A successful virtual team doesn’t happen by accident. A happy, motivated, and highly productive virtual team can only come about by design. In fact, it’s probably best to think of a successful virtual team as something that emerges from factors that a company has already established. In a way, this is just stating the obvious. No matter how talented its members are, you can’t just throw a team together and expect it to perform at optimal levels.
But if talented people aren’t enough to create a successful virtual team, what else is required? Well, the short (but not particularly helpful) answer is lots of things. To tell the truth, it would be impossible to compile even a partial list of everything a virtual team needs to succeed. The main reason such a list would be impossible to make is that every virtual team is different. They’re as different as the people who comprise them, and every one of them has a different set of needs.
So what’s the solution? If every virtual team has a different set of needs, how are the managers and HR departments of global companies supposed to fulfill them? Well, that’s the exact question we’re here to answer. In the following sections, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the importance of company culture. You’ll see how important a positive work environment is when working in a virtual team, as well as how to create a company culture that works.
We’ll begin by talking about what a company or team culture actually is. As you read on, keep in mind that for our purposes that the terms company, corporate, team, and organizational culture are more or less interchangeable.
So What Exactly is Corporate Culture?
There’s actually a very good reason that so many people talk about corporate culture without being able to explain what it means. Think about the concept of culture in general for a moment and this reason should become apparent.
Culture is everywhere we look. It’s online, in our homes, and in all the media we use to inform or entertain ourselves. It’s in our political climate and our personal relationships. It’s in our concepts of beauty, morality, and history as well. In fact, there are some philosopher types who think pretty much everything we do involves culture in one way or another.
To put it more simply, it’s difficult to define culture because we’re so bound up in it. This might sound silly, but asking someone to explain their culture is kind of like asking a fish to tell you what water is. And this same difficulty applies to define workplace culture as well. But as you’ll see in the following section, you can definitely get a firm grasp on the essentials of company culture.
But remember– This is not an academic exercise. Broadly speaking, exploring your company culture serves three very practical purposes:
Using the general characteristics of organizational culture as a lens to get a closer look at your own
Assessing your current team culture
Beginning to tweak certain aspects of your culture to build a successful virtual team
With these in mind, let’s have a look at the general characteristics of organizational culture.
Five Elements of Team Culture
How to Create Company Culture?
There are many ways to categorize the various elements that make up a culture. Here, we’ll be using a five-part division that will allow you to recognize and assess your corporate culture. Here are the five factors to consider:
1. Physical Environment of The Workspace
It might seem odd to talk about the physical environment of a virtual workplace, but use your imagination a little and you’ll see how the term actually does apply. Since your virtual team is made up of remote members, you should encourage them to arrange their workspace in a professional and well-organized manner. Just what this means will be different for each member, but most people work best in a tidy, comfortable environment that gives them easy access to the resources they need to perform their daily work. Personalizing their workspace won’t hurt either.
There are things you can do on your end as well. Obviously, you’ll be using a variety of communication technologies to bring people together. You’ll also need various software platforms for your people’s necessary collaborative work. For communication technology, the keys are simplicity and ease of access. You’ll also want to ensure that your team members feel equally included during group meetings, etc.
You should use a similar approach to work platforms as well. Simplicity and easy access are important here too. Another way to improve the virtual environment is to ensure that there is an equal allocation of space within these platforms.
2. The Character of Your Team Members
You’ll be working with a number of distinct personalities, so it’s critical that you understand the individual characteristics that inform interpersonal relationships in the workplace. Here’s an incomplete but useful list of these character traits:
- value and belief systems
- personal background and life/work experience
- non-work related interests
- training and level of competence
- emotional intelligence and adaptability
Although your people will be working from remote locations, these character traits will still factor into their ability to work together efficiently. Maximizing efficiency begins with understanding your people. Assessing these character traits will also help you combine the right mix of people into subgroups and make good hiring decisions.
3. Communication Style
Good communication is absolutely essential to a successful virtual team. In order to assess and improve the communication within your virtual team, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do your virtual team members communicate with one another? Do they have specific channels to use for different kinds of communication?
- In what ways do you share information with your team members? Do they receive pertinent information promptly?
- Do managers communicate with team members directly? How often?
- How much one-on-one communication is there between managers and virtual team members?
- How frequently does your management team acknowledge the accomplishments of individual members and the team as a whole?
- Have you provided your team with a forum for non-work related social interaction?
Answer these questions and you’ll have an excellent grasp of your virtual team’s communication style. They’ll also help you establish communication standards and increase morale. Clarity, mutual respect, and precision should be your governing principles here.
4. Shared Values and Goals
This is another area where familiarity with your team members will improve your company culture and increase productivity. Your people will always have different value systems, but it’s still important to have areas of overlap in the workplace. There is an intimate relationship between value systems and motivation, so it’s a good idea to establish meaningful connections between individual beliefs and your team’s overall vision.
Here’s what you can do to establish these connections. The first thing is to ensure that your team values are clear and accessible. You’ll also need to see to it that everyone is familiar with your company’s mission statement. Hint: if you don’t have an explicit mission statement, get busy on creating one right away.
The next step involves integrating the respective value systems of your team members into a coherent whole. It’s difficult to know how this process will play out in advance, but this is where understanding the character of your people plays a very important role. By combining their input with the qualities your company already values, you can create a ‘statement of team values’ for everyone to use as a reference point. And while certain compromises might be required, making these values explicit is the best way to point out the necessary adjustments.
Virtual team members should always be aware of their short and long-term goals. This awareness will help them self-assess their attitudes, habits, and performance. Making your staff aware of company goals will also help you keep them accountable and assist you in the evaluation process.
5. Management Style
Management style is a huge factor in the creation of a positive workplace culture. In fact, the relationships that exist between managers and the members of their virtual teams might be the most determining factor of your company culture. The reason for this is fairly simple– the way your management team interacts with their staff sets a precedent that everyone else is likely to follow.
Even if they’re not aware of it, employees take their cues from management’s behavior. This ensures that managers can (and inevitably will) have a profound impact on their office dynamic. This impact can be positive or negative, depending on the type of example an individual manager sets. As long as the manager acts in a way that transmits positivity, focus, and respect, the influence they exert will be a net gain. But if they fail on any of these fronts, both morale and productivity are bound to suffer.
Here are three ways to ensure that your team managers contribute to your company culture in a positive way:
Help your managers recognize their management style and modify as necessary
Describe the managerial techniques that best embody your company’s mission
Track the ways in which your managers do (or don’t) embody your company’s mission and help them address any areas of deficiency
Importance of Company Culture to a Successful Virtual Team
The importance of a positive company culture to a successful virtual team cannot be overestimated. Your workplace culture defines you in the minds of your staff and your customers both. It establishes boundaries, sets expectations, and is an all-encompassing way to motivate your people.Just as importantly, a positive workplace culture will give your company the reputation it needs to attract and retain the very best employees. By putting the best people in the best conditions will ensure your success for years into the future.
Creating a positive team culture does require planning, consistent effort, and a fair amount of time. This is something you’ll need to bear in mind at all times. Fortunately, the process gets easier as you go along. You see, a positive workplace culture that builds on itself once you set it in motion. Now that you understand how to start building the culture your company deserves, all that remains is to take action.