I want you to think about the culture at your place of work. Everyday you go into work, see your co-workers and form relations with the people that you work with. Whether this interaction between co-workers is positive or negative, it creates a sense of culture and teamwork.
I read the article “How to Build a Culture Across Your Virtual Workforce,” written by David and Carrie McKeegan, the co-founders of Greenback Tax Services. Greenback Tax Services is a global firm that prepares tax returns for expats living all over the globe.
The workforce of Greenback Tax Services employs associates stationed all over the world. Having a staff that is completely virtual normally does not constitute the ability to offer employees a sense of culture and unity due to the fact that they do not interact in face-to-face communication processes that a normal “office experience” provides.
The McKeegan’s believe that just because their associates do not participate in the traditional work environment doesn’t mean they can’t create a sense of comradery and relationship building within their company. They have used some interesting but practical installments to facilitate this development.
- One installment in Greenback Tax Service’s internal build is something that they call a “virtual water cooler.” The company uses two online database systems, Podio and NIng, which are an intricate part of each employee’s experience. Within these systems, personal experiences are shared between one another as daily questions and discussion boards are created for employee participation. These databases bring everyone together and let people connect on a personal level; much like the interactions that occur within closely knit office “families.”
- Another issue that the McKeegan’s found and addressed was the inability for virtual employment to establish employment principles, guidelines and a code of conduct for the associates to follow. Using feedback from their team, the two established over thirty principles in which each employee must follow. Once a month, through their online databases, they focus on a certain principle, which keeps these ideas fresh in the employee’s heads. Focusing on these principles ensures that employees don’t lose pride or forget the importance and professionalism of their company is.
- Recognition is something that every employee, no matter what industry, strives on. The lack of face-to-face contact constrains a manager the opportunity to recognize a job well done. The McKeegan’s have introduced two practices to recognize star employee work. “High Five Fridays” and “Best Practice Mondays” are two systems that facilitate recognition. “High Five Fridays” posts the names of employees that have gone above and beyond quotas and exceptional work every Friday; “Best Practice Mondays” posts a case study of someone within the office that has innovated a process or experience. These establishments give employees the credit they deserve along with creating a sense of community within the virtual employment team.
- Greenback Tax Services also encourages teamwork, acknowledging that employees are in different locations, time zones and environments. This sense of teamwork can be seen in the proxies that are instituted which allow employees to brainstorm ideas and submit them for review by other employment. This system brings employees together on the same projects while also establishing a sense on control within the business hierarchy.
I appreciate and am very impressed with the recognition and institutions against the lack of community found within a virtual work environment. David and Carrie McKeegan have found much success by ignoring the business norm and have institutes policies to create the teamwork that can now be seen within Greenback Tax Services.
McKeegan, David & Carrie. "How to Build a Culture Across Your Virtual Workforce."
Entrepreneurship.com. Entrepreneurship, 26 Sept. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2014.
Mauro, Vanessa. "John Coates: Insights From The Virtual Community Summit #VICROMM13." 25 Mar. 2013.