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5 Meeting Ideas to Improve Your Hybrid Organizational Culture

5 Meeting Ideas to Improve Your Hybrid Organizational Culture

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written on December 2021 by Magda Sowierszenko

Introduction

What is an organizational culture?

As part of a remote organization, we encounter the same types of culture as you would do in any normal office. Your work, meetings, and social culture are important aspects that any manager or HR professional should be working to improve upon. One that often, however, gets some neglect is your organizational culture.

The nature of organizational culture is more difficult to easily define. It plays a crucial role in shaping behavior in organizations between all your employees and managers. You’re looking at the collective expectations, processes, and values that all team members adhere to in the workplace.

There’s still a lot of discussion about what exactly organizational culture is. While our definition is broad, it’s more difficult to pinpoint exactly how to work on improving it. Analyzing, preserving, and transforming your org culture is important for any workplace, so working within a framework will help make your efforts more successful.

You and your leadership team should act as inspiration and role models for all employees. They need to reinforce, live, and breathe good organizational culture.

Importance of culture at remote and hybrid
companies

A great organizational culture has more benefits than you probably realize. It of course helps your teams work well together and enjoy their workplace, but that’s not all. Culture keeps and attracts the best talent. It improves your employees’ health and wellbeing. It creates a visible identity for your company that can be plainly seen by others. And these are just a few of the positives you can expect!

For us remote workers, it’s still perfectly possible to develop a culture without an office. It doesn’t have to be harder, but you do need to dedicate some more time and effort to achieve it. When everyone is working from the same location, some aspects can develop more naturally. To do this remotely, there needs to be a bit more structure in place.

Visible and invisible elements of culture

We briefly mentioned before that culture isn’t always something you can see. There are both visible and invisible aspects. Think of it a bit like an iceberg. There’s a tip you can see, but a lot of it you can’t.

The visible side is much easier to shape and influence. Here, we’re looking at the tangible, consciously learned way of things getting done. We’ll include in this part the goals, strategy, policy, and procedures that are laid out for everyone to see.

The hidden layer includes the intangible, subconsciously learned way things get done. So while you may have some policies in place, your employees may use them more flexibly. Beliefs, stories, perceptions, and shared assumptions make up the core of this invisible sector.

Once you’ve acknowledged that there are aspects of culture that fly under the radar, the next step is trying to identify them. That’s why we’ve gathered together five effective workshop ideas for you to try out with your team that will provide you with the results you need. You need to practice these hidden elements and learn them in an explicit way… which is exactly what these workshops do. Let’s get started!

5 Meeting Ideas to Improve Your Remote Org Culture

1. Workshop “Discovering visible and invisible elements of your culture”

Key information:

  • Run time: 90+ minutes
  • No. of people participating: 8-12

Objectives:

The goal of this workshop is to explore the tangible and intangible elements of your org culture. You’ll then sort them into four categories we call culture components: (1) Vision and Values; (2) Practices and People; (3) Narrative; (4) Environment.

What you’ll need:

  • Video conferencing with screen sharing
  • A digital whiteboard with an iceberg graphic

Delivery instructions:

Step 1 – Preparation
Explain the purpose of the session when you begin, including talking about your organization’s culture and giving every person a chance to share their observations. These points have the end goal of better translating your organizational culture to a remote or hybrid work setup. The facilitator should set some basic ground rules and create a safe environment for sharing. Emphasize that:

  • Everyone’s experience is unique
  • There are no “right” or “wrong” observations
  • Everyone should always assume positive intent

Step 2 – Presentation
Present to the whole group the concept of the Organisational Culture Iceberg
Model:

  • The tangible, consciously learned way things get done here
    The way we say we get things done
    E.g. policies, strategies, procedures, goals
  • The intangible, subconsciously learned way things get done here
    The way we really get things done
    E.g. beliefs, stories, perceptions, shared assumptions

Give the room a few minutes to ask questions. Make sure you time box this so you have enough time for the activity!

Step 3 – Activity: identifying visible and invisible culture with sticky notes
Ask the group to go to the digital whiteboard you prepared earlier. Give them 8 minutes to add sticky notes representing visible and invisible elements of your org culture. Encourage the team to put everything they are thinking about without limiting themselves.

Once everyone is done adding their stickies. Go through them all, discussing if needed, and consolidate all duplicated sticky notes.

Step 4 – Activity: organizing sticky notes
Drag sticky notes from your iceberg model to the 4 culture components: (1) Vision and Values; (2) Practices and People; (3) Narrative; (4) Environment.

