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Online community and building team culture

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Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2016-12-21

How can online community help build team culture, especially for remote teams?

If you’ve read our article on being a successful remote worker, you’ll know that remote work has become increasingly common in the modern workforce, with more companies supporting and encouraging the idea of employees working from home.

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As the world continues to grow smaller through technology, geography has become less important for employers. Companies have the ability to hire new talent with the right skills, knowledge and experience, regardless of location. And for individuals, remote working provides the freedom to choose where and when they work, with the opportunity for more flexible hours and a greater sense of autonomy.

We’ve also talked a lot about work culture and the importance of hiring employees that are a good cultural fit for your organization, with many clear benefits for both parties. The concept of culture often comes up when discussing remote work, with some people suggesting that co-located teams have an easier time building culture, compared to remote teams.

How can you successfully build team culture when team members are spread out across different cities and continents? The answer is in making sure you’re running an effective online community.

Create an online community for remote teams

Establishing an online community is essential for building team culture, particularly for distributed teams.

Remote workers in different geographical locations either don’t have a team culture they can be part of, or find they can’t really identify with it. When you’re working from your home office miles away from your employer, it can be difficult to feel like part of the regular office team.

As this article on building community and culture for a distributed team says, “you may be able to chat on video every single day with a remote colleague. But they still may not be a part of the company culture, which plays a major role in shaping the employee’s engagement to the organization.”

By creating an effective online community for remote workers, you can help foster connection, collaboration and culture within your distributed team.

Have the right platform and tools

One of the biggest challenges with remote work is ensuring smooth communication. Being isolated from their managers and colleagues, remote workers need to know that they have reliable communication channels to stay in contact with their team. This will help them feel more connected, particularly for those working in a different time zone.

Using a community platform is the most effective way to build cohesion in distributed teams. An online community allows remote workers to interact with each other in a more informal online environment than email. Team members can chat, share ideas and info, celebrate each other’s achievements and team wins – all the things that would happen in a more regular office environment that help build a cultural connection.

Choosing the right platform for your online community is important. A good Learning Management System (LMS) will provide you with greater customization than using social media, allowing you to control the look and feel of your community and how it functions. Social media channels may also impose restrictions on certain content, unlike an LMS which will give you full visibility and control.

Create engagement between remote employees

Now that you’ve provided your employees with the right tools to connect, you want to build a positive work culture through encouraging team engagement.

Friendly competition (with the emphasis on friendly) between remote workers can help build engagement and a sense of team culture. Collaboration and healthy competition are positive behaviors for work teams, generating cooperation, connection and inclusion. 

Focus remote workers and encourage them to engage with each other by reinforcing your shared vision. When people know that they’re working for managers or employers who share the same goals and values, the geographical distance really doesn’t matter. The best way to foster engagement, loyalty and culture is to connect team members through aligned organizational goals.

Communicate the team’s shared goals through your online community on a regular basis, relating them directly back to team results and deliverables. This will help each individual worker feel that they are part of a greater unit, connected by the same vision.

As Paul Spiegelman, Chief Culture Officer for Stericycle, a global public company with 25,000 employees, says, “a successful virtual culture is more than selecting the right online tools or letting employees sleep in as long as they want… create an environment that allows employees to achieve their personal visions as well as the company vision.”

With a successful online community, you can build a positive, collaborative and fun team culture for your remote workers and organization.

 

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