One of the great–and most challenging–things about business in today’s digital environment is that people can work from anywhere. The opportunities afforded by being able to hire top talent regardless of geographical location are exponential. At the same time, it can be difficult for a company to cultivate a positive corporate culture throughout a remote workforce.

Here are some of the things we at XTIVIA do regularly to promote our culture and engage all our employees in our business and performance targets.

Definition of Corporate Culture

First, a brief overview of what ‘corporate culture’ really means in practice. In the 1980’s Edgar Schein, a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, came up with three distinct levels that defined an organizational culture:

1. Assumptions – shared (and sometimes unconscious) habits, perceptions and feelings about how the world is and the company’s relationship(s) with it.

2. Values – shared statements of meaning, professionalism, cause-and-effect, beliefs about right and wrong.

3. Artifacts and behaviors – anything that identifies the company, like physical objects (swag), jargon, inside jokes, dress code, shout-outs, video calls, chats and other elements that are visible from outside the organization.

The new buzzword that relates to corporate culture is ’employee experience’, meaning how employees are experiencing your brand, your company, and their inter-company relationships.

Altogether, a corporate culture defines and shapes how staff should behave within the organization. It sets the context for everything that happens within an enterprise and is unique to that organization.

What is the value of a strong corporate culture? Professor James L. Heskett wrote in The Culture Cycle that “an effective culture can account for 20-30 percent of the differential in corporate performance when compared with “culturally unremarkable” competitors.” A positive corporate culture not only beneficially affects the organization’s bottom line but is a competitive advantage.

Within the greater organizational culture are team sub-cultures, typically led and modeled by practice and team leaders. That said, every employee recognizes the greater organization’s identity, mission, and culture.

What XTIVIA Does to Build Our Culture

All the above can sound a little clinical. That is NOT the XTIVIA way! Instead, we think of our corporate culture as the pulse, or the heartbeat, of our organization. It’s a very real way for our people to connect with what matters for our collective achievement and, frankly, bottom-line sustainability.

Below are the nuances that make up our approach to corporate culture. Honestly, I didn’t realize there were quite so many but, since I’ve identified them, I’m sharing them all here. Maybe other companies can do it more simply but, for XTIVIA, I’m proud that we’ve put a lot of energy and commitment to being our best for over 25 years. We may not have known what we were doing when we started but we have a pretty good formula for success now.

1. We know and state our vision, mission and values. By putting it out there directly, potential and current employees know exactly what we expect and orients our business decisions and work ethic.

2. We have visionary leaders and employees who watch for emerging trends so we can take advantage of new opportunities and prepare our teams for what’s ahead. We have meetings with leadership and with our business units for specific initiatives, marketing strategy and action, collaboration and general communication.

3. We communicate through personal and group calls, our employee intranet, newsletter, employee surveys, team and 1:1 meetings (including video chats), Google Hangouts and emails as needed. We even use snail mail to deliver various gift items through our awards and recognition program Everyone is available to everyone else in the organization with an open environment, regardless of role, location or team. Our leaders are encouraged to be sensitive to nuances in communication, performance, and behavior to know when a conversation with a staff member can be helpful or is needed.

4. We hire the best of the best, using rigorous hiring protocols and software, like HRAvatar and DISC to help with hiring decisions. Our intention is to not only attract and hire the best but to keep them for a long-term relationship. Why? Because we know our power is in our people. It begins with an intensive on-boarding orientation, benefits package overview and introduction to their new colleagues and team. And where it makes sense, we send a little company swag from time to time.

5. We appreciate diversity. Having a mix of in-office with several physical bases of operations and global, remote staff members means we must be aware of local norms and customs. We encourage being aware of the time zone and language differences. Regardless of location, every employee is valued as equals. We hire people from different stages of life to get a range of perspective. This gives us different skills and abilities to draw from in meeting our customers’ needs and expectations. And I take the time to travel to our various locations regularly to get to know our employees.

6. We invest in our employees. We encourage training and certifications, health benefits and employee perks like holiday and productivity initiatives, flex time, flexible spending accounts, bonus contests, and other leading-edge ideas as they present. Wherever we can, we acknowledge and recognize our employees for their stellar contributions. And we encourage avoiding burn-out by taking at least 10 days of time off annually, shutting down at the end of the day, and taking weekends completely off.

7. We upgrade our policies and protocols when reasonable to add even more value to our employees, such as a flexible paid time off policy, and listen to employee survey results. Transparency and authenticity are foundational for making sure our policies and protocols are relevant to our staff.

8. We clearly define roles and protocols to avoid potential misunderstanding and ensure maximum efficiency. Each person is important or they wouldn’t be a part of our team. We support a win-win-win environment (the individual, our company and our customers) by documenting and upgrading our processes as needed.

9. We measure our performance as an organization, within business units, and for individual achievement and provide feedback. (We also ask for feedback!) We share our performance needs, goals and targets openly. When you have performance targets and measure progress against them, results happen. Where there are unexpected outcomes there is an invitation for change and growth. This creates accountability and helps us develop and/or refine our priorities.

10. We approach change as a necessary adaptation to our customers and our market; being agile is a key to sustainability and being competitive over the long term. Our goal is to enhance performance and, sometimes, that means innovation and innovation’s ‘sister’ – disruption. We do what we can to make change as smooth as possible within our organization.

11. We make sure our technology fits our employees’ needs for peak performance. Just as importantly, our employees need to feel they belong and technology can help make that happen in a digital workplace. We take the time to learn about what our employees need and do our best to accommodate them.

12. We trust our employees to make good decisions in their relationships with our customers. It is important our customers (and employees) receive value from their relationship with our company. We are confident that our staff always does their best and, if anything gets in the way of that, we are standing by to help solve problems and remove barriers. A blend of independence and support ensures our customers get the best results.

13. We celebrate accomplishment. Whether it’s a project milestone or a work anniversary or a published blog, we give shout-outs and kudos for getting things done, making things happen and continuing our relationship over time. Many of our staff seem to be over-achievers, extremely dedicated to creating customer outcomes, and we don’t take that for granted. As a result, we have many employees who have been with us for a decade or more – that is real cause for celebration.

Personally, I’m proud of how XTIVIA has grown over the years. As of this writing, we are at about 350 employees with half a dozen physical locations in North America and India. We have developed a great company based on our people, our customers and our capabilities to meet the needs of both no matter where they are located. We have found that having a positive corporate culture keeps people happy and engaged as well as competitive in terms of hiring and attracting business.

I hope you found my thoughts on XTIVIA’s corporate culture helpful. If you’d like to talk about anything related to cultivating a positive corporate culture for your own company, I’d be happy to share more personally. Just message me and we’ll set up a call together.

This post was originally published to LinkedIn.

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