For example, if you have a sticky note saying “We’re open to feedback” you’d want to add it to (2) Practices and People. Sticky notes mentioning something like “We promote experimentation” you’d want to add to (3) Narrative.

Step 5 – Discussion and wrap up
Encourage the team to take a step back and review what you’ve collected so far. Think about which culture components you should work on. You can follow these guiding questions:

  • Which culture component should we improve most on and why?
  • Which culture components are the most difficult to translate in a hybrid / remote environment?
  • What’s something we should change shaping our org culture going forward?

Discuss possible actions as a team and assign owners and due dates to the actions as necessary.

This workshop was developed by Remote-how

2. Workshop “Discovering visible and invisible elements of your culture

Key information:

  • Run time: 60+ minutes
  • No. of people participating: 8-12

Objectives:

The goal of the workshop is to look at your org culture from an outsider’s
perspective. This activity type is best suited for getting past stated values to
deeply ingrained cultural values that have become hard to see.

What you’ll need:

  • Video conferencing with screen sharing
  • A digital whiteboard with 5 fields for people to add their sticky notes to: (1) Heroes & Legends; (2) Sayings & Language; (3) Customs; (4) Values & Beliefs; (5) Artifacts
  • Optional: a short presentation showcasing aspects of your org culture (for example, pictures from events, screenshots from conversations, corporate videos, etc.)

This worksheet was developed by XPLANE, based on Geert Hofstede’s work.

Delivery instructions:

Step 1 – Preparation
Welcome all the participants and explain to them the session’s purpose: to look at your organization’s culture from an outsider’s perspective. The facilitator should set basic ground rules and create a safe environment for sharing. Emphasize that:

  • It’s a fun activity… so go with the flow!
  • There are no “right” or “wrong” observations
  • Everyone shoes try to note their observations without any limits

Step 2 – Activity
Start by asking all participants to imagine they are anthropologists examining your company, and you want them to note all their observations. To put everyone in the mood, try styling your digital whiteboard or presentation to reflect an “anthropology” theme if possible!

Additionally, show your team a short presentation on org culture as an introduction to the activity. Make sure to collect and capture various elements of your org culture, using pictures, screenshots, or videos. This is helpful if you expect the group to have issues with getting to grips with what org culture exactly is and its components..

Ask all your participants to add sticky notes with their observations on org culture to the digital whiteboard. You should ask everyone to add at least one sticky note to one of the 5 fields: (1) Heroes & Legends; (2) Sayings & Language; (3) Customs; (4) Values & Beliefs; (5) Artifacts.

Use these guiding questions:

  • What clues can you gather about your organization as an outsider?
  • Coming to our company with naive, fresh eyes, what seems to be important to these particular people?

Step 3 – Discussion
Give all participants a chance to share their observations from an outsider’s
perspective. Once everyone has spoken up, encourage the team to assess whether the org culture they observed supports the health and growth of the organization.

You can use questions such as:

  • Does the culture you’ve observed support the professional and personal growth of their people?
  • Was it easy to observe the values guiding employees in this organization?
  • What behaviors are encouraged in this organization, and do you think that supports their goals?
  • What’s the one thing that stood out to you while observing this organization’s culture?
  • Do you think this organization’s culture is coherent, or does it differ from one team to another?

Step 4 – Wrap up
Ask everyone to step out of their “anthropologist” roles and ask them to share their feelings about the exercise. How did they feel about taking on the role of an outsider? Was it helpful/easy?

Collect ideas on the best ways and methods to improve your org culture. If you don’t have enough time, schedule a follow-up meeting where you can go through these observations. Use the session to build these ideas up into a change management plan with action items.

4. Workshop “Building organizational culture based on individual values”

Key information:

  • Run time: 2.5 hours
  • No. of people participating: Up to 30

Objectives:

A self-reflecting workshop to explore the emotional culture of your organization, with the help of the free Emotional Culture Deck from Riders & Elephants.

What you’ll need:

  • Video conferencing with screen sharing
  • Digital whiteboard with sticky note capabilities
  • The Emotional Culture Deck

Delivery instructions:

Step 1 – Preparing and setting up the workshop
Before your first workshop session, make sure that everyone already has a copy of the Emotional Culture Desk available to look at and send them a brief of what’s going to happen. Your teammates will have to print the cards themselves, or you can provide a digital version that is moveable.

There are two versions of the cards to use, one for leaders and one for employees. In this example, we’ll work with the assumption that you’re conducting a mixed session so we’ll use the employee deck.

