Building company culture in remote settings

After seven years with IRIS and 383, I’ve overseen an evolution of our culture both in the office, and in the Work from Anywhere world.  

In fact, the pivot to the latter is one of the things I’m most proud of that we’ve done as a business. When I think about what we’ve managed to introduce, iterate and make a part of the furniture – the business is almost unrecognisable from the one I joined. It’s not a surprise to me that we have survived, and prospered, in a move to the virtual world; we’re all too physically invested for it not to.  

Starter for ten

So how do you double down and build out that remote and flexible culture? Take a look wherever your work environment is right now - whether you’re in the office or virtual - and ask yourself about what it means to be a member of your business.

  • What is the culture?
  • Who is driving it?
  • What pillars are in place that reinforce it?
  • What pillars are important to you, and how would you feel if they were taken away?
  • What impact do you think their removal would have on the business?

I’m going to lean on one of my all time favourite quotes here. It’s one I use in person a lot, and have referenced in previous posts I’ve published, but it’s important in lieu of the subject of culture and employer value proposition.

"Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

Thomas Edison

Now let’s map this to business culture and the questions we asked above. 

Regardless of your role in the company, how did you respond? Was it overwhelmingly positive? Do you have a recognisable culture, a way of being, and clear cornerstones that make your workplace distinct to you and, dare I say it, awesome for all staff?

Cultural cornerstones

Let’s focus on those cornerstones. 

I’m talking about things like the personal development library, the recognition awards, the showcases of new product launches, the celebrations that accompany a large sales win, the senior managers who sit in the open plan space rather than a private office, the corporate values, the learning opportunities, the commitment to deliver excellence for clients and product users, the commerciality, the approach to work, the annual all-hands…I could go on and on. 

I expect at least a few of these look familiar to you, so let’s pause here and take stock. 

Behind every single one of those cornerstones is inspiration. Inspiration to add something new into the business that changes its perception in the eyes of its people. That’s our 1 percent of genius.

Everyone has ideas about what our businesses should be doing for their people to develop the culture further. But often, that’s all it is – an idea.

"It's easy to identify a culture you would like to have, but it's another thing to practise and implement it daily."

LaKisha Greenwade, Lucki Fit LLC

You can’t simply plug in and press play on culture. As a very busy senior leader, believe me, somedays I wish we could. 

The inspiration for culture comes from the constant stream of ideas being dreamed up across your business. To develop an idea, take it to launch, and most importantly maintain it, takes perspiration – around the clock. This is our 99 percent of genius.

And to the naked eye, it mostly looks effortless. Look at those cornerstones around you and come back to the question we asked at the start of this post – who’s driving it? Because there will be a driver – a guardian who is devoted to making sure that cornerstone exists and thrives.

Company culture is created through perspiration, with a product development and management approach applied from idea, right the way through to launch. That goes for everything from developing an internal way of thinking or operating through to ceremonies like your annual end of year awards.

It takes graft to launch a digital product right? It’s absolutely the same gig with a business culture and EVP – especially a culture you love.

The next time you have a great idea to reinforce your culture, pause and think deeper. How do I get this out there? Who can help me? What does my maintenance strategy look like? How would our people respond if we stopped doing it?

Taking ownership

If you are working in the midst of a workplace culture you love, bravo! I salute you. Embrace it and appreciate it, and know that the dedication you give to your line of work is reciprocated by someone elsewhere wanting to make that culture consistently great for you.

But what if you felt a sense of loss to the questions we posed at the start? 

You might have a tonne of ideas and be raring to go to help build company culture, or you might be daunted because you hoped that with a few quick wins, you could point to something resembling an investment in business culture and tick the necessary boxes… Either way, do not despair.

Company culture can be built, and it doesn’t have to be someone’s else’s responsibility. Whether you are a senior leader, or on a graduate scheme, you have the power to deliver a positive change in your business that people will respond to. Just remember that it takes a lot of perspiration and you’ve got to own it, or you need to find an absolute rockstar in your business who will love and care for that change as if it was their own.

And be patient. All good things take time. I’ve been extremely lucky in my professional life to work in a few businesses that developed a great culture over time. Thankfully I’m in one right now, and I’ve seen what it takes to get, and keep, us there. It’s perspiration every step of the way.

Speak to the experts

Maybe you need to find the next culture builder for your business? Luckily, we know a few. 

Making the decision to work with a talent acquisition agency like IRIS can be a big step for a business. But, you can rest assured that by engaging with our services, we will be working alongside you, doing what we do best, to find the best candidates for your roles, whilst giving you the capacity to do what you do best as a business. 

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Glen Duncan

24th January

Career Advice