Editor’s note: This article is the first in a two-part series about culture and remote teams.
Culture is king in successful organizations. But executives who want to embrace the benefits of distributed teams—from higher productivity and happiness to lower stress and turnover in the workforce—often grapple with the following question: Isn’t it hard to nurture a healthy culture when your employees are far away from each other?
Our experience at Toptal demonstrates that this is a misconception. Over the last five years, we’ve grown our core team to hundreds of people and hit a nine-figure annual revenue run rate—all in a 100 percent remote organization.
The unique challenges of managing a distributed team can actually create an incentive to create of a stronger culture than teams that operate face-to-face. This may seem counterintuitive, but while local teams tend to assume culture will take root organically, the stakes are higher for distributed organizations. This motivates remote executives to be intentional about building culture, ultimately resulting in stronger teams.
In this article, I’ll walk through my organization’s playbook for creating a successful remote culture, from defining assumptions and values to propagating and maintaining culture through best practices in hiring, communication and management.
There are dozens of ways to define culture, but we base our definition on empirical research conducted by Edgar Schein, professor emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Schein defines culture as a pattern of basic assumptions and values, discovered or developed by a group, which are proven to lead to success.
Schein visualizes culture as a pyramid with three layers. The top slice consists of “artifacts and practices.” These are tangible things and behaviors you can see and observe within a team,...
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