We are a rapidly growing firm and have become increasingly dispersed as we expand into new geographic regions. What are some tips for maintaining a sense of cultural unity as we grow?
Managing across multiple or remote offices does add some complexity in your quest to sustain a unified organizational culture but its not an insurmountable challenge. Regardless of your geographic distribution, the principals of building a unified culture are basically the same.
STEP 1 - DEFINE IT
As a collective, who are you? What makes your organization unique? This requires some reflection on the subtle undertones of your existing culture. Remember to allow room, also, to envision where you’d like the culture to go. If you start by understanding (and embracing) the most authentic and unique aspects of your culture, the next steps will be a lot easier.
One of the companies that does this very well is Toronto-based travel firm, G Adventures. A core value at G Adventures is to “Embrace the Bizarre” and, over the years, they’ve launched plenty of genius initiatives to do exactly that but my favourite is still “Hot Dogs & Haircuts” day at the office. Whatever your culture is, define it, and let that guide the next steps.
STEP 2 – COMMUNICATE IT
Before the team can buy-in, they need to feel looped-in and this will require some creativity and additional effort for remote groups because culture contains so many subtle elements that can be hard to pinpoint or convey without personal interaction.
You should plan (and budget) for regular in-person meetings but technology will help you bridge the gap in between. Here a few of the ways the Best Workplaces in Canada are connecting people.
- Autodesk: Scrum Rooms
To facilitate communication between their Montreal and Toronto offices, Autodesk has created Scrum Rooms. With a live 24-hour webcam streaming in both rooms, employees can call a meeting and spontaneously communicate with their colleagues in different offices.
- Acosta Mosaic Group: Remote Management Forum
At Acosta Mosaic Group, they have a unique communication challenge in that 80% of employees do not work out of an office location. There is an art to managing people remotely, which is why they have created the Remote Management Forum. The forum is comprised of remote business leaders from across Canada, and it works together to instill the Mosaic culture in remote employees’ day-to-day activities. So far, this team has implemented technology updates to improve efficiencies for the employee working from home and organized local events to support team building, learning/development and corporate social responsibility.
STEP 3 – HAVE FUN WITH IT
Once you’ve defined the culture – celebrate it! Because your people work in different offices (and maybe time zones) you might have to stagger social activities. Even accounting for different schedules, there will be times where someone misses out. To solve that problem, the PEER Group has come up with a great solution; if an employee has to miss company social events, they are given a gift certificate so they can have their own celebration later.
And if you can line it up, a real-time experience is ideal. Some companies have discovered that online gaming offers a great social outlet for physically dispersed teams. DevFacto, for example, uses Xbox gaming to cultivate some healthy interoffice competition. If gaming isn’t your thing, consider hosting concurrent social events (i.e. Friday happy hour) and sharing pictures of the fun. Or, why not register for a charitable race like Run for the Cure that’s hosted in most major cities and challenge/ motivate each other during the training phase?
Since your remote workers don’t have the same opportunity to shoot-the-breeze over coffee, you’ll need to be a bit extra creative to design moments that allow for this type of bonding. If you would like support in this process, Great Place to Work® can help. Reach out to learn more.