To begin your session, divide everyone into small groups so you have at least 3-6 depending on the number of people participating. This can be done randomly or strategically if you’d like. What’s important is that you have a good cross-section from your company and the different opinions present in each group.

Step 2 – Kicking off the session
Once everyone is in their groups, begin by asking everyone to think about the previous week and pick one positive emotion card and one unpleasant emotion card from the deck that best describes it. Each person will now describe in their group for 30 seconds how the emotion applied to their week. Break-out rooms are a great way to do this if your video conferencing tool has the feature.

Step 3 – Explain the deck
You’ll now need to ask everyone to set up their deck using the employee layout. You can do this using the video available here. This will include the gold Step cards one to seven. Everyone should be able to see in front of them all the cards to help them better visualize their emotions.

Step 4 – Reflecting on success
Going back to the small groups from step 2 in breakout rooms, get everyone to ask themselves “How do I want to feel at work?”. With this in mind, each individual should take their black cards and sort them into two piles:

  1. It’s important I feel this
  2. My success relies on feeling this

Once the deck has been split, all participants should pick their top five cards from the “My success relies on feeling this” pile. Everyone should then note down what they chose.

Now that everyone has a top 5 selection, it’s time to share in the small groups. This is a great way for everyone to find out what drives their coworkers and learn more about how they can be supported.

You can suggest that everyone introduced their success cards by stating the
emotion, and introducing it with “I want to feel this because…”. You could also ask each team to share with the others if they were surprised by any of the comments, feelings, or explanations given.

Step 5 – Group emotions
Each small group should now collectively choose 5 desired feelings, thinking about how this would benefit your organization as a whole. These 5 black cards should be displayed by each group on the digital whiteboard. This will allow you to discuss what all the groups have in common and any possible differences.

A spokesman for each group can share with everyone involved why they were picked. By the end, you should have a large number of black cards selected by everyone taking part. If there are any duplicates, make sure to note this down.

Now is the perfect time for everyone to discuss what surprised them, and any other interesting points that may have arisen.

Step 6 – Voting
When the discussion is over, use an online voting system to narrow these emotions down to a top five. One method to do this is to have everyone vote for their selection of five and take the top five with the most collective votes. This should help you boil down what the organization should be feeling to have success.

Step 7 – Finding your undesired feelings
We’re now going to repeat the same process from stage four to eight, but this time focusing on everything considering: “I don’t want to feel this but I might.”

This will involve picking from the white cards in a deck. The key point here is to pick up on feelings that no one would like to feel but might do from time to time in the organization.

Again, each group picks their top 5, shares with all the other groups, and then a vote takes place on a collective 5 things that they all don’t want to feel at work BUT may do occasionally. This is followed by a voting process again, so you have a top 5 for the organization as a whole.

Step 8 – Processing the answers
Once again, everyone should get back in their groups to help figure out how we can get the emotions we desire and avoid situations that lead to the negative feelings we want to avoid. Generate a list of questions that probe further, some examples include:

How will other teammates know if someone is experiencing any of the negative emotions?
How do we help each other avoid bad emotions and reinforce positive ones?
What are the best ways to manage the feelings that have been chosen?

Step 9 – Wrapping up
A spokesman for each group should now explain to everyone the answers to the questions given. You can note down major points on the digital board and again look for commonalities and differences. This should lead to a digital whiteboard full of possible solutions, thoughts, and feelings that everyone should be able to digest and discuss.

After all the work, it’s likely that everyone will be tired and need a break. These points and ideas will need to be discussed further, and you could perhaps run another session to come up with action points that reflect your findings.

4. Workshop “Problem-solving in org culture”

Key information:

  • Run time: 60 minutes
  • No. of people participating: 5-10

Objectives:

Solving a concrete problem you have already identified with your org culture. Be sure to tackle the roots of a problem, not just the symptoms. If done right, this session will help you make breakthrough progress on a seemingly intractable problem by using the power of a team.

What you’ll need:

  • Video conferencing with screen sharing
  • A digital whiteboard where you can take notes from the session

Delivery instructions:

Step 1 – Setting up the stage
Inform everyone before the meeting of the problem you’ll be working on so people are prepared for the meeting. Welcome all the participants at the beginning and make sure to set ground rules and create a safe environment for sharing. Emphasize that:

  • No ideas are bad ideas
  • The discussion stays dynamic by listening and contributing
  • No one should judge the process, make it work

Step 2 – Define your problem statement
Before you can go into problem-solving mode, you need to define your problem statement. You can suggest one yourself or nominate a “problem owner”. This person is a decision-maker in the area you’re working on and has all the relevant information needed. The “problem owner” potentially can lead an action plan after the session.

