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Virtual-first culture: your secret to surviving and thriving in 2021

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Virtual meeting

Who’d have thought, back in March last year, the world of work would have shifted so dramatically just ten months later? Heading into 2021, we’re still doing our jobs from home, conducting meetings over Zoom and hiring people without ever having actually met them.

But there’s no reason your company’s culture should suffer as a result. In fact, our current strange circumstances provide the perfect opportunity to identify and keep the best parts of the office environment – freeing ourselves from bad habits, inefficient processes and unnecessary bureaucracy.

Are you ready to build a virtual-first culture, engage your employees across distance and time zones, and become a leader in this new reality?

Here are five tips that’ll truly give you a competitive advantage:

Know your people

Now, more than ever, we must appreciate and acknowledge the multi-generational workforce. From the Silent Generation to Generation Z, professionals in each age demographic have their own working styles, approaches and experience. Actively listening, and responding, to team members’ individual needs is vital.

Steve Head, inspirational keynote speaker and coach, explains this concept as “finding our fish”. What makes a dolphin jump out of the water on command? The answer: fish. Find and acknowledge your employees’ motivators – their “fish” – and ask how they wish to be managed while working remotely. Understanding what motivates individuals helps drive discretionary effort.

Show some love

Working from home can get lonely. Don’t let your people become isolated and stranded on “digital islands” – their motivation and focus will suffer.

Set aside more time for feedback and praise. Provide updates on priorities and progress. And be open about the challenges the business may be facing.

Building a culture where staff trust leadership enough to speak up is a key aspect of engagement. A book I highly recommend is Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-class Employee Engagement by Debra Corey and Glenn Elliott. It explains that under-communication destroys trust in organisations, creating a ‘them and us’ culture and sabotaging any possibility of engaging employees.

Be flexible and trusting

Is there a new pattern or smarter way of working that could help your teams become more productive? Now is the time to be flexible and patient with routines, to try new things and to reframe glitches as opportunities for learning. None of us have ever been in a situation like this before, so cut your teams (and yourself) a little slack as you feel things out.

In The Smarter Working Manifesto by Guy Clapperton and Philip Vanhoutte, the authors talk about how work is something you do, not necessarily somewhere you go. They suggest that the real catalyst for successful remote working is management style, and – above all – trust-based, results-orientated work.

In other words, you have to trust your colleagues to behave like adults and measure them by output.

Offer career-growth opportunities

Career-growth opportunities and continuous learning are reported as some of the main factors that help companies attract and retain talent. Often, remote workers get neglected – and with a focus on sustaining business as usual, this priority may have fallen to the bottom of the pile.

Unleashing people’s potential so they can grow with the business long-term is key to gaining a competitive advantage, guaranteeing you’ll keep your top talent for longer.

Having a clear performance-management process enables managers to set career goals aligned with individual aspirations and business aims.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Managers must communicate with remote teams. After all, being more social helps us to become happier, smarter and more productive. Make sure your team members are aware of deadlines, available resources and working schedules.

Consider which communication tools – email, text, phone, or video – fit your culture. Then, find that delicate balance between constantly pinging employees and radio silence.

Ross Williams, Founder and Executive Chairman of Venntro Media Group, was interviewed by NatWest for their article WFH, for Good? – Let's Make the New Now. He believes his business works better remotely because it forces people to communicate better and refine processes. At 9am every day, he hosts a 15-minute whole-company stand-up using Google Hangouts; here they confirm priorities for the day and follow up with a similar review conversation at 4pm.

His teams have their video cameras running all day, enabling them to talk to each other as if they were in the office. This provides a great way to maintain team collaboration and engagement, and reduces the feeling of isolation for some team members.

The sudden shift to a distributed workforce has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-think, reimagine and reboot some of your old habits. Consider this time a chance to refresh and reinvigorate your culture by looking at how you engage your teams, making sure everyone pulls in the same direction so your business not only survives, but thrives.

Culturehood specialises in supporting scale-ups and ambitious medium-sized businesses. Using tailored services, you can boost your growth by building an engaged, productive and healthy company culture. If you’d like to hear more about how I can help you – virtually, of course…! – get in touch today.



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