4 ways to build inclusive recognition on your remote team
What is inclusive recognition and why is it important?
The benefit of having a diverse team is that everyone has different ideas and different ways of contributing, which leads to making better decisions as a group and building a good product that appeals to many.
However, it's not enough to just hire a diverse team. As a leader, you need to build a practice of inclusive recognition. In other words: you should make room for and proactively encourage your team’s diverse contributions.
It's important to recognize and celebrate all kinds of impact. If you don't, your employee retention will suffer. Team members will not feel valued, won’t be able to imagine success for themselves at the company, and they may end up leaving the company for greener pastures.
In addition to making it harder for them to stick around long term, you won’t be able to realize their full potential at the company while they’re with you. For example, if you think that engineers should only write code, you may implicitly discourage them whenever they do something other than write code, which might discourage them from doing things that make the team more efficient, like defining engineering process.
Overall, teammates feeling overlooked or going unrecognized for the work they are most proud of is a huge barrier to a healthy remote team culture.
Why is it hard to recognize diverse types of impact?
It seems easy and obvious that as managers or leaders, we should be celebrating the accomplishments of our