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How to sustain workplace culture in a remote work model

Sustaining workplace culture in a remote work world requires employers to be intentional about how they demonstrate their culture in every aspect of the organization’s environment. Cultivating a culture starts during the Talent Acquisition process and continues throughout the exit or offboarding of an employee.

Sustaining workplace culture is  more complex now than ever

The challenges associated with building and maintaining workplace culture have become even more complex now that the majority of knowledge workers are working remotely. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly two-thirds of HR professionals believe the pandemic has made implementing and sustaining workplace culture more difficult . The survey also found nearly one-quarter of those surveyed responded that their organizations’ cultures have worsened during the pandemic.

However, as more organizations embrace long-term remote work, now is a perfect opportunity to be intentional about establishing an engaging, remote workplace culture. 

What is workplace culture? 

Workplace culture can be complicated. Yet it can be defined as a multi-faceted system of values, beliefs, ‘norms,’ objects, and technologies that shape an organization; it outlines the behaviors and attitudes employers desire from their workers. Regardless of how your organization perceives culture, a strong one keeps talent connected and should be leveraged as a primary attribute in recruitment and retention. However, the culture your organization has spent years cultivating, more likely than not, won’t directly translate to a remote work environment.

The information below will provide information on how to develop, sustain and demonstrate workplace culture in a remote work model.

Create a strong remote work culture by focusing on intent 

A recent Procom report finds less than 4 per cent of workers want to return to the office five days a week. When taking in-person interactions online, employers can’t simply virtualize aspects of their organization’s culture with the expectation that the experience will immediately resonate with all workers.

It’s important to avoid translating in-person events to a digital format without modification or communication detailing the transition. Instead, think about the goal of the initiative and get creative.

Understand remote work culture is cumulative 

  • Extending workplace culture requires recognizing the cumulative nature of culture. Culture does not refer to just gym passes, casual Fridays and happy hours. Culture must be visible in all aspects of an organization, including: 

    Organizational hierarchy
    Day-to-day practices  
    Internal communications 
    Performance management 
    Workplace processes 
    Social media platforms, 
    Educational or training opportunities, 
    Social events. 
    Corporate responsibility initiatives 
    DEI commitments 
  • ENGAGING TALENT in a remote work culture 

Levering a strong and positive work culture is a primary strategy for many organizations to engage and retain workers. This also, however, requires conscious effort backed by transparency and consistency.  

Have a strong employer brand – and communicate it in the job posting

How and where knowledge workers do their jobs has changed. The importance of workplace culture, however, has remained consistent. 
To effectively demonstrate culture to talent during the initial step in the recruitment process, it’s critical to have a strong employer brand. This means organizations must prioritize building an employer brand and make recruitment marketing a key component of the company’s overall HR strategy.

The job posting can demonstrate culture by considering:

What makes your organization unique?
What makes your organization credible?
What makes your organization the best place to work with?
What are your competitive differentiators?

How can you improve the working experience? 

Workers who fit in with your culture are less likely to leave the company. Lower rates of turnover mean less time and money spent on recruiting, hiring, and training. 

Be intentional about talking culture with candidates

When interviewing talent, be clear about worker expectations and managerial style.  It’s also important to discuss the level of connectivity you want remote workers to maintain and what these connections consist of (i.e., daily status updates, weekly meetings, scheduled social chats).

How easy is it for workers to use your organization’s internal technology functions in remote settings? What types of communication tools does the organization use?

When including culture in the conversation, consider:

What types of people tend to be successful in the organization’s remote work model?
How does your organization stay connected on a professional and social level?
Does your organization have any DEI or health and wellness programs?
Does your organization offer ‘Work from Anywhere’ as a remote work option?

During the interview phase of the recruitment process, hiring managers and recruiters must be prepared to answer questions about how the organization’s workplace culture has translated to a remote work model. These responses should include specific examples of how, when, why and where the organization’s culture is demonstrated. 

RETAINING CURRENT TALENT in a remote work culture 

Establish new norms 

In a remote work culture, it’s important to establish any new policies or procedures that workers must be aware of. These new ‘norms’ can be established through leveraging feedback from your talent.  

For instance, what does ‘remote work’ mean to your organization? Procom’s Voice of Talent report finds 34 per cent of respondents indicate they expect remote work, as a ‘new norm’ to include engagements that cross global boundaries. Is your remote work model defined?  

Prioritize keeping current talent happy 

A strong remote culture not only keeps current talent motivated and connected, it also helps them to feel seen, even as they work remotely. When your remote work culture is prioritized, workers feel a sense of belonging, helping them to stay aligned with the organization and business goals.

It’s important to think about how you’re communicating the vision for the organization’s future and how you’re empowering talent to make valuable contributions. Assess development opportunities that can diversify workers’ skillsets and allow them to advance within your organization.

Each small, decisive step an organization takes goes a long way toward projecting its culture and building a sense of community in a remote work world. 

When it comes to the smaller things that can mean a lot, consider: 

Scheduling occasional meetings with no agendas except everyone’s favorite TV show of the moment. 
Encourage occasional virtual coffee breaks. 
Host a lunchtime chat-and-walk. 
Recognize employees and their contributions at virtual meetings. 
Get creative about celebrating special events like birthdays or employment anniversaries.
Keep workers and new hires informed of any training and development programs. 
Do you support any charities or events that have gone virtual? Ensure workers are aware of how they can stay involved and celebrate team wins.  

Creating and maintaining a strong remote work culture requires thoughtful planning and execution. However, it’s important to remember: Intention is  the key. 

The Voice of Talent: Return to the Office Report

Procom recently surveyed over 1,000 knowledge workers to discover how and where they prefer to work as offices re-open across North America.  

The Voice of Talent Report offers actionable insights into what workers expect in relation to mandatory vaccinations, remote work preferences, The Great Resignation, COVID-19 safety measures and more.

Access your complimentary copy to discover how to attract talent in 2022:

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How to sustain workplace culture in a remote work model

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