We moved our company culture online (and it worked!)
It’s been nearly a year since I locked the doors of my company headquarters here in American Fork, Utah, and told my employees to work from home for what I thought would be the next two to four weeks.
Two weeks turned into two months, which turned into three… We’re still not back to full capacity in the office.
I’ve always been incredibly proud of the close-knit company culture that eLearning Brothers has, but so much of that was dependent on in-person interactions and events that happened in the office, like Free Donut Fridays, Bro Day celebrations (that’s what we call your work anniversary at eLearning Brothers), Foosball tournaments, team volunteering days, holiday potlucks, and more.
It was important to me to maintain our close-knit company culture in a remote work environment. I knew that due to the stresses of the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, our employees needed to feel connected and supported at work more than ever. On top of that, we completed a major acquisition of two companies in different states just a month into the pandemic.
Integrating those remote teams into our company culture was another challenge. We had initially planned to have our leadership team on site at those offices for the big acquisition announcement and sneakily decorate the offices overnight with our signature orange and rockstar style. Of course, that didn’t happen.
So we had to find alternatives.
Like many other companies, we embraced the virtual happy hour concept early on in the pandemic, albeit with a slight twist. We created an eLearning Brothers-themed interactive game show using the Jeopardy!® game in one of our partner’s tools, The Training Arcade®. While this game is designed for online learning, we’ve discovered that it works great for virtual team building and social activities.
The key is to pick someone outgoing and social from your company to lead it, and create interesting questions. We peppered ours with pop culture and company history. Our newer employees learned a lot about the company and we all learned who keeps up with current pop culture and who doesn’t! As it turns out, very few of us can tell Britney Spears apart from Gwen Stefani.
We scheduled our game for a Friday at the end of the day, keeping in mind all the different time zones we now have employees in. The Jeopardy!® game leaderboard kept everyone engaged and generated a friendly bit of competition between employees. We actually reprised this activity with employees and customers later on during a virtual conference we hosted (with fewer company history questions) and it was just as entertaining.
For that same virtual conference, we used a software tool intended for creating virtual reality training courses and built a virtual version of my actual office that attendees could visit. This was mostly aimed at potential customers, but it turned out to be a great way for remote employees from the recently acquired companies to feel like they were visiting our company headquarters.
Of course, we threw in some fun clickable interactions and things that aren’t really in my office—I don’t actually have framed portraits of the rest of my leadership team hanging on my office wall, but it was a great way to introduce the team virtually. Clicking on each portrait opened up a window with that person’s bio.
On a day-to-day level, we’ve been using Slack to communicate and collaborate on work projects, as well as share non-work related memes, anecdotes, and personal stories in a #Random channel. A channel called #singingpraises even popped up for employees to thank other employees.
Through this channel, it’s become clear that many of my employees are far too obsessed with their cats! The exercise enthusiasts in the company have also used this channel to discuss the best at-home workout apps and equipment. Stationary bikes are winning, in case you were wondering. Personally, I like to stick to running outside—and chasing after my children!
Inspired by a learning experience platform feature that’s becoming popular right now—user-generated content—we also just created a Slack channel called #NowYouKnow, where anyone in the company can share useful work-related tips. Recently one of our eLearning developers shared a short video on recording and editing voice-overs with Audacity.
It’s been great to see employees sharing knowledge and getting recognized for their talents. Especially with distributed teams, it can be hard to get to know each other’s strengths and learn who to turn to with specific questions. This channel is breaking down that barrier.
I don’t know when we’ll be back to 100 percent capacity here in American Fork, or at our other office locations in different states, but I know that as our company grows, we’re adding more and more workers across the country—and even a few internationally. The pandemic may have been the impetus for us to get creative and use these learning technologies in surprising ways to engage our team, but these are strategies we’ll be able to continue using in the future to keep our company connected and engaged across the globe.