Culture and Internal Comms in a Remote World: Interview with a New Hive Hero

Culture and Internal Comms in a Remote World Feature

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With more and more organisations making the shift to hybrid ways of working and giving employees the option to both work remotely or from an office, there’s one topic that’s always front of mind: culture.

It’s no secret that organisational culture becomes more of a challenge with a dispersed workforce; it’s certainly high up on the agenda here at Hive, and we know that’s the case for many other organisations who’ve chosen to adapt to new ways of working.

And one thing that sits right at the heart of really making sure your organisational culture hits home with your remote teams? Internal comms, of course.

So, we thought we’d reach out to internal comms pro and the newest member of our People Science team, Chloe Tully, to have a chat about the challenges of immersing yourself into organisational culture remotely.

Hey Chloe! Let’s kick things off by telling us a bit about yourself.

“Well, after moving to Newcastle for university, I fell in love with the North East and the rest is history! I knew I had to stay, so I started my career here at a fintech company where I was responsible for establishing and scaling their internal comms function—a challenging but fantastic experience. Now, I’m super excited to have joined Hive and will be using all of that internal comms and engagement knowledge to help create amazing experiences for our customers as the Customer Engagement Manager.”

We’re just as excited to have you on board! What’s it like being the ‘newbie’ in a remote team?

“It’s certainly different—and more challenging—there’s no denying that. Remembering names, faces, and teams obviously becomes tougher… imagine joining a Zoom when you’re not sure who is going to pop up on your screen and your internet is having a wobble! You kind of rely on everyone else being friendly and welcoming, which is one thing I haven’t needed to worry about at Hive. 

There was an announcement about me joining the team on my first day in a company-wide meeting, which sparked plenty of people across Hive to reach out for a virtual cuppa. 

Getting comfortable and really settling in definitely comes from those interactions you have with people across the organisation, and that’s one huge part of daily life that we lose in remote teams. Breaking through that starts with communication from the top down, especially for new team members; how would people across the organisation reach out without really knowing much about us newbies?”

We haven’t shied away from the fact that Hive’s culture was reliant on the office in the beginning, but that’s changing every day as we go remote-first. Is there anything specific that helped you gel into the culture here?

“The remote induction sessions have been a lifesaver. It’s tricky to work out how things work and how teams collaborate when you’re not around to watch everyone working together and pick up on those cultural cues in smaller interactions. Thankfully, Hive arranged an induction session with every team to make sure I had full exposure to the whole organisation in my first week. It was a lot to take in for sure, but there were a lot of penny drop moments in those sessions as I pieced everything together. And let’s not forget the org chart in CharlieHR—which became my best friend for a few days!

Slack is another great internal comms tool that’s made getting to know people so much easier, which is extremely important from not just a cultural perspective but a wellbeing perspective too. There are some amazing social channels at Hive that I’ve thrown myself into to help get my name out there and get to know those coworkers outside my team—with everything from houseplants and pets to DIY and dad jokes, there’s always a conversation starter or two to break the ice. Comms channels like these really do help to build a sense of community and belonging.”

We’re sure many other people have faced challenges with their wellbeing and sense of belonging too! What role does internal comms play in managing that?

“It’s not exaggerating to say that this past year has really been internal comms’ time to shine! People need regular communication now more than ever so it’s important to be consistent—but most importantly, strategic. Working from home can be isolating. Things can quickly feel overwhelming when you don’t have impromptu chats throughout the day—when you’re making a brew, moving from one meeting to another or just sitting around a desk. Working remotely, it’s so much easier to just hide if you’re having a bad day, week, month, or let’s face it… year!

So, creating a culture where people are encouraged to keep in touch with each other is vital, and that’s why organisational culture and internal comms go hand in hand. Only when you communicate your culture can you strategically influence your people to work with a shared purpose and act out those cultural behaviours in their day-to-day.”

Communicate a safe space for people to talk, and reiterate how important it is to look out for each other, to check in and simply ask “how are you really doing?”. Then your people will be more inspired to do exactly that—which can bring a lot of comfort and help people feel seen and heard. You might not be able to fix someone’s problem entirely, but feeling supported is really powerful."

As an internal comms pro, do you have any top tips for newly remote organisations who are amending their comms strategy to better suit a hybrid way of working?

“Going remote is a huge shift for internal comms. The function gets much tougher, and people across the organisation are more reliant on you than ever. Teams are dispersed and needing a motivational boost and to still feel connected to the purpose. So I’ll offer you the most obvious answer—ask your people. 

Answers will differ from individuals to teams to organisations, so the only way to get it right is to understand what it is that will help your people specifically. How do they want to be updated? What do they want to hear? How often do they want to hear from you? That type of employee feedback is vital to creating an internal comms strategy that works for your organisation. 

We’re living in strange and stressful times, where people need extra support and the opportunity to feel heard. So, whether it’s a weekly call that everyone can join, a channel where they can get updates and ask questions, or simply dedicated time in meetings where managers feed information down into their teams; make your internal comms work for your people. And don’t forget about time to talk about anything but work!”

Let’s finish off with a little inspiration for other remote newbies out there (managers, take note too!). If you could offer only one piece of advice to someone joining a remote team, what would it be?

“Speak to anyone and everyone! Introduce yourself, ask about their role, and even ask if you can gatecrash their next team meeting—it helps to get you out of the newbie phase quicker when people know you better, rather than feeling like you’re hiding away behind your screen.

It can be daunting, sure. I’m a very social person so I appreciate that this might have come more naturally to me than others, but you can still do this in a way that works for you. You can start small, drop a message to test the waters. Or, if you feel uncomfortable sliding into someone’s DMs, why not ask your manager or someone in your team to make an introduction or set up a social call to break the ice?”

Props to Chloe for taking time out of her schedule to share her experiences and wisdom with us. Whether you’re looking for top tips for your new employees or you’re starting a new remote role, we hope she’s provided some much-needed remote-culture inspiration!

For a helping hand finding out exactly what it is your people need right now—from your internal comms and culture to wellbeing and ways of working—Hive’s team of People Scientists can support you to develop a bespoke survey strategy so you can better understand your workforce. Simply book an intro to find out more.

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