build a thriving and inclusive virtual culture.
Drive A Sense Of Purpose With Over-Communication
Repetition in communication is a powerful and effective tool that isn’t used as often as it should. Redundancy or repetition prevents misinterpreted, erroneous or the loss of information when transferring from one person to another. This is why marketing abides by the “Rule of 7” which suggests an individual needs to hear a message seven times before they will consider taking action.
Tsedal Neeley conducted a study with Elizabeth Gerber and Paul Leonardi on the outcome of managers who over-communicate. They discovered managers who over-communicated through different mediums were able to get projects completed in a timely fashion compared to those who only delivered a message once or twice. Examples of different communication mediums consist of email, Slack channels, Zoom video calls or text messages.
Despite what many managers believe, there’s no such thing as over-communication. In fact, under-communicating is one of the top reasons employees leave their job. It not only breeds doubt and uncertainty, but it contributes to missed deadlines, uncompleted tasks, decreased productivity and higher turnover. Companies lose millions of dollars annually due to employees not performing at full capacity which results in poor customer experiences.
Champion A Culture Of Collaboration
An inclusive workplace culture values people's abilities instead of focusing on their limitations. Inclusive managers bring together employees, at all levels, and empower them to contribute their own original thinking and unique skills. Successful teams have a balanced mix of talents, personalities, skills and ideas where they’re able to communicate and collaborate together. A Salesforce survey uncovered 86% of employees and executives cited a lack of collaboration was responsible for failures in the workplace.
Championing a culture of collaboration is essential to growth. For example, instead of presenting a problem to a select few individuals, managers can host a video conference call to solve it together. Likewise, managers can make meetings more interactive where everyone has a chance to share and say what they need. Additionally, they can use the time together to celebrate individual and team milestones.
Kerry Wekelo, COO of Actualize Consulting, a management consulting firm, has found great success in conducting team building activities to keep employees engaged and connected. Wekelo said they do this through friendly group challenges where teams earn points while enjoying theme-based team building activities. Recently, they did an elevator pitch challenge that turned out to be successful. Team building helps employees better understand their strengths, interests and weaknesses while getting to know their co-workers better.
Inspire A New Language Of Kudos
Taking the time to recognize employees is fundamental to keeping them motivated, productive and making them feel like a part of the team. While kudos from managers are welcomed, organizations that leverage peer-to-peer recognition experience an increase in customer satisfaction. Praise is more impactful when given in the moment and happens continuously, year-round, rather than solely during an annual performance review. Kudos can be given during Zoom meetings, one-on-one’s, through Slack channels, an email and even reinforced through company town hall events.
I recently visited the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas, where I immersed myself in their culture. It was there I learned that employees thrive on being able to appreciate and celebrate one another. Gallup points out, those who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to leave their job. A simple thank you goes a long way. In fact, Reward Gateway revealed, “70% of workers say that motivation and morale would improve if managers simply said thank you more and noticed good work.”
Encourage Employees To Bring Their Whole Selves
It’s crucial to remember that no two employees are the same. Instead of putting the onus on remote employees to build and maintain relationships, a good leader takes the lead to keep the momentum going. Jeremy Harrison, head of content strategy at Hustle Life Media, Inc., said “an open and judgment-free environment helps motivate employees to speak up and be heard.”
Getting to know employees on a personal level helps foster relationships. Dmytro Okunyev, founder of Chanty, hosts hour-long campfires where employees come together to learn more about each other outside of their job roles. Okunyev shared some of the topics they’ve discussed so far were favorite hobbies, sports, movies and sharing about their background.
These may be unprecedented times, but when offices open back up, the dynamic and thoughts surrounding remote work will be different. Being pushed into remote work has helped remove the corporate formal filter and given glimpses into workers' home lives. Since remote work has been proven it can be done, perhaps with a little more improvement, retreating back to the old normal will be impossible.