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15 Tips For Building A Strong Culture Among Your Remote Tech Team

15tips

Originally Posted on Forbes Technology Council

Establishing a strong, cohesive company culture has become a subject of great importance in the modern workplace. While doing this can be a challenge for any business, it can be especially tricky for tech teams with members who work remotely.

Ensuring everyone feels like part of the team—even from thousands of miles away—is crucial. That’s why we asked a panel of Forbes Technology Council members to share their strategies for building and maintaining a company culture among a remote team.

1. Leverage Tech To Promote Fun, Personal Interactions

Just because you are remote doesn’t mean you cannot participate in fun things together. Using messengers and tools like Slack to create fun employee polls and channels that promote interaction—whether it’s new books to read or stocks to watch—will foster a sense of shared culture. In addition, group meditations that can be done from anywhere can encourage positivity across the employee roster. - Abhinav Somani, LEVERTON

2. Be Explicit About Culture And Values

A strong culture is one thing that typically begins at the top of an organization. Be explicit about the company’s values and then use values in daily interactions and decision-making. Explicitly connect your updates and decisions with company values, especially in large group meetings including remote teammates. Positively call out remote teammates for their on-values work. - Guy Yalif, Intellimize

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3. Prioritize Frequent Contact And In-Person Time

There has to be time for the entire tech team to meet up throughout the year. Additionally, hold video conferences and maintain daily contact on tools like Slack. - Yenn Lei, Calendar

4. Encourage Openness And Honesty

Transparency and repeated communication go a long way towards establishing trust between remote team members. Sharing announcements and decisions to the point of over-communicating can help foster a sense of belonging. An engaging company culture cares about the opinions of all team members, including those who work remotely. It’s important to listen and take action as needed. - Caroline Wong, Cobalt.io

5. Hire The ‘Right’ People From The Start

With the prevalence of chat and video conferencing, employees don’t need to be together to create an exceptional culture, but you do need the “right” people using the technology in order to protect and grow it. By hiring individuals who demonstrate spirited teamwork, embrace innovation and foster open communication, your team will have the emotional quotient to succeed in today’s digital era. - Michael Ringman, TELUS International

6. Have Structured One-To-One Meetings With Key Team Members

I have been remotely running Glowing.io successfully for the last five years, and my first advice always is to ensure you are doing one-to-one with all key team members weekly or monthly depending on your team size. Take notes, listen to their challenges, be clear and transparent about company values and cultures, and stay empathetic during the discussion. - Parag Arora, Glowing, Inc.

7. Let Your Team Create The Culture

The best way to grow a culture in a team is to let the team do some stuff free from management oversight. Let them plan, execute and openly share things (in line with the company value ops system). For example, invite parents of employees and recognize them, create a think-studio or display artwork of team members. These things make people feel that the company is theirs and not the other way around. - Shailu TipparajuExamity

8. Always Communicate Your Objectives

It requires professionalism. Everybody needs to bring that to the table. Most of all, it’s about structure. Whether we use Slack, phones or email doesn’t matter. We use what’s appropriate. We adapt. If you can communicate from the start what the objectives are for us all to work together, and we all sign up to it, then it just works. - Vaclav Vincalek, Pacific Coast Information Systems (PCIS) Ltd.

9. Identify Your Team’s ‘Cultural Adhesive’

Even for a tech team, it’s important to identify a cultural adhesive between members. It’s critical to hire and form the right remote team in the first place, making sure that members have shared values and interests. Each team has a unique personality, whether it’s location-based or not. The team leader needs to manage as if it’s a small company where team members motivate and encourage each other. - Jun Pei, Cepton

10. Get The Team On Video Calls

With Slack taking over almost all of email, coworkers can’t recognize each other at a Starbucks because they have never seen each other. One thing that is extremely important is to put a name and a face together. This means using video calls to build that camaraderie, as well as to build the relationships that text/email/voice lack. - Rohit JainHarvard Business School Alumni Angels Northern California

11. Have Dedicated Communication Channels For Different Facets Of The Business

Our workforce is mostly remote. We have people across the U.S. and even expats living overseas. One way we manage is to have a lot of varied, creative, asynchronous discussions and groups in our company’s Slack space that are focused on very specific facets of our business and how to improve or grow these facets. Channels with laser-focus help us stay creatively on-topic and encourage collaboration. - Doug Shepherd, Nisos

12. Provide Consistent Access To Resources Across The Team

Make sure everyone is on a level playing field when communicating as a group. Screenshare and video conferencing platforms should be used consistently and not be an afterthought. Tooling such as issue tracking, agile management, source control and wikis should be easily accessible to everyone. These points are especially important when part of the team is co-located and part is remote. - Jesse Stockall, Embotics Corporation

13. Hire And Promote Leaders Who Can Manage Remote Teams Well

It’s crucial for a remote team to have a strong leader. We learned this the hard way. We first hired remote tech team members in Sofia to work on projects shared with San Francisco. The time difference was an issue, reducing productivity and employee happiness. We lost many team members. Since then, we’ve hired a strong remote leader and built autonomous teams. This has made our remote operation a powerhouse. - Momchil Kyurkchiev, Leanplum

14. Get Together In Person

Our remote company holds a yearly retreat to build and maintain company culture. This past June all of our employees were flown to Orlando, Florida, for a week. During this time, all of our remote employees could meet each other in person, spend time talking and working on projects, participate in team-building activities, and just generally get to know each other. - Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

15. Don’t Motivate—Inspire

A CEO’s job is not to motivate, but to inspire. What great cultures do is define clearly and crisply the hard problem that must be solved and why this team is best gifted to solve it. Once inspired, the culture takes over the motivation, and diversity or being remote becomes an asset, not a liability, as everyone’s approach gets heard and the focus is on the collaborative solution, not credit-taking. - Prashanth BoccasamWealthEngine