Guest post by Melissa Perry of Cooleaf, an employee engagement platform driving business growth through recognition, rewards, and immersive experiences.
Let’s be honest: Keeping remote teams engaged is tough. And right now, it’s more challenging than ever.
Sure, there are methods you can use to boost engagement, like regular check-ins, remote team-building activities, and using collaboration apps – and all of these are good tactics.
But none of those things will matter if employees aren’t aligned with your core values.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is thinking that core values are a nicety, rather than an all-important necessity. The truth is that core values are vital to keeping your business afloat during difficult times.
Why are core values so important right now?
Company culture is hard to manufacture. It’s formed over time through company traditions, events, and daily interactions between people on your team. Those well-worn paths eventually create what becomes company culture, and it plays a part in motivating people to do their best work.
During ordinary times, your company culture might revolve around in-person engagement activities: happy hours, office lunches, impromptu coffee chats, etc. But in a virtual workplace, it’s harder for those well-worn paths to form. The fun activities, serendipitous interactions, and idle non-work related chatter that serve to boost morale and keep people moving together are often absent on a remote team.
That’s why core values are even more critical for virtual teams.
Core values light the way for your team. They tell employees, prospects, and customers who you are as a company. And if your team doesn’t know who you are or what you’re about – well, they’re not going to be able to effectively represent your brand.
Employees want (and need) to see how their work is contributing to something larger than themselves.
In the absence of in-person interactions, employees can lose their sense of belonging. Strong core values give employees a shared sense of commitment, allowing them to rally behind a united cause.
Integrity. Compassion. Teamwork. Drive. It’s important to remember that core values are about collective behaviors, as well as individual behaviors. In a virtual environment, shared core values are a powerful reminder that no one person can achieve everything on their own. In this way, core values foster connection and trust between employees.
By embracing core values, your team can overcome difficult situations and achieve positive results, even while working remotely. But it’s important to live your core values, not just talk about them. Here’s how.
How can you reinforce your core values with a distributed team?
Every company is different, and the way you choose to promote and reinforce your values should reflect your own unique culture and brand. But there are a few proven ways to bring core values to life:
1. Recognize employees for demonstrating core values.
When you empower employees to reward and recognize others for living your company’s core values, those values will become more tangible. Recognition allows you to highlight your values in terms of real, everyday behaviors – not aspirational concepts.
For example, if “tenacity” is one of your core values, you can highlight that value by recognizing an employee who goes above and beyond to make a difficult customer happy. This gives employees a positive example of what it looks like to demonstrate that core value during an ordinary work experience. And including a small reward with this recognition can reinforce the value even further.
Create a recognition program where employees can easily recognize, spotlight, and reward examples of your values in action. Recognition is powerful, especially when it’s tied to specific behaviors. Platforms make it easy to create a custom employee recognition program based on your values.
2. Frequently communicate your core values to current employees.
In a physical office environment, core values usually appear on the walls around the office. But in a virtual environment, it’s important to find other ways to keep the values top-of-mind. Whether you post your values on your company intranet page or share them in your weekly newsletter, keep your core values front and center by bringing them into your day-to-day remote team communication.
You can also bring core values into your meetings. For example, in your next all-hands meeting, try inviting your leadership team to share business updates in terms of the values. Or, start the meeting by having team members shout out examples of recent actions that align with company core values. By being transparent about the way that your company lives up to your values, along with the ways you’re working to improve, you will help build employees’ trust and understanding.
3. Bring core values into employee hiring, onboarding, and ongoing development.
Hiring managers should always list company values on career pages and evaluate new job candidates based on your company values. The goal here is to attract candidates who share your values and deter those who don’t. In addition, by evaluating candidates along the lines of company core values, it’s easier to qualify whether candidates are a “culture fit” or not.
After hiring a new employee, be sure to introduce the core values early and demonstrate their importance. Share videos, flyers, and resources to help them get to know your values.
And remember: Even if employees know what your core values are, they also need to understand what they mean. From hiring to ongoing employee development, core values need to be reinforced and repeated through training and development.
The good news is that there are lots of creative and fun ways to engage team members with your values. For example, you could choose one value to focus on each month and ask team members to submit examples of this value in action. Then, share these stories at your next all-hands meeting. Or, host a virtual trivia party and include questions about your core values. Answering trivia questions can help employees expand and deepen their knowledge without much effort required.
Take our free course: Managing team dynamics in a downturn.
Final thoughts on core values and accountability
Giving lip service to core values isn’t enough. Your core values need to drive the lived, everyday experience of your team. But living the core values also means holding people accountable for achieving them. And this is where many companies fall short.
For your values to be successful, everyone in your organization must be responsible for living your values. Senior managers need to consistently role model the values and use them to support their vision, and employees need to carry them out as they perform their work. If your core values are the foundation of your culture, your entire company must share the responsibility of bringing core values to life.
In a remote work environment, where people aren’t able to easily “see” what their peers are doing, accountability around core values is especially important. By clearly defining your values and building accountability into them, you can start to build a culture of trust, integrity, and honesty. And this, in turn, will lead to higher business results.
When you bring your core values to life through recognition, communication, and ongoing development, your team will be more passionate and committed to your business growth. And when everyone on your team lives by your core values, you can take on just about anything.