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At Facebook headquarters, their company values are written right on the wall. Slogans like ‘Move fast and break things’ or ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’ encourage employees to be aggressive, fearless, and innovative -- the hallmarks of Facebook culture.
But, for those who run a virtual business, company culture is much more difficult to establish. Technology, rather than a physical space, becomes the most effective tool.
Laura Roeder, the CEO of LKR Social Media Marketer, a social media training service for small businesses, has been managing four full-time employees and a host of contractors since she started the company in 2007. All of them work remotely.
LKR’s collaborative, hardworking culture shows that conscientious leaders at virtual businesses can still create a vibrant culture, even without a shared space. Here’s how:
1. Welcome new employees with a virtual orientation. A comprehensive introduction to the company is important on an employee's first day, especially when they work remotely. “We do a full-day virtual orientation where we walk them through the different parts of the business,” Roeder says. Not only does that help new hires learn the ropes, it gives them a more tangible feel for the team and company.
2. Encourage casual conversation. “One of the most important things to do is establish casual, friendly connections among your team,” Roeder says. She recommends Yammer, a private social network for companies. “Yammer is our virtual water cooler where we post updates on work, but also chat and make jokes,” she says. That sense of connection helps keep employees motivated.
3. Hold video conferences and calls. To improve communication, Roeder utilizes video whenever possible. For team calls, she uses Google Hangouts, a group video conference tool, while Skype is her go-to for individual calls. “Video is always preferable over phone,” she says. “We can connect face-to-face even when we’re far away.”
4. Keep everyone in the loop. To create a cohesive team where work is recognized and valued, you need an effective way to communicate each person’s work status. Roeder uses a website called IDoneThis.com “Everyone gets a quick, easy snapshot of what’s going on at the company,” Roeder says. The updates reinforce that they’re working toward a shared goal. “And yes, I fill out IDoneThis too,” she adds.
5. Reinforce your vision and mission. When employees are scattered, it’s easy to lose sight of the end goal. Roeder hosts an in-person retreat each year, which she sees as an opportunity for the team to vision, work, and bond as a group. “Our values are also inherently folded into a lot of the conversations we have,” she says. If a retreat is not in your budget, you might try sending out a book you love that speaks directly to your mission or highlighting those employees that are living the company’s values.