How to Scale Remote Teams

Building a remote team has never made more sense—but how to do you grow while retaining productivity and maintaining culture?

Watch the full broadcast of our webinar on Successfully Scaling Remote Teams with Terminal HERE.

83% of engineering talent is international, and 17 of 20 of the leading coding schools are located outside of the US. Building a remote team that capitalizes on talent all over the world has never made more sense on paper. But once you go remote, how do you instill company values and build strong relationships with teams you don’t get to interact with in person? We sat down with Terminal to answer your questions live.

How would you deal with conveying company culture to your remote employees?

When you’re operating remotely, communicating culture is something that needs to happen intentionally at every phase of the employee lifecycle, starting on Day 1. Intentionally communicating culture and norms really starts with documentation like wikis, handbooks, and how-to-work-with-me guides. Another great communication channel is an onboarding buddy: assigning someone to help bring life to written resources, lead by example, and help new hires through an adjustment period. Last but not least, creating company rituals in which everyone partakes, from onboarding sessions at HQ to ongoing virtual happy hours, can create a sense of cultural cohesion.

What ideas do you have for fostering culture between distributed teams?

Fostering culture really starts with authentic connections between teammates. Here are our favorite ways to encourage productive interactions and get teammates talking:

  • Daily standups in Slack across offices/time zones where everyone shares what they’re working on.
  • Weekly or monthly all-hands meetings with participants in all locations. Follow the one person/computer/camera rule so it’s easy for anyone to contribute information, raise a hand and ask a question, or offer feedback.
  • Running a virtual coffee program. Use Donut to introduce colleagues from different departments or offices for a Zoom, Facetime, Skype, or Slack video call. Some teams provide gift cards or send coffee and tea care packages to remote employees’ homes. Extend this to the whole company through teamwide digital-first happy hours.
  • Adding a buddy system for new hires. Acclimating to a new company is tough, but a built-in buddy gives new hires a sense of social belonging (and they’re a good source of intros to other colleagues).
  • Consider a job shadowing program for all employees (not just new hires). Job shadowing builds empathy, and creates an open line of communication to someone trusted in another department that can offer perspective and help troubleshoot.
  • Host an annual in-person gathering for all teammates at HQ or a neutral location. It’s a great opportunity for some colocated work and an investment in social relationships.

How can teams keep remote employees motivated?

Remote workers need encouragement and positive reinforcement just like anyone else, and it’s important not to let those rituals fall by the wayside even if you’re not working in the same office as someone else.

Making time for regular 1-1s between direct reports and managers (and sticking to the schedule) is a great place for both positive and constructive feedback, and templates for what topics to cover are helpful. Remote-friendly recognition platforms like Blueboard and Bonusly make it easy to thank or congratulate coworkers for accomplishments big and small, and surface those interactions on Slack for everyone to see. Even if you’re not rolling out a formal recognition program, some of our favorite easy changes include creating a #little-wins Slack channel, and adding a “gratitude” section to all-hands meetings where colleagues can thank each other.

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