Remember that a problem statement is usually one or two sentences explaining the problem your process improvement project will address. Review your new problem statement against the following criteria:

  • It should focus on only one problem.
  • It should not suggest a solution.
  • It should be understandable and clear for everyone.

If you want to create a problem statement together with the team, add additional time to this session and use methods like the Five Whys or SWOT.

Step 3 – Ideas generation and selection
Ask the team to generate their ideas for problem solutions in a rapid brainstorming session. At this point, don’t analyze or discuss the ideas. Be careful not to kill any thoughts or proposals, as it might discourage the team to ideate further.

Only one person, facilitator, or assigned note-taker should write up the ideas on the digital whiteboard. After 10-15 minutes of idea generation, you can move on to the selection process. The problem owner should pick up a maximum of three to four of the most promising ideas you’ll continue working on in step four.

Step 4 – Discussing benefits and concerns
Discuss with the team their benefits and concerns around each idea. Everyone can contribute to each idea, so make sure you ask direct questions to people who might be shy in speaking out. Make sure to spot when someone is trying to bring back any ideas that were already eliminated!

To guide the discussion, use the following questions:

  • What are the benefits of each of these ideas?
  • Which idea is the easiest to implement and why?
  • Which idea is most likely to address the problem in the best way?
  • What concerns do you have about each of these ideas?
  • Before we make a final decision, what should we investigate?
  • Are there any big opportunities you see here?

The group will now get the opportunity to shape three to four options and create ownership of the solution they did not choose. The owner is also primed to see how difficult it is going to be to implement the chosen ideas and determine if any are group-conflicting.

Remember that anyone at any time can raise a critical concern. This action eliminates the idea from the board right away.

Step 5 – Wrap up and action planning
Take your top options and all their benefits and concerns, and make sure to plan your next actionable steps. It should be up to the problem owner to decide how they want to take it forward. However, you should always make sure the team receives regular updates. They need to know their inputs were considered.

5. Workshop “Building culture design canvas”

Key information:

  • Run time: 60 minutes
  • Number of sessions: 2+
  • No. of people participating: 5

Objectives:

Mapping your current organizational culture and planning improvements. By using a team that is representative of your whole workforce and iterating on your results, you’ll have a solid plan for cultural change with team buy-in. At the end of the process, everyone should understand exactly what you believe in.

What you’ll need:

  • Video conferencing with screen sharing
  • A digital whiteboard where you can take notes from the session. Make sure to have a copy of the canvas that all participants can add their ideas to in realtime.

Delivery instructions:

Step 1 – Assemble the right team
To make a success of this exercise, you’ll need to build the correct team for the job. Too often these tasks are left in the hands of executives who don’t provide the diversity of opinion you need. Your remote organizational culture will have remote values at its core, so it needs input from all of your remote employees.

Don’t just rely on large personalities and the most vocal members of your
workforce. Everyone makes up your culture, so if you want your work to be
representative of everyone, don’t just rely on the obvious picks.

Your gathered team will need to be able to dedicate time for multiple sessions, as well as have access to any information you already have regarding your work culture. Also make sure that you can find a time that works for everyone, as some team members might be working in different time zones.

Finally, your chosen team should already be familiar with the canvas and concepts they will deal with. You can even provide them with the instructions and steps we’re using right now to make sure they come to the session with ideas already in place.

Step 2 – Begin with the core
Once you’ve gathered your team and got everyone gathered together on a call, it’s time to begin the first session. The middle column is where you’ll start, covering the core values of your organization and the foundations of your culture. But before you start, let’s talk about the process of filling in the sheet. This is just our recommendation, but you can also find a method that works for you.

  1. For each section of the board, give your participants a short amount of time to brainstorm their ideas individually. These can be done in a google sheet, or on virtual sticky notes. Start with two minutes and see if that’s enough time for everyone.
  2. When the time is up, have everyone share their ideas and thoughts with the team, person by person.
  3. Look at all the ideas, values, and concepts provided and discuss them as a team. Get to the bottom of what you all agree on and begin to revise the ideas.
  4. Put the most important, boiled-down points onto the board. You don’t need to fill the board, more is less here.

Now everyone understands the process, start with your company’s purpose. This topic includes how your organization interacts with the world, what it offers, and how it affects people’s lives. This doesn’t have to be a product or service you offer. Remote-how, for example, offers educational and consulting services as products. The company’s purpose, however, is to push for improved remote-work adoption globally and let people decide for themselves how and where they want to work. Make sure you have one defined purpose on the board at the end.

Your values are next up. Think about how everyone should work and operate in your company, and what’s most important to everyone. These values need to be actionable and used to achieve the company’s mission. They shouldn’t just be buzz words.

Follow this up with the priorities every employee should take onboard. Examples include supporting a strong work-life balance, always going the extra mile for customers, or being committed to a global workforce. Pick your top three or four that can help you later when you need to make decisions in line with your purpose.

The final part of this session looks at the behaviours you punish and reward. Over time, the actions you and your teammates make can contradict the behaviors you supposedly support. Now’s the time to lay these on the table and talk honestly about what everyone should and shouldn’t be doing. You might perhaps want to punish ineffective communication and reward cross-team support.

Once you’ve conquered the core, it’s time to take a break. It’s the perfect time to end the session so that everyone can reflect and come back with a fresh mind.

Step 3 – Move to your emotional culture
Before you get stuck into emotional culture, take a bit of time at the start of this session to evaluate the work already completed. You may have a better idea of what fits and what needs some revision.

In this session, you’ll work on the right-hand side of the canvas that deals with the emotional culture of your organization. Start with the psychological safety section and ask your team to brainstorm ways that they can culturally feel safe at work. For example, executive meetings might have public protocols, or perhaps your team members are allowed mental health days. A lot of input and effort is lost due to fears and worries, so now’s the time to develop safeguards.

The feedback section is up next, which should also dip into communication too. Giving and receiving feedback can often be difficult, so think about how to make the process easier for your organization. What are the best ways to make it as open and constructive as possible in a remote environment? This may be regular feedback sessions, bottom-up feedback, or perhaps anonymous reviews.

The final part of this session covers rituals everyone can take part in. Doing these as a team is incredibly important, especially for anyone in a remote or hybridremote setup. We often miss out on small rituals that happen in an office, so strong online alternatives are great to have. You can cover onboarding, weekly socials, or even the way you use emojis at work!

Once again, it’s probably best to end the session here. It can be tiring ideating and getting to the bottom of your company’s organizational culture.

Step 4 – Begin the functional culture
The final area to consider when it comes to your canvas is functional culture that you’ll find on the left side. First up is decision-making. This topic covers how you distribute power and authority when it comes to problems, issues, and key decisions. You might go for a more democratic process or one that favors subject matter experts calling the shots. The process can also change depending on the decisions being made. You and your team will know best what works in your organization.

Meetings are next up, an especially important topic when it comes to remote and hybrid-remote companies. The way that we collaborate with other teammates without an office space has to be carefully planned out to make the most of the small amount of time we do interact together as a team. Think about how often you meet, how you create your agendas, and what kind of discussions warrant a meeting.

The final section to cover is your norms and rules. These don’t need to be the kind of rules you’d find in a school! You could, for example, make a rule that everyone should assume good intentions when it comes to communications. Perhaps you might mention that it’s a norm for employees to share about experiences and life outside of work. It could even be that everyone needs to take a certain amount of holiday per year to make sure they rest and relax.

Step 5 – Review and refine
Once some time has passed since you and the team have completed the canvas, return to your results for a reviewing session. You can probably distill what you have into something even more clear and concise. You might even decide to start some areas from scratch, or even go through the whole process again.

Once you’re satisfied with what you have, create actionable steps that the whole company can follow. You’ll also need to distribute the canvases results to the whole company, take on some feedback, and get everyone on board going forward.

This worksheet was developed by Gustavo Razzetti

HOW TO WORK TOWARDS IMPROVING YOUR REMOTE ORG CULTURE?

With five workshops here on offer, there’s a lot of content to cover if you really need to get to the bottom of your org culture. While you most likely won’t need to do all five, a combination of these will help you see some of the less visible aspects that tend to get missed.

The topic is a strange one to handle. It’s something that we can all feel and understand, but the technicalities of it are difficult to grasp and deal with concretely. With the business world spending so much time on KPIs, deliverables, and easy to measure values, emotions and culture can get easily left behind.

Luckily for us all, defining and working on org culture is one of the more interesting and fun aspects for everyone to take part in. It affects the way we work every day, retains employees, and attracts the best talent to your company too. Org culture also doesn’t go unnoticed by your customers either. But by getting to grips with culture, you’ll be well set on your way to success.

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