A positive work culture is important for any company when it comes to recruiting, hiring, and retaining amazing employees. For companies like Rulesware, with a distributed work environment—that is, with employees located in multiple national and international locations, collaborating on projects together—building a positive and inspiring work culture is critical.
The Importance of Values and Culture
We know that employee engagement matters. It matters, of course, to employees, to the organization and colleagues they work with, and to the clients they serve. We know this through experience—and research supports it, too. The Corporate Leadership Council, to cite just one example, studied the engagement level of 50,000 employees around the world, and found that engaged companies grew profits as much as three times faster than their competitors, and that highly engaged employees were 87 percent less likely to leave the company.
Why Employee Engagement Matters To Rulesware
Employee engagement matters enormously to us at Rulesware. Our CEO, Anthony Lee, has been crystal clear on that point since he founded Rulesware in 2004: “People are everything in this company. I founded Rulesware because I believe that if you hire talented people with integrity and heart, and work hard to keep them engaged and excited about their work, then your clients will get great results too. Keeping those talented people inspired is our job as an organization, and my role as CEO. I take that responsibility seriously.”
How, then, to cultivate a strong work culture with engaged employees and teams, when there are thousands of miles between colleagues? Every company is different of course, but we share here just a few of the approaches that are working for us at Rulesware.
1. Clarify and Celebrate Your Company Values
‘Fostering company culture’ sounds good—but just what kind of culture are you interested in fostering? At Rulesware we recently assessed and reevaluated the values that guide our behavior and decision-making. And once we did, we found that all kinds of things—from coaching to performance reviews to social media—got a whole lot easier. It’s now clear to everyone we work with, from candidates to employees to clients just what we stand for. It makes it easier to start conversations, find the right recruits, and to talk to one another when we all know what we have in common. Isabel, in our El Salvador office, even went so far as to add our values to the wall. Check it out.
2. Cultivate a ‘Hub’ or Portal for Sharing Knowledge
Having the right tools in place to communicate is a must for remote workers. A few years back, we realized that we had multiple systems at play: Sharepoint for some teams, a company intranet tool for others, and of course email, Dropbox and lots of other ways to share ideas and documents. But even with all those tools, people weren’t communicating or sharing knowledge effectively. After digging into our larger business goals and confirming that better communication and knowledge sharing was a true priority, we invested in the development of a mobile, social intranet that we call our Hub. Built using Jive software, Hub is easy to access (employees have SSO access with their company email addresses), and facilitates peer-to-peer communication and content sharing, which is a lot more fun and collaborative than having standard one-to-many corporate communication. 100% of our employees now use our Hub, and 85% of our employees use the portal regularly—often many times a day—to find an HR policy, welcome a new hire, share an idea, download a PPT template, see a new internal job posting and so much more.
3. Use Your Portal For Fun Stuff, Too!
The best part about our new company portal, as it turns out, is how much fun it is. People are sharing photos, ideas, and solutions to problems. And we’re all feeling that we know each other a little better—even when we’ve never met each other (in some cases) in person. Monthly “quests” have been a big part of that: we put out a challenge once a month that everyone can participate in, and we offer a small prize as an incentive (gift cards are a popular choice). Last month, for example, we put out a challenge to our teams to take the best team photo–no limitations. Every one of our teams entered, getting creative with their submissions when their teams, too, were located remotely. The contest generated 1,648 views in one day (we only have 182 users!), indicating huge interest in the fun, funny photos. Check out a few of our favorites below. AND the team that won (Decepticons!) used their gift card to buy muffins for the entire El Salvador office. Now those are good company values!
Another great example has been a coding challenge, launched and delivered monthly by Diego, one of our junior developers in El Salvador. The winner of each challenge receives points on Jive and a small prize. As Diego said, when launching the series: “We all love PegaX, which is a Java-based programming language; one of the most popular out there. So I thought about code challenges! Having code challenges will increase our knowledge share, it will help everybody to learn about different programming languages and find new way to resolve algorithms.” And it has. Each challenge receives numerous responses and generates discussion and some genial joking. It’s been a fun way to engage people while engaging the coding brain. Way to go, Diego!
4. Use a Variety of Communication Tools and Channels
Although we love our Hub, that’s only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to bringing people together. Rulesware also continues to host bi-monthly Town Hall forums using GoToWebinar software, each forum featuring up to five different speakers on a variety of issues. And the speakers are always followed by an open question-and-answer session. We’ve found that many of our teams order pizza to watch and participate in the town halls, and that attendance is at about 75-80%. The Town Halls allow us to present company news, direction and new ideas in a slightly more formal setting, while still allowing a number of people and new voices to be heard.
5. Meet Up In Person When You Can
There’s nothing like actually talking and laughing with someone else in person, is there? We know it, and organize gatherings whenever we can to allow our employees to get together and really get to know one another.
Every year, we hold at least one all-company gathering in the US, and El Salvador, respectively, and this year we’ll be hosting a holiday party in Mexico too, for all our new team members and their families.
6. Give and Receive
A company with common values is a company that can—and should—put those values to work for others, too. We recently launched an Employee Giving Program at Rulesware, providing us with a way to give back to our communities in meaningful and impactful ways and to encourage employee engagement.
Every year, we hold two get-outside-the-office-and-roll-up-our-sleeves service projects in El Salvador and Mexico. For our US and Canada folks we regularly hold service projects at our summer and holiday events. We also try to make a point of providing giving opportunities throughout the year–and not just at holiday times. Our planning committees get together during the year to solicit employee ideas for projects, decide which ideas to proceed with, and organize the logistics for each project.
We’ve even dedicated a space in our Hub to regularly highlight through pictures and posts our employees’ various grassroots, community-based donations of time and money. These projects bring people together for excellent reasons and causes, and cement the shared values that we hold.