Developing Company Culture in a Virtual Environment

About a year ago, Speek’s team worked out of an office just outside of Washington DC. Since then, our team has grown tremendously and is spread out across four time zones. Throughout this transition, I was concerned with how to develop and nurture the company’s culture. Our mission at Speek is to save people from horrible conference calls, but we also make sure to have fun while doing it. In an office environment, it’s relatively easy to take people out on a quick business outing or play a game of trivia before a meeting. Personal interactions don’t take a lot of effort, and people are surrounded by the company culture. What comes naturally in an office becomes a challenge in a remote environment. Here are some important things that I learned to pay extra attention to, that might be useful in helping your culture thrive.


Hire Like Minded People

A strong company culture relies on having the right people with a shared philosophy. Our team is consisted of people with a good sense of humor, a touch of quirkiness, and a strong work ethic. More importantly, our team works well together. In order to keep this team dynamic, I’m very careful about who I hire. These are some steps I recommend:

Ask your current employees if they recommend anyone. Since they’re an employee, they clearly share the qualities you’re looking for in a candidate (company culture, work ethic, etc.). Chances are your employees won’t recommend people they wouldn’t want to work with.

When hiring a new team member, look past the resume. A person’s personality is just as important as their past work history when working in teams. Instead of doing a formal Q&A, have a casual conversation that gives information about their personality. Get a second opinion and involve the rest of the team in the interview process, especially those who would be working closely with the candidate.


Create Total Transparency

A ‘team member’ is not a title, it’s a mindset. Strong teams consist of people who feel like part of a team and striving to reach a common goal. Being open about the company goals helps everyone feel connected and valuable to the organization. To achieve this, we lay everything out in the open for everyone in the company on a weekly basis: where we stand, how we’re doing, and the goals that we want to reach. We also don’t hold back on celebrating successes and to commend team members on their hard work.


Keep a Fun Atmosphere

Keeping a fun business culture doesn’t have to stop at the office. With the communication tools available today, you can continue to have fun through team building activities and building personal relationships. Here are a few examples that I recommend which we are currently doing at Speek.

Create a Watercooler – In HipChat we have a lobby dedicated to conversation topics about anything. There are no rules. People share interesting articles, funny gifs, and sometimes too much information about themselves. But it’s all about getting to know each other, right?

Team Building Activities – We published an article a few weeks ago that gives a few good ideas of team building activities to use in a virtual environment. We try to have fun team building activities as often as possible. Whether it’s trivia or charades, a quick team building activity is a great way for everyone to connect on a personal level.

Attend Online Events Together – The other day we all watched the Apple announcement for the new iPhone and iWatch. At the office we gathered together in the conference room with our laptops, while chatting with our remote team members as they were watching from home. I learned two things from this experience: we all want to learn more about the iWatch, and not everyone likes U2.


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