Culture is to a CEO what the genetic code is to an organism. It’s the defining characteristic of an organization and what many experts call “the personality of a company.” Typically defined as the set of beliefs and behavior that determine how hires and management interact with each other, company culture encompasses the company vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.
Contrary to popular belief, hires do not forge the culture of their company. They can only replicate the example set by their leaders. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of hiring without first establishing the company culture and making it a priority. Having a strong and positive culture is increasingly linked to a company’s success. Culture impacts different aspects of an organization, from freelancer engagement and productivity to the company’s brand.
Staff turnover rate is higher for companies with a weak culture (up to 48.4%) than for those with a strong culture (up to 13.9%). This is because companies with a healthy culture keep hires happy and engaged. Furthermore, happiness correlates with productivity. Happy hires can be as much as 31% more productive. As Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky explains, “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with passion.”
Entrepreneurs can also scale their business by upholding a strong and authentic company culture. That’s exactly what David Meyers – co-founder and CTO of Flipp – did. The company grew from 10 people to 275, raised $61 million in funding and won several awards for their culture along the way. With everything considered, culture simply cannot be ignored.
Building a strong culture is easier said than done and it’s especially challenging if hires are remote. Communication barriers such as differences in time zones and virtual interactions are some of the factors that complicate the process. However, it’s certainly not impossible. Use these strategies to effectively create a remote company culture:
Build an extensive hiring process
When hiring remote freelancers, don’t just look at their skill set. Ask questions that gauge their personality traits and determine whether or not they’d be a good cultural fit. An important factor to consider is communication style. Are they comfortable with weekly check-ins or do they prefer to work independently? Do they provide updates on their projects or wait until completion? Too often entrepreneurs neglect this aspect of the on-boarding process. Phone screenings and interviews give you the opportunity to get to know candidates, and they get to know you. This is also where you educate them about your company and assess their talent.
Invest in set up
Think of a hire like an app. You need to make sure all the features and functionalities work well and are frequently updated for a better output. Investing in set up goes beyond the initial introduction you give to a new hire. It extends to all the initiatives you take to ensure the best quality of work. Show them that you value their professional development. Create programs or purchase a library of courses that progressively position them as leaders in their field. The return on investment will be exponentially higher and you will be able to effective scale your company.
Communication is key in building a strong remote company culture. Whether that looks like weekly Skype calls or daily phone check-ins, create a medium for communication between you and remote hires. Provide clear instructions and set expectations. Create an environment of trust. Make sure hires are comfortable asking questions and understand what they are supposed to do. Show them that you value their feedback by encouraging them to give it and use that to improve your relationships.
Acknowledge great work
Psychology Dan Ariely performed a series of experiments that demonstrate that people are more likely to keep doing something when their efforts are acknowledged by others. While you can’t physically give hires a pat on the back, you can praise their achievements through an e-newsletter highlighting what they’ve done or by showing your gratitude though a direct phone call or email. You can also offer incentives to solve a particular problem, but only to a certain extent. Doing so goes a long way in increasing motivation and keeping freelance hires engaged.
I once worked at a startup that held weekly Friday meetings to go over the company’s progress. They’d review the week, highlight achievements, point out challenges and shortcomings then discuss areas of improvement. Everyone could attend, regardless of their position in the company. As an intern, I valued this culture of inclusion and transparency and it made me appreciate the company even more. I worked hard and eventually got promoted to a full-time, junior role.
I share this to show how staying transparent and making freelance hires feel included can contribute to your success. You can learn from anyone, and if you prioritize feedback, you will have enough information to keep growing your business and deepen your connections with hires.
What if freelancers could fulfill their personal goals while meeting the necessities of your business? This is what maintaining a strong and positive workplace culture can lead to. It’s a more important factor to your company’s success than you might imagine. When you build your culture around keeping hires (the very backbone of your company) happy and engaged, you pave the way for continued growth.
Shelcy Joseph is a freelance writer, social media strategist and career blogger. She is the voice of A Millennial’s Guide to Life, a career and lifestyle blog dedicated to helping multi-passionate creatives make a career out of doing all the things they love.