How do you create a shared identity in virtual teams?

To find out more about how you can create a shared identity in virtual teams we called Louis Jonckheere (CPO & Co-founder of Showpad) and asked if he could share some of their best practices concerning working together in virtual teams.

How do you make sure that newbies get introduced in the company culture when working from a distance?

In the early days, company culture is a natural thing. At the start, you only hire people that are very close to your own personal values. But once we scaled, we had to write down what differentiates our company culture. What is the behavior we will stimulate? That’s how we came up with our “showings”, these are the values of Showpad and we take these very seriously in our team. It all starts with hiring the right people. Our team decides if somebody has the skills to do the job, and Pieter-Jan (Pieter-Jan Bouten, Co-founder & CEO) and I still do a final “cultural check” with every person we hire! Is this person a match with our “showings” or not? So that’s the first step. After this, everyone goes through an on-boarding-process during the first days. We give them presentations on our showings, and tell them how they can make these tangible: 1) lead by example, 2) concrete guidelineson setting agenda’s, writing mails, communicating virtually, … After this, we follow up on them on a daily basis.

What are best practices to socialize with team members who work virtually?

Once a week, we have an “early bird/night owl” day on which we motivate our American team to start earlier, and our Belgium team to work later. Then they have a couple of hours more time to communicate with each other, “without” the barrier of the time difference. On these days, we also ask them to schedule some time for informal communications. They can go in a “hangout” and just talk about non-work related stuff. 

The Habit Magazine

Our people also travel a lot. We always have some people from the Belgium team working in America and vice versa. And at least once or twice a year, we bring them all together. It’s a big investment, but nothing beats face-to-face interactions, so it is essential. We also have an all-hands meeting every two weekson Friday afternoon. During this meeting everyone (really EVERYONE) calls in, and we use this meeting for thanking people/teams, celebrating work-anniversaries, announcing new hires and there is also a presentation delivered by one of the teams. So that’s another way to keep them all engaged and build a shared identity.

How to put this large, but interesting concept into practice?

Make it smaller!

4 Steps to create a shared identity

Communicate on the why

Make sure you don’t just communicate on the “what”, but also on the “why”. Why are you doing what you are doing? What do you believe in? Research shows that teams who have a shared understanding of their “why” and “what”, are more efficient, because they are just on the same page! Tip: Check out this video below of Simon Sinek on the difference between “the what and the why”, or read his book.

  • Step 1: Create your why:
 I want to… (contribution), in order to… (impact).
  • Step 2: Communicate on this why on a daily basis.

Reinforce what is shared

Make the things you share with each other more explicit and visible:

  • Shared goals. Tip: Share these during meetings, make shared goals visible on your project management tool.
  • Shared values. Tip: Tell stories that are easily linked with company values.
  • Shared purpose. Tip: Explicit the mutual end-goal during tough times.
  • Shared laughs. Tip: Use social media to create shared fun.

Pair buddies

Pair team members at random on a weekly basis and let them have a 15 minute call with each other. This is actually something they do at Zapier so that everyone knows who their team mates are! For more of their tips, click here to download their ultimate guide on remote work!

Group pride

And last and but not least, to create a shared identity within your virtual team, install a sense of “group pride“!

  • Celebrate accomplishments. Tip: Start every virtual team-meeting with sharing the “accomplishment of the week”.
  • Send physical or virtual rewards. Tip: Send an interesting book, flowers, a gift certificate, a “thank you” gif, … to show your appreciation.
  • Virtual hang-out time. Tip: To celebrate something (a new team-member, a birthday, Christmas…), schedule some virtual hang-out time or a virtual “happy hour” to celebrate together at the same time.

Good luck with those new virtual shared identity habits!

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