Scaling Culture: Retain Your Remote Developer Team’s Soul During Fast Growth
- Aayush Gupta
- March 28, 2022
- 6 Minute Read
Managing a remote team of developers is riddled with challenges.
Add in the burdens of a fast-growing remote developer team and your challenges just increased tenfold.
You no longer just need to keep in mind project progress, role dependencies, and nurturing productivity… But you also need to ensure that your growing team of developers are all still aligned with the original spirit and culture of the company.
You need to ensure every new developer is fully integrated into the company culture and feels connected with the team.
Without this, you will soon wake up to a demotivated, disconnected team, with disheartening performance levels and a derailing project.
With a report from Upwork predicting that the number of remote teams will be doubling in the next five years, remote teams are here to stay.
So here are 7 things you can do to scale culture in your fast-growing remote developer teams.
1. Identify your real, core values.
Yes, we know this sounds cliché. But the company culture is essentially a reflection of these values in action, combined with your team dynamic
So start with first figuring out what the core values of your company are.
And we mean, really dig down on them in a realistic sense, not just words that sound idealistic and nice on paper.
- Who are we as a company?
- What do we value?
- What matters to us?
- What are our priorities?
- What are we absolutely not okay with?
- What do we want to encourage in every single employee of the company?
- What is our mission?
- And as Simon Sinek says, what is our “why”?
2. Implement those values through systems.
Sure, you’ve narrowed down the real, core values that are the “soul” of your company/ team.
But if don’t take the next step, even they just become words on your about page, careers page, and onboarding memorandum.
Just having a town hall to announce and share these values isn’t enough, to scale culture in a fast-growing remote developer team.
Translate them into reality, by putting them into systems that are implemented.
This way, even remote new hires will be integrated into the company culture almost immediately.
For example, if you value open communication, create instant feedback mechanisms, and open communication channels on Slack for all members of your team.
3. Add some depth to your onboarding process.
The first impression, the first week, and the first-month matter, in ensuring the long-lasting success of a new addition to your developer team.
They might have passed your culture check and value check during the hiring process.
But now, it’s time for you to help them fit into the team and build a sense of real passion of the work. To ensure they feel like they are a part of the larger company mission..
A standard week-long onboarding process just doesn’t cut it when you have a remote team of developers. Add on the fast-growing aspect, and soon your “team culture” will start falling apart at the seams.
Here are some things you can do instead:
Share the origin story, the company’s big why, the mission, and spread the values.
Go beyond a basic information booklet. Organize a live call with the CEO, or have a recorded orientation video to let the message hit home.
Document the existing systems and processes followed by the team and the company.
During periods of fast growth in a remote developers team, core information gets scattered. The knowledge of systems and processes is limited to the minds of the original team members who rarely get the chance to interact with all new hires when working remotely.
Instead create official documents of the coding rules, systems, troubleshooting processes, problem-solving methods, and decision-making processes followed within the team.
Implement a buddy system for each new hire, for at least the first one month.
Not only will this help your new hires learn the ropes, but it will also help them quickly build relationships with their other remote teammates. (Helping employees build relationships with their peers and colleagues is another way to scale culture in fast growing remote teams.)
4. Virtual team-bonding events are key for long-term connection.
Sure, virtual happy hours are great!
But virtual team bonding can be so much more. Get creative with what you can do.
If you are a team of remote developers who love a hackathon, give that a shot. Or have interactive coding workshops, where people are paired up to work in teams.
Go beyond work, and think virtual game nights, online treasure hunts, funny quizzes, improv coaches, etc. Group employees into teams, so they get to interact, bond and build better relationships with their teammates remotely.
Also read: The Current State of Remote Working: Statistics, facts, and insights from a Changing Landscape
5. Let the teams take ownership.
Be willing to trust your developer team to take ownership and make the front-line decisions.
Fast growth can really quickly slow down your project pace if all the decision-making is still centralized in you (or any one person).
But if decision-making is delegated too fast, and without proper training and systems in place, things are likely to spiral out of control.
To avoid everything going haywire, let your team members in on the decision-making process.
Make the rules, dependencies and priority results, etc of the project be transparent information that they can access while making everyday decisions.
You don’t have to leave them to figure it all on their own with just the document. Have immediate feedback mechanisms for troubleshooting issues, or requesting support.
Encouraging ownership and decision-making will also help your employees feel more involved in working towards the larger company mission and goals.
6. Regular, “video-on” open line of communication.
Managing a fast-growing remote developer team means open lines of communication are absolutely essential to keep things smooth sailing.
It will help you stay on top of things, and detect issues before they blow up.
Plus your remote developers will feel heard and supported. And a happy employee is always more enthusiastic about championing the company mission.
(Don’t ignore the difference that speaking to someone face-to-face can make.)
If 1:1 meetings don’t fit your weekly schedule, then consider weekly video meetings with the whole team, open space meetings, and instant communication through platforms like Slack.
7. Acknowledge your developers’ successes.
This may not feel directly related to helping you scale culture in a fast-growing remote developer team.
But in a fast-growing company, with so many new hires taking over the workplace, the original employees can soon feel undervalued.
New remote hires, on the other hand, will soon feel disconnected from their work and the larger company mission if their contributions and successes aren’t acknowledged.
And according to a recent study, 64% of employees say that being recognized and appreciated is even more while working from home.
Research by Globoforce corroborates this. It found that employees who receive regular recognition are up to 8 times more engaged than those who don’t.
But, just a “good job!” at the end of a meeting isn’t always enough.
Go the next step by sending them gifts, hampers, or awards. Even a fun company t-shirt could do it.
Be generous with your bonus.
Celebrate the team’s wins at larger inter-departmental meetings, so they can receive love from other colleagues too.
Having your hard work or innovative ideas recognized and acknowledged is a great way to boost morale, and avoid the dreaded work-from-home burnout and dissatisfaction.
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