What’s a company without culture? This question was one that was on everyone’s lips during the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, as employees globally went into home office and the IRL office experience disappeared from our daily schedules. Does company culture disappear when there isn’t IRL interaction? After my experience at DCMN, I can firmly say no – and I’m confident that our hybrid future will see our culture evolve in a positive way.
Start from the top: establish your values
One thing I’ve learnt during the pandemic is that culture is truly adaptable, but also resilient. Back in 2010, DCMN started off with a five person team in a small office, before it grew to become a global company with over 150 team members. But what hasn’t changed is our values which guide us in everything we do. Whether it’s how we approach each other, how we work together, how we hire or even how we go our separate ways, these values didn’t disappear during COVID. Instead they got clearer and stronger.
You can see this through the story of our most valued principle: we care for each other. In my opinion this is the value that has kept us successful and together for over a decade now. We encourage everyone to take the effort of getting to know each other beyond daily business: learning about our strengths, our weaknesses, our challenges or to a certain level our private circumstances. We all take our ‘whole person’ to work, not only our business side – and it is much more fulfilling to work in an environment where we can talk and open up about what is challenging or bothering us, knowing that the colleagues and leaders around us will respond with respect and support. This brings me to the other core value that has become even more important for us at DCMN lately: candid till it hurts. We believe in direct, honest and constructive feedback and communication. This is especially important if a significant part of it happens virtually, where body language, or reading between the lines, is not really possible. For us, establishing a transparent and inclusive way of communication and information sharing has always been crucial for both our business and for our culture – and especially during COVID.
Each company has a unique but different culture. Your company is definitely different from ours – but it is essential to define clear values and live up to them in your daily business.
Let your leaders lead
Once you’ve done that from the top, you need to think about who knows your team members best. We believe that it’s the leaders who know their team and the individuals in it the best — and are thus able to pay attention to their different needs. That’s why our flexible working policy offers our leaders the chance to define how their team members work with each other – and on what days they come to the office. There’s a dedicated time and space to meet in person – all teams are required to meet two times a month minimum – but with huge flexibility to boot. Both leaders and the team can decide on meeting more often, but other than that, you can arrange your attendance in the office at your convenience.
This allows the leaders to take into account the needs and circumstances of their individual team members and respect their boundaries. After all, some of your team members may have families and other personal situations to keep in mind. Perhaps some of your employees are working in a different time zone, or maybe some of your team members are of the more introverted type, who may prefer a less social experience at work. Your leaders are best placed to account for all of these individual circumstances.
How DCMN does it
So how can you boost your culture in a remote environment? My biggest tip is to keep things ultimately very transparent. One thing we do is host bi-weekly all hands-on meetings, which include business updates, information on newbies and leavers and a whole host of ‘hoorays’ – projects or people we are very proud of (nominated by their leaders or team). And then we go even more granular for our monthly team updates, in which our different teams give updates on what they are working on, results they are proud of and even what they have learnt when things have gone not so well. Keeping everybody informed about what is happening across the company in such a transparent way really helps to boost culture.
And as for the fun stuff: the world’s your oyster! Be creative. One quick disclaimer though: it’s a big mistake to think that solely with some great parties and online games your company will have a ‘good culture’, but these get-togethers should not be underestimated either. Having dedicated time and space for non-work topics is crucial. Some things that we do at DCMN include both digital and IRL company-paid lunches and different team events., We go out of our way to make sure management is not siloed, by hosting monthly lunches with management. And here’s one for the future: twice a year we will be hosting whole company events where team members from all our international locations can meet each other. Whether you have a party, go go-karting or simply have a BBQ, creating a space for a real-world catchup (once it is safe to do so) definitely helps.
Some tips for keeping company culture alive
How else can you keep a company culture thriving? Here’s a number of tips I’ve collected over time:
- Don’t limit communication strictly to business – create a space in which your team members can also bond with one another, whether in person or not.
- Establish transparency across the business! One thing you can do is to make sure everyone is aware of the team and company goals – and how the respective team members are contributing towards their goals. This creates connection, showing how everybody’s work relates to one another across the entire company.
- Take the time to know your people’s needs. If you’re not sure, just ask them. Though we do have in-person conversations, we also work a lot with surveys — both anonymous and non-anonymous — to evaluate what works and what needs to be adjusted.
- Decide when to meet in person and when digital – make sure that all information is properly shared afterwards for those who could not attend or record the meeting. And make sure you choose a time when all international offices can be included too. Nobody wants to be left out!
- Culture is not designed and driven by the people team or by management: it’s a living, breathing, collective effort. We don’t believe that every idea has to come from above, indeed we encourage everyone to bring in their own ideas and kick them off if they think it would bring us together. Whether it’s money, time or location, the company provides the means for that. This includes groups who do sports together, play games in the evening, book clubs, cooking groups or even learning groups.
- Go out of your way to show appreciation and gratitude for your team members’ work! This is why we celebrate these things in our all-hand meetings – and encourage people to give public praise on our specially made DCMN praises Slack channel.
Company culture lives and changes over time – things that worked a few years ago might not match the next phase of your company’s growth. But one thing remains constant: core values, coupled with open and continuous communication with your team members, are essential to build a culture that enables the future growth of your organisation.