In our previous article, we discussed the need for a remote work strategy and outlined the key steps to develop a robust strategy. Of the four steps, health system executives repeatedly identify culture as particularly challenging to get right. And we get it. Culture can seem like an elusive and slippery idea. But let’s demystify that idea and make culture concrete. In this article, we turn our focus toward helping you think through how to build a positive remote work culture.
It takes time and intentionality to build a great culture—but it’s well worth it. Research shows that U.S. workers value culture even above salary as they consider their job satisfaction, meaning the urgency is real to get this right.1 While culture isn’t built overnight, there is some good news: you don’t need a new toolbox. A positive remote culture relies on getting the building blocks of culture right—across on-site, remote and hybrid teams.
So, what are the building blocks of a strong culture?
Books have been written about culture. Here’s a quick look at three critical areas to focus on as you’re building your remote work culture:
- Belonging: Employees need to know they belong and how they fit within the company. This is particularly important for fully remote employees who are at more risk of feeling isolated. Making an intentional effort to create co-worker connection points both virtually and in-person is a tangible place to start.
- Putting it into practice: Do remote staff have ample opportunities to engage with onsite counterparts through periodic virtual or onsite team meetings? Do they have access to employee affinity groups?
- Recognition: Employees want to know their work matters. Remote workers should be able to draw a clear line between their contributions and the success of an organization. Managers need avenues to call out individual contributions and excellence—even for employees who are less “visible” across the organization.
- Putting it into practice: What can your organization do better to recognize and highlight the work of your remote staff? How can you build opportunities to celebrate wins virtually?
- Transparency: Remote employees should feel just as “plugged in” to leadership’s strategic decisions and plans as onsite employees do. Focus groups, rounding and “face time” are ways for leaders to make themselves more visible and available to teams—and these steps need to carry over to remote employees.
- Putting it into practice: How can leaders get to know remote staff better?
But is it working?
As with defining culture overall, the question of what does success look like can feel elusive. One key way we see organizations measure it is through an uptick in discretionary employee efforts.
Put simply, employees’ discretionary efforts manifest as their motivation to go the extra mile, especially when it’s not required. Examples of this include willingness to mentor new or junior staff, enthusiasm for flexing into stretch roles, and participation in employer/employee feedback channels, such as surveys and focus groups. Added together, these efforts create a workforce of employees who own their roles as contributors to culture. In a healthy culture, these individual contributions span across your organization, from frontline personnel to senior leaders.
Just as with building a house, building a robust culture takes time. You must lay a strong foundation and create opportunities for individual employees to contribute. Only when each employee feels ownership of culture does it become truly concrete–and able to outlive its leaders.
A Gallagher Health HR and Benefits Senior Consultant, sums it up:
“We are all owners of culture. And we need to empower people to be contributors. At what point did we stop allowing our workforce to be part of our solution?”
Interested in learning more about building a positive culture with your hybrid or remote workforce? Start a conversation with Gallagher today to discuss your next steps.
The Academy extends its appreciation to Gallagher for their sponsorship of this article
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (NYSE:AJG), a global insurance brokerage, risk management and consulting services firm, is headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. Gallagher provides these services in approximately 130 countries around the world through its owned operations and a network of correspondent brokers and consultants.
To learn more, visit www.ajg.com
 Jorgensen, Niki. “Beyond Compensation And Benefits: Why Company Culture Is Key.” Forbes, 14 Apr. 2022, Beyond Compensation And Benefits: Why Company Culture Is Key (forbes.com).