This story is a guest contribution from Juro, a contract automation platform that empowers legal & business teams to streamline routine contract workflow in one unified workspace.
Most companies have now had to work remotely for over a year. And although the opportunity to work remotely brought unexpected benefits – such as quality time with family, a more ‘human’ approach to work life, and lack of commuting – it also presented unique challenges, especially as businesses began to adopt remote models for the long run.
Company culture, for example, is a hot topic for people, talent, and leadership teams within scaleup companies. Defining a scalable culture for a business is challenging enough, but ensuring it also proves effective in a remote environment is even harder. To understand how to build a remote company culture, we must first start with the basics.
Defining Company Culture
Company culture is often misrepresented as beer pong and free lunches – when actually, the culture of a business runs much deeper than this. We can define company culture with three main points:
- The people we hire: How do they interact with each other, professionally and personally? This also involves hiring people that have certain skill sets required in a fast-paced scaleup, like adaptability, resilience, the ability to wear multiple hats, and so on.
- The processes we build: These include performance reviews, career development, learning opportunities, but they also encompass much more than that. These processes determine how easy and “human” it is to share feedback, to get a promotion, and so on.
- The things we give back: This covers things like benefits, wellness programs, a healthy work/life balance, and so on. It’s important to look at how the ‘perks’ the company offers match up to the input it’s getting from its employees.
The Value of Values
Extending an in-person office culture to a remote working environment doesn’t need to be a daunting project. In fact, the principles are the same. At its core, culture is just how people work together in a business - when a company’s culture is great, it essentially means people are great at working together. The principles that define and help to measure ‘great company culture’ are the values. At Juro, we have four: love the details, be more human, trust and deliver, and keep it simple.
We feed these values through everything we do:
- The offer letters our successful candidates sign have been designed with these values in mind
- We structure quarterly reviews based on how employees have demonstrated qualities that tie back to each value
- We ensure people are acknowledged for their work through a #shoutouts channel in Slack, where each shout-out is tied back to a company value
- We use these values to write our policies and make sure everything is inclusive and welcoming
The importance of strong values can’t be understated - they make an abstract concept like ‘company culture’ a little more tangible; offer a good steer on hiring decisions; and they’re easily transferable from an in-person, office world, to a remote-working environment. The challenge really lies in making sure those values are maintained in a world where people can’t see each other face-to-face and the processes aren’t visible.
So how should teams create a company culture that’s suitable for the remote world? Here’s how we did it at Juro.
1. Explore everything through a new lens.
Looking at existing policies and structures through the perspective of the remote worker presents questions you may not have even considered. For example, the sales team works in a collaborative environment, which is oftentimes facilitated by being in an office together, bouncing ideas off each other, and learning skills through osmosis as they hear each other’s calls.
If a sales representative is working remotely, they would likely miss out on these opportunities to connect with their colleagues and develop their skills. So, how do you rectify this and create a more accommodating environment? Being able to step away from your perspective (or asking for feedback from a fresh pair of eyes) can help you identify points of improvement that will help sustain a remote culture.
2. Communicate and over-communicate.
Most businesses aren’t good at communicating. When you’re working remotely, teams need to learn to over-communicate – both internally and within the wider business.n effective remote company culture ensures that people have a platform where they can raise questions and communicate effectively with others, as if they were speaking in-person, inside an office.
But more than that, a good culture should foster an environment where people feel comfortable enough to speak up and communicate with each other. Most businesses believe they excel in this until the employees have to work remotely — and then the issues crop up. At Juro, I worked with my team to try and get ahead of the problem, and during lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, we regularly asked for feedback so we knew where the business had to focus attention and improve.
3. Create processes for knowledge-sharing.
Playbooks are an effective way to share information and create a culture of transparency. We use Notion to share all the resources an employee may need for their first day, making it easy to access and understand the necessary information. When everyone is working remotely, saving information on personal desktops and within the depths of email inboxes isn’t going to work. Knowledge-sharing is essential in making sure everyone is aligned and on board with how the company operates, where the key resources are, and who to approach with questions and responsibilities.
4. Hire the right people.
Hiring remotely isn’t as daunting as it may sound - people and talent teams simply need to carry out a detailed, explicit discovery process. There are aspects of a candidate you can likely gauge from an in-person interview, but when the majority of people communicate through the medium of video calls, it can be a little easier to miss the key details.
Make sure you take this into account, and layer your discovery and interview process so that you can understand the candidate through virtual interaction. At Juro we also have ‘value interviews’ - sessions with employees from other teams in the business - to assess how the person fits in with, and adds to, our existing company culture, before we start sending out contracts.
5. Reassess your benefits.
Do your company benefits reach everyone in the same way? And if not, is there an alternative solution to providing the same benefits, so every employee feels included and valued?
Look at benefits your company offers, like health insurance, pension plans, parental leave, and so on, and make sure you address the questions above. Reassessing the benefits you offer to accommodate everyone can play strongly into culture. It can also affect both how a company views and treats its employees, as well as how employees feel and interact with each other.
Building a remote company culture sounds daunting and complex, but in reality it just begins with a few simple steps. Once you’ve fine-tuned your policies and bulked up your processes to accommodate this new way of working, you can ensure that your company will sustain its culture — remote or otherwise — as it continues to scale.
Thomas Forstner is head of people and talent at Juro, the all-in-one contract automation platform. Thomas joined Juro in April 2020, and previously worked at Paddle and Algolia.