As leaders, we know the role of building company culture is crucial. This has always been true for companies and organizations trying to hit strategic targets and at the same time maintaining morale and keeping the best people engaged.
When co-workers come together in office workspaces, especially the break room or water cooler, it organically invites creativity. Unplanned meetings naturally spark creativity, impromptu brainstorming and problem-solving.
Now, with more people working remotely, there are fewer opportunities for people to cross paths, overhear conversations, and generally participate in “water cooler” chat.
Harvard Business Review, Glassdoor and others report that company mission and culture matter more to workers than salary, leading to better retention, more collaboration and higher productivity. Team building and employee bonding are byproducts of a company’s cohesive corporate culture.
So, how do executive leaders build company culture and ensure its alignment with a clear and compelling purpose? One course of action is to be intentional about giving employees opportunities to interact with each other.
Here are some examples:
- Let team members take turns hosting monthly lunch-and-learn sessions. This gives people a chance to show their expertise, or brainstorm through a vexing problem, or get feedback on a project.
- Start book clubs or synchronous movie nights, which participants can discuss over the next few days.
- Start meetings with a short personal check-in by letting team members recap their weekends or share a recent success.
- Consider incorporating a “Mad-Sad-Glad” retrospective, a popular technique taken from agile work process in software engineering. This approach takes events, issues or observations from work projects and lists them according to how they made team members feel – mad, sad or glad.
This is just a start. Allow team members to find common interests organically. Then design events around those interests, especially ones that allow remote participation.
As you look for ways to involve a diversity of people – including from different departments – remember not to require anyone to do anything. You cannot force people to have fun. You can, however, create options and opportunities.
There may not be a water cooler for your team to gather around any time soon, if at all. Team-building activities that serve your remote team members will benefit your company culture more broadly. So, in order to build a strong and unified company culture in your modern workplace, create options, articulate a set of guidelines, and let your people take it from there.