How to create a strong culture in a remote company

Even if your staffers rarely meet, HR can ensure a great employee experience

How to create a strong culture in a remote company
e and more companies are now striving to create their own strong and successful cultures, but can it really be done when your employees don’t share a roof and very rarely meet?  

HR head Krisha Buehler says it is – she oversees the HR function at fully-remote firm BELAY and says all of the company’s more than 70 employees align to a very clear company culture.

“We’re just a really genuine, authentic group of people who are grateful for the opportunity we have and we’re grateful for each other,” Buehler tells HRD.

According to Buehler, empowerment and appreciation are key elements of the company’s culture as they not only drive employee satisfaction but also increased productivity.

“When you feel empowered and appreciated you become loyal, you want to perform better and you feel like you’re part of something more than just yourself,” she explains. “That’s what’s really special about our culture.”

However, Buehler admits maintaining such a unique culture isn’t easy within a remote workplace and it takes ongoing effort from the entire organization.

“Culture is a part of every meeting, every event, all of our newsletters, we really make a point to keep it at the front of everyone’s mind,” she says. “We actually did an entire summer summit dedicated to culture and our core values.”

As with any organization, Buehler says recruitment plays a pivotal role in maintaining culture with much of the interview process focussed on whether or not a candidate will align with the company’s core values.

“A lot of the time, I am looking for culture fit and personality style and those soft skills just as much as whether or not they can do the job,” she says.

However, the firm’s remote status does throw up some unique challenges.

“I would say the hardest thing is keeping everyone engaged and making sure people don’t start to feel like they’re off an island somewhere,” says Buehler.

“It’s important to make sure that we all communicate enough and ensure that people are living out our values but that’s hard to do when people are spread out all across the city.”

While the organization doesn’t have its own brick and mortar building, most employees are based in the Atlanta metro area so can meet up face-to-face on occasion – something BELAY actively makes the most of.

The company gets together for face-to-face meetings on a quarterly basis and departmental teams get together every six weeks or so – however, Buehler  says there are also social events six or seven times a year which help further drive company culture and employee collaboration.

“We actually have an employee whose job title is internal events coordinator,” says Buehler. “We really are intentional about putting dollars and budget behind providing events and that facetime because it is very important, especially in a remote environment.”

The events range from family days and happy hours to service events where employees volunteer as a team and are able to bring their spouses or children along.

“It’s important that we keep events fun and relevant so that people want to continue to attend them,” says Buehler. “That’s a big part of our culture so that is a challenge.”

Finally, Buehler says it’s critical the company bans any mistrust from its culture – something which could easily breed in a remote environment.

“There are a lot of times where you could assume someone is not online because they’re off doing something they shouldn’t be but that doesn’t help anyone and it’s often not the truth,” says Buehler.

“We choose to go a different direction and fill the gap with trust – that means telling yourself that maybe the reason someone isn’t getting back to you is because they’re in a meeting or on a call.”

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