Company Culture: “We’re in lots of different places!”

company culture

In this series we’ve been looking at some of the challenges big companies face around retaining company culture. Here, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at solving one of them: the problem of having employees based in multiple geographic locations.

We’ve said before that small startups are lucky – they have simple structures, fewer employees and a company culture built on solid shared values. Chances are the company values reflect the feeling and direction of most of the team, which means that a strong culture can naturally grow. But what about when your employees haven’t directly been involved in setting up these values? And what if, as you grow, your teams are all based in different places?

Creating a consistent culture when your offices and employees are in many different locations can seem tricky. The answer is that environment doesn’t necessarily define culture and there are ways you can ensure that culture can transcend geographical limits.

Keep values visible

Values are everything when it comes to culture. Startups, in their nature, are closer to their values because they were more organically generated and each new employee is more likely to have had a share in that vision. They are also often physically in the same room so they can keep reminding each other of why they’re there. Early culture is often set by the founders, but it then evolves with every new employee thanks to the founder’s personality and managerial style.

Larger organisations have lots of positives to take advantage of – they have histories, legacies and reputations that can help to illustrate the core values of the company. But if your company is based across multiple locations, the core values can seem pretty distant from the different parts of the business.

Close the distance by keeping the core values visible to employees at all possible opportunities. Facebook is a great example of a company that does this quite literally – the walls of their offices globally are decorated with posters showing their 5 core values.

Create open channels of communication

Employees of small companies often experience the business from many different angles, meaning the communication lines stay dynamic and open. But when companies are larger and more dispersed, employees from one part of the company often end up spending very little time interacting with those in other departments. Take a look at rigid organisational structures and see how roles can be made more fluid, even temporarily.

An interesting approach adopted by startup Freshbooks is to rotate an aspect of the business or responsibility, such as customer support, across its teams. Having everyone, management included, work on an other aspect of the business can help to keep communication lines open cross-departments.

Meet as the whole company once or twice a year

One of the best ways of bringing values to life and closing the distance between employees is through a company-wide “all hands” meetings. Michael Hyatt, author and business mentor, says that quarterly presentation to the whole workforce to communicate how they’re doing ‘whether the results are good or bad’ is essential to make sure everyone is aligned.

Plan these in once or twice a year and be strict about attendance: for it to be seen as important, it needs to include the entire company. The meetings themselves should be interactive, inspirational and fun – employees should leave feeling energised and appreciated.

Of course, whole company meetings can be difficult and expensive to co-ordinate for large organisations, but don’t let geography or cost be an excuse. Go remote instead. Facebook again leads the way here, with weekly all-hands meetings where employees can poll questions for Mark Zuckerberg to answer in front of the whole company.

Whether you’re bringing everyone together face-to-face, or running a company-wide remote meeting, you need the right tools to make it a success. Find out how Wisembly can help you master meetings, of any size, anywhere.

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