Organizational Culture

Don’t Let Culture Be a Weapon – 3 Steps To Creating an Inclusive Virtual Culture

Inclusive Virtual Culture

Creating a vibrant, comprehensive work culture is a worthy goal for many organizations and can increase morale and retention across the business. But we can’t ignore how culture can also make people feel excluded. Just one example: think of a traditional investment banking culture, with very late hours and a value on presenteeism. How does this feel for working parents? Or anyone with important, time-bound commitments outside of the office? Those people are left out, despite the strength of the culture and its vibrancy for those on the inside. And despite their talents.

No one wants to live in that world anymore. Being empathetic to your team and to your organization means making sure that how your culture makes everyone feel is taken into account.

How does culture become a weapon? When it’s inclusive for some but not for others. This might manifest in:

  • Hours worked
  • Holidays celebrated
  • Pop culture references or ageism that leave some out
  • Time zone preferences
  • Communication preferences, e.g., written versus verbal

The issues with a non-inclusive culture are myriad. It’s bad for retention. It squelches diverse thinking. It’s bad for psychological safety, when people don’t believe they can bring their whole selves to work.

What can you do about it?

The first step is to define your reasons for wanting a team with a good culture. A cohesive team that trusts each other is a good reason for creating a culture, but what else would make your organization better? Then think about what activities will genuinely contribute to this. The culture that is accidentally or passively created in an office often isn’t serving the ultimate aims of the team.

The second step in creating an inclusive company culture is writing down, as comprehensively as possible, how your people define your culture. What has the ostensible, top-down culture turned into for employees? Is this the culture your firm wants? If it’s not, it’s time to rewrite your new cultural manifesto, a guide to the business’s behavior, drivers, and ethos. After you’ve mapped out your culture and how it aligns with your values, the last step is to make sure this doesn’t leave anyone out. Ask yourself, in conjunction with a group of people representing different perspectives, what about this might now work for some people? You can’t please everyone, but you have to be certain ignorance doesn’t cause you to exclude valuable team members. 

Thirdly, set up a system to make sure your culture framework evolves to meet people’s needs. Poll your team more than once a year; how do people define the culture, and how do they see it manifesting within the group? Ask for people to flag when they feel left out, creating an anonymous system if necessary. For virtual teams, it can be harder to see the effects of a negative or exclusive culture. Being committed to surveying the team both publicly and privately signals to employees that your organization takes culture seriously and you’re committed to creating an evolving, inclusive workplace.

The massive overhaul of working norms that came with the pandemic is a perfect time to implement changes that welcome diversity. If your culture transcends virtual and breeds happiness and success for your entire team, you’ve nailed it.

Also read: Collection of Articles on Leadership


About the Author

McKenna Sweazey is a remote and hybrid management author and coach, having spent years working in global organizations, managing remote teams around the world. Her passion is helping people harness empathy to better connect with their colleagues to drive success, making their management skills as effective in person as from 6,000 miles away. Follow her on LinkedIn for more actionable ways to succeed in remote-first work culture.