Build a community. Create conditions for making friends. Make every employee feel a part of a team. Let people get to know each other. This can be done in many ways.
At Scalac, we have implemented online meetings called “Pizza Days’ ‘. The goal is to share knowledge, exchange experiences, but also simply to get to know each other. The meetings have the formula of short presentations and workshops carried out by team members for other team members. Attending meetings is not obligatory. The topics of the meetings are not imposed. There are presentations on programming languages as well as hobbies. Recently we had a presentation on ant breeding by @mishashu. Of course, the meetings have a remote formula. We use a tool called Zoom for their organization. We record meetings so that people who cannot participate can watch videos at a convenient time.
We try different things to keep in touch and build people’s engagement. One of these is gamification. For example, we once organized a birthday contest using the Kahoot app (alternatively you can also use Mentimeter).
Besides remote work, we also believe in face-to face-time. That is why we have offices in Gdansk, Warsaw, Rzeszow, and San Francisco and support some co-working spaces in other places. Finally, we also organize company retreats twice a year; after all, the fact that we work remotely doesn’t mean we don’t need to see each other face-to-face at all. We encourage employees to visit our headquarters from time to time and say hi. We often meet at various IT conferences, workshops, and hackathons.
In addition, we organize themed slack channels, which are a slightly different way of exchanging gossip at the coffee machine. We have various channels such as #music, #boardgamegeeks, #active (for fitness lovers), #mems, #football, #fifa, #pancakes and more! We’ve also created a dedicated #kudos channel, where team members can thank each other for important things. This is absolutely crucial to enable people to appreciate each other. Thanks to the inspiration of another company, we are opening a dedicated Slack channel called #open-space with video chat available. If you are working on something that does not require concentration and you want to talk, you can join the conversation.
It doesn’t matter if a company is growing or is already large, employees must know the principles of cooperation. At Scalac, this is the role of the Scalac Handbook, where we have put together all of the most important rules. We write a new chapter, based on new experiences, every day.
We believe in transparent communication. That’s why our CEO meets regularly with the team during our so-called Ask Me Anything sessions (AMA). Each employee can put questions in a dedicated Excel document. During the AMA, answers are provided by the CEO with the support of other core team members responsible for areas such as Finance, HR, Business Development, Project Management, and Marketing. This is a good time to dispel any doubts, get answers to problems. This open formula teaches us to take a transparent approach to communication. During these meetings, various questions are asked. From casual ones through to those about the company’s strategy and financial condition. If your CEO isn’t able to take part in this kind of meeting, you can engage the HR department / Project managers etc. Find your own way.
We also regularly issue an online internal newsletter called the “Scalac Times”. Every team prepares content related to its area, and thanks to this our employees can receive comprehensive updates every month.
When it comes to remote work, it is very important to care about team motivation and job satisfaction levels. We would love to be in constant contact with everyone every day, but we all know that a growing number of employees doesn’t make it any easier. Still, it’s extremely important to know how every employee feels and what their level of happiness at work is.
For some time we looked for an idea to effectively communicate with the team in this regard. As a result, we implemented the so-called “Pulse Bot” – an app connected with Slack – which regularly asks each employee five short questions about work satisfaction both in the company and in a given project. As a software house, Scalac must measure these two areas at the same time, because the team is in constant contact with both the company and the client’s team. This tool allows a quick response in the case of lower or worrying results.
But Pulse Bot only collects information. If the answers show that the employee is unhappy, someone from the HR team or the PM reaches out to figure out what’s going one and what we can do about it. Technology is only a tool. In the end, there always has to be a human.
Build an open company and a culture of feedback. Show employees that you not only openly give feedback but you are also open to their comments and recommendations for improvements. Show them the changes that you have implemented thanks to them. Encourage employees to give each other feedback and to base their feedback on examples of real behavior and situations. At Scalac, we try to regularly give each other feedback – from employees to company and from team to employee.
We collect feedback from team members who are working closest to the employee over a certain period of time. To do this, we use Survey Monkey. Before the feedback talk, people receive feedback in the form of a graphical report on what their colleagues have assessed as their pluses and what the things worth changing are.
During an online conversation with the employee, we discuss feedback and pass our observations to the Mentor / HR team member or Project Manager, depending on the situation. We gather complex feedback after the first month, then after three months and then every six months, but in general, we’re always up to date with Project Managers and teams on this matter.
People need direction. That is why we try to make every employee define their professional goals in any given year. Once a year, we organize a “Performance challenge” – this sums up the goals we’ve set in the last year and gives an opportunity to define the goals for the following year.
We try to support our teams in different ways. Everybody has a dedicated development budget to spend during the year. However, there is one important condition. Development costs should correspond to employee development goals. Every team member has to only report it in a dedicated Excel file and confirm the cost with the Talent Team. We also have a virtual library and an unlimited book budget.
Last – but definitely not least – when working remotely, it can be hard to separate work from personal life. Especially when your team is taking its first steps in this area, you need to support them in setting boundaries. Remember to give a clear signal that you do not expect 24/7 work. React when you see someone working too much, for example when he/she is online and working late at night (taking into consideration the time zone). There are further suggestions regarding this topic as mentioned before, discussing the guidebook.
Care about people’s health. Motivate them to exercise regularly: gym, running, yoga, whatever. This will help them to keep in both good psychological and physical shape. We share our sport achievements on the #active Slack channel and take part in marathons.