Nurturing and developing your culture has never been so important. As leaders, despite the uncertainty of current markets, we mustn’t lose sight of this.

The way leaders teams and organisations 'do things around here' has been put to the test over the past few months. The way we did things pre-COVID haven't all translated smoothly with the move to a new, remote workplace. As a result, teams can become disengaged and leaders are finding they need to rapidly adjust the way they lead.

Building a strong culture in a virtual space isn’t easy and will require constant nurturing to thrive. When people are impacted by such change as we've been experiencing, and the uncertainty attached to all that, leaders have to be mindful of culture even more than before. 

As we move through a transition period and into a new era, it’s almost inevitable that some things will stick while others fail. This is all part of the process. So, it’s crucial leaders keep a pulse on culture to see what’s working and what’s not and adjust as needed. The goal has to be a healthy virtual culture that breeds trust, communication, collaboration and engagement.

But how do we do that?

Well, here are a few ideas to help you along the way.

Virtual Tools For Building Teams

There is a huge range of technology designed to keep people connected. Donut is a 'bot' within Slack used to strengthen relationships and encourage virtual collaboration between team members and across organisations. It pairs team members who don’t frequently interact with one another and nudges them to connect. Reviews suggest people love the tool, meeting people they wouldn't normally have chatted with.

Some leaders have used Slack for hosting online quizzes. Teams are formed and the general channel is used to ask questions one by one. Each team submits a response to the organiser who then announces the winners.

We've heard of one CEO who asks a trivia question at the end of every conference call they have. Each person on the call teams up with another and the pair that answers correctly wins a prize. people are now looking forward to conference calls, so they can answer the trivia question at the end!

Finally, some leaders are playing with ways to create social time, the informal time where we learn so much about each other. It may be thought-provoking content, competitive games or simply to chat informally and unwind after a long week. One CEO has sent his team a fondue kit so they can meet over melted cheese (or chocolate) at the end of the week.

Sharing Skills & Knowledge

Some people have been experiencing unexpected downtime during the lockdown. Rather than being idle, there have been great examples of people focussing on development.

Investing in development doesn’t always require a financial outlay. Indeed, many leaders have been tapping into their existing talent pool.

Skillshare workshops provide people with an opportunity to talk on topics they enjoy or skills that they have. These mastermind sessions have been used to learn skills such as writing, email etiquette and much more.

We're also finding that where organisations have programmes for new managers, they're opening them up for aspiring talent, too.

Cross-training is another way people learn new skills. The benefit of cross-departmental learning is vast. For example, as well as developing a deeper understanding of the workflow or end to end process, it's a great way of building relationships outside of the immediate team. This opens up the possibility of lateral moves for talent within a company and also keeps them engaged and learning - even if there’s no room for career advancement.

Lastly, establishing a 'sharing club' is a great way to share resources and knowledge. People share books, podcasts, articles and video recommendations and then have discussions around them.

Recognition, Praise & Huddles

People are feeling isolated and one of the biggest challenges for leaders right now is to be visible but not intrusive. Communication needs to be natural and inflow, whilst praise needs to be delivered regularly. Some leaders still shy away from delivering praise because they have an outdated belief that it’s unnecessary to thank someone for doing what’s in their job description! However, people thrive on recognition and praise keeps them motivated - particularly in a potentially lonely workplace right now. But praise shouldn’t only come from managers, it must come from peers, too.

Having a team huddle at the start of each week is another great way to increase accountability and productivity. Each person is given a minute or two to share what they’re working on, what they need help with and what they hope to accomplish. At the end of the week or the start of the next week, the team should come together to review the progress they’ve made.

Wellbeing & Wellness

Working from home presents many challenges, one of them being self-discipline. Leaders can inspire healthy habits by holding and encouraging mobility breaks, meditation sessions, virtual yoga and mental wellness training. We heard of one CEO who held a virtual yoga session for 10,000 people a couple of months ago - wow! s

Wellbeing sessions can be employee-led at the start of each workday or during a lunch break. And mental wellness training can be delivered on topics such as self-care, diet, posture and stress management.

'Zoom burnout' is a phrase we're hearing more and more. Peter Arvai, CEO of Prezi, recommends keeping meetings to a maximum of 24 minutes, as the mind wanders after 18. He says leaders should also opt for recorded video when sending out communications they otherwise would’ve emailed.

Injecting Fun

Managers can minimise anxiety by injecting fun into the day. They can encourage people to share pictures of their pets, children, favourite quotes, cooking skills or films. We've seen #ThrowbackThursday pictures as a fun way to keep employees engaged and connected. Some leaders have their teams participate in a 'two truths and one lie' to create a curiosity about each other and a deeper connection.

Fun themed video meetings have been on the rise. Some have included best robe, silliest hat, favourite team and most fun virtual-backgrounds. The marketing team at Modern Spaces has taken on TikTok challenges and created funny, light-hearted videos to boost happiness.

You could hold a treasure hunt, asking the team members to find 10 items and share pictures of each. For example, school photo, the ice cream in their freezer, a ticket stub from a show they’ve attended or a board game they enjoy playing.

Call To Action

Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a phrase originated by Peter Drucker and made famous by Mark Fields, President at Ford.

It is an absolute reality! Any leader or company who disconnect the two are putting their success at risk.

So, how are you going to develop and nurture your culture in this new, omnichannel working environment?

Let us know what you come up with.