The modern workplace is mobile and virtual. While this presents tremendous opportunities for companies to scale without expanding offices or restricting their talent search to one region, it can also pose an existential challenge to a company’s culture.
In today’s workplace, executives find themselves asking, How do you build company culture when employees are scattered across multiple states or constantly working on the road? How do employees build trust, share challenges and collaborate effectively when they rarely meet face-to-face?
Subscription software and online tools are answering some of these questions. For a small investment, they can help companies uncover staffers’ hidden talents, build and run employee-recognition programs and foster interdepartmental communication.
All this still requires the human touch and a company’s core values to be clearly defined, but affordable and easy-to-use software or online assessments can do much of the heavy lifting for managers, owners and executives. Here are three online tools that can help build a company's culture whether the workplace is virtual or its headquarters simply needs an infusion of new ideas:
1. StrengthsFinder. Hiring the right employees is only half the battle. Putting each employee in the right position is crucial. According to a study conducted by PwC and LinkedIn released in April, if companies were better at matching employees with their strengths, they could unlock more than $130 billion in productivity in 11 markets. And that does not even take into account an estimated $19.8 billion in recruitment costs that organizations could avoid by boosting staff retention.
Endeavor America Loan Services, the mortgage company that I lead, uses Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, a web-based assessment tool, to pinpoint employees’ strengths, allowing me and other managers to quickly identify the roles they are most suited to fill. We have found efficiencies as each employee performs a role according to what he or she does best and seen the benefits of a workforce whose staffers are consistently assigned positions where success comes naturally.
We don’t stop with the simple strengths assessment. We hold regular workshops to train employees to develop their strengths and help managers grow into mentors leveraging the talents of the employees they manage. Ideally StrengthsFinder assists employees in building their strengths into talents and enables companies to place employees in teams where they will perform at their highest level.
In a remote work environment, where there is no daily face-to-face interaction between manager and employee, StrengthsFinder is even more important because it increases the likelihood of employee engagement, reduces the chances of distraction and encourages collaboration among teammates whose strengths are complimentary.
StrengthsFinder lets companies accomplish this without managers having to spend hundreds of hours to assess each employee’s skill set.
2. YouEarnedIt. Most employee-recognition programs rely heavily on managers and executives to reward high-achieving employees. But as many employees know, the best evaluators of achievement are often the rank-and-file, frontline workers. YouEarnedIt.com is a simple, affordable and easy-to-manage software platform for employees to reward co-workers for their achievements.
Using the points-based rewards system of YouEarnedIt, employee recognition is democratized throughout a company, enabling managers and executives to receive a broad spectrum of opinions about who is achieving above the norm in a given week.
The software platform operates in real time: Recognition points show up as they are bestowed. Points can be redeemed for prizes, donations to charity or executive coaching. The software relieves some of the pressure on managers to organize and execute employee-recognition programs, while making the whole process more democratic and representative of the whole company.
It's also a fun way to energize employees and promote engagement. My company is finding that through our promotion of the idea of employees' granting rewards to one another, staffers are becoming more engaged: They are seeing their efforts recognized in real time.
We are fostering a fun company culture by being creative with our rewards. (The options now include Jeans for a Week, Dinner with the Boss, Your Manager Brings You Coffee, Buy a Day Off Work and Take the Morning Off Work.) Another reward: raffles in a companywide drawing for a paid-for summer vacation.
Now our employees are enjoying thanking one another and rewarding colleagues for a job well done. At our company, it's even become a big deal to be the person who was the biggest rewards giver in the previous week. We have created metrics around the intangible idea of showing gratitude even while creating a culture of recognition among employees who may not even be working in the same office.
3. 15Five. One of a manager’s top jobs is taking the temperature of his or her team. Is the team on a roll, running like a well-oiled machine or does it need a reinjection of enthusiasm or an infusion of new ideas?
Used by organizations ranging from the American Red Cross to GoDaddy,15Five is a software app built around the concept that if all employees took 15 minutes each week to write down thoughts that would take their manager only 5 minutes to read, companies could be more connected.
15Five starts this process by asking simple, thought-provoking questions like "What were your challenges this week?"
Managers take 5 minutes or less to read the answers and then offer feedback and support while passing the best ideas on to higher-ranking executives. This allows company leaders to identify challenges before they mushroom into problems and put into action the top suggestions crowdsourced from across the organization. It is the ultimate real-time feedback loop.
The software platform also makes cross-team and interdepartmental communication effective and streamlined.
Instilling a sense of company culture in a virtual business can be difficult. But culture is absolutely vital to company’s success. A multinational Gallup poll released last fall found that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work -- and of the remaining 87 percent, 63 percent lack motivation and another 24 percent are both unhappy and unproductive.
Company culture should not be viewed as a luxury or an afterthought. It is a vital necessity for high-performing companies that want to operate efficiently, attract and retain new customers and build talented and motivated teams.
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