How to nurture your internal community to drive a vibrant remote work culture

by Lauren Piro December 21, 2022

Thanks to a steady shift to flexible, remote, and hybrid models — work life is more online than ever before. Should you be cultivating an online community for employees in the same way you do for customers?

The case in favour is compelling. You can’t depend solely on spontaneous interactions in the lunchroom, or daily face-to-face meetings anymore when people are working from home and possibly asynchronously. 

The workplace as we know it, has shifted and it’s unlikely to return to its previous format.

Being able to nurture productive communication, positive shared beliefs and stories across a team that mostly interacts online is a challenge, but it’s vital to future-proof your business.

Actively using community management tools and techniques to engage your workers is an essential way to influence collective behaviours and improve your organisational culture. 

Remote workplaces are already communities: but they can be better 

Communities are essentially a group of people who’ve formed bonds based on a common interest or shared goal. At their heart, communities are about relationships, discussion, and connection. 

Many social media communities or forums have sprung up around professional practice — so it’s not a stretch for you to create a specific online community for your staff. One of the five community types is a community of practice (COP).

To be clear, I’m talking about online spaces that allow for work and non-work discussions to happen. Some organisations might baulk, because they don’t want to encourage mucking around and exchanging funny memes on the company dollar. But…those are the things that make a workplace culture work! (In moderation — and with moderation— obviously.)

Avenues to let off steam and express their values helps humans feel human, and like they belong. If you care about your employees’ wellbeing, creativity, teamwork and commitment to your purpose, you should consider creating opportunities for this kind of connection.

When you neglect culture in remote and hybrid teams, positive sentiment and shared values among colleagues may start to fade, leading to less engaged and less loyal employees.

How does community management in remote teams work in practice?

Managing an internal community differs somewhat from internal communications or HR, although there’s certainly overlap. In a small company one person may cover both roles.

Internal community management might revolve around a particular platform, such as your company intranet or popular platforms like Meta’s Workplace, Yammer or Slack. Community management is an ongoing process of relationship management: establishing and continuously supporting a framework for positive peer-to-peer connection. Contrary to popular belief your community will not get to a stage where it self manages!

That’s why having a dedicated community manager/s is key to making sure the online spaces where your team gathers are safe and lively. The essence of community management revolves around ensuring communities are “productive”. 

In a work context this scope covers monetary and non-monetary gains. The latter might cover wisdom, relationships, recognition, assistance and satisfaction.

Quiip has been a fully remote, distributed team since inception in 2010. We use a variety of social and collaboration tools internally to both communicate and collaborate on work, and build our own vibrant internal culture. 

This includes Facebook Workplace, which enables us to create specific groups for each project team as well as benefit from Facebook-like social features and direct messaging. We also do pulse surveys using a tool called Lattice. Although we are a relatively small team of 25, it’s likely we mimic the size of many departments in large organisations and our learnings can be extrapolated. 

What will work for your organisation or business will depend on:

  • Your current organisational culture and how you foster it 
  • The size and work patterns of your workforce 
  • Resources available to support your community

If you have lots of staff and used to hold a lot of in-person events, there’s value in investing in a structured space and coordinating activities for your community so that your culture is maintained. For example, facilitating online quiz nights and similar ‘virtual’ events. 

How do you keep internal communities alive, productive and positive?

The internet is a graveyard of failed communities and many of us have worked at companies where an internal platform existed but was poorly utilised. 

If you’re keen to boost your culture but don’t want a failed online community to haunt you, it’s important to:

  • Ensure you have a suitably skilled community manager/s in charge
  • Define behavioural standards and have review processes in place
  • Focus on listening to what the employees needs/wants and adjust accordingly
  • Create specific prompts for people to contribute or connect with each other
  • Have managers/leaders who get involved and model the behaviours you want to see

When enterprise communities are well managed so that people are expressing themselves in a healthy, respectful way it can reinforce the shared values that you hire for across your organisation, break down silos, boost engagement and satisfaction, increase transparency, and drive productivity wins.

Every workplace has a culture whether you focus on it or not. Internal communities for co-located and distributed workplaces is an excellent way to create a dynamic, genuinely engaged culture. 

Learn more about how the principles of effective community management could be applied across your remote or hybrid team by listening to my conversation (under 40 mins) with Maddie Duke from Lano on The State of Work podcast.

Or if you’re interested in our services or training to help you plan, launch or manage an enterprise community, please get in touch.