How a remote organization can help their employees identify with the organization
Remote employees work from home and socialize in person with family, friends, and their local community, but have no physical office to create a connection between them and the company they work for. However, it is possible to create a strong bond between people and their organizations. Here are three key areas remote organizations can consider to improve their employees’ identification with the organization when they hire a dedicated development team.
Establish a Clear Identity
To increase employee identification with a company it is critical that the organization has established a clear identity; a great example of this Automattic’s Creed . This identity should be at a moderate abstraction, something that is based on principles and will last over time, but is not so generally that it could apply to any company. Once this is established the next step is to make it salient in the organization. One way to do this is throughout the hiring (and onboarding) process, sharing the core principles of the organization with any prospective employee to see if they are a fit, for both parties, if it is not a good fit then the ability and desire of that person to identify with the organization will be limited. The second and perhaps more important aspect of establishing a clear identity is to enforce it in day to day activities. This includes calling people out (respectfully!) when there is misalignment, along with a culture that allows for this to be an accepted practice not restrained by any individual’s status. Again using Automattic as an example, they often use the phrase “P2 or it didn’t happen” to say that important information needs to be documented in a P2 post (see here for details on P2 ), which aligns with the idea of communication being oxygen laid out in their Creed. This reinforcement through how daily activities are done builds a culture which embodies the organizational identity and provides a clear demonstration for new employees.
Show Gratitude for Employee Contributions
Isolation is a prominent concern in remote organizations, one way to mitigate this is by reinforcing the connection between individuals and the organization. A somewhat counterintuitive way to do this is to increase individual responsibility. By setting out areas of accountability or giving authority for specific decisions, individuals develop feelings of ownership which can create a psychological tie between them and the organizations. A vital second component of this is regular public (team, division, organization wide) recognition or praise. By expressing gratitude for the work of individuals the connection between the organization and employee becomes a positive experience; in contrast, without a sense of gratitude employees may feel drained and overwhelmed by what they are being asked to do to support the collective. Furthermore, by doing this publically others are able to see the importance of their colleagues’ contributions, add in their gratitude, and see that the organization is a collective to which they belong.
Host Occasional In Person Meetups
While virtual socializing is great and something that should be occurring in remote organizations, it is also important to host regular (e.g., annual) in person events. These meetups (or retreats) work together with virtual interactions, neither being a replacement for the other. Benefits of meeting in person including strengthening existing relationships, making new connections, building a cohesive culture with shared experiences, potentially working through a complex ongoing issue, and engaging in a discussion of strategy, all of which are going to support identification with the organization. For more about in person events check out these articles from organizations and executives sharing about what they do and its importance:
- The Importance of Meeting In-Person
- Remote Team Meetups: Here’s What Works For Us
- How to Run a Company Retreat for a Remote Team
- GitLab Meetup Guide
The use in person meetings for the entire organization is a great tool to build organizational identification. However, as organizations grow it may be worth considering adding division or team level retreats as well. It can sometimes be difficult for individuals to connect with something as broad as an organization and they may find it more natural to identify with their team or division. This is something organizations will want to keep in mind, particularly as the organization grows. As such actively building a link between a group identity and the identity of the organization as a whole will help shepard individuals who tend to team identification to also identify with the company overall.
A last tip inspired by Atlassian (Shared by Dom Price during his 2018 Running Remote keynote) is to send swag to the home of employees. The lack of an office should not be a justification or barrier for stocking up employees with all fun branded materials. Yes, there is a cost to such a variety of locations but getting employees wearing and using swag will reinforce the identification built by setting a clear and present identity, showing gratitude for employee contributions, and the use of occasional in person meetups. With strong identification employees and pride in where they work they will want to share this identity with others, perhaps by joining in on the increasingly common trend of member names (e.g., Automatticians, Gitlabers, etc.) to proclaim their membership.
The best practices of building a strong remote work culture and scaling remote businesses will be discussed by industry leaders at the Running Remote conference on April 20-21 2020 in Austin. This year’s speaker lineup includes Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, Andy Tryba, CEO of Crossover & Sococo, and Sara Sutton, Founder of FlexJobs & Remote.co. Join 500 CEOs and Founders of remote businesses to learn the latest trends and expand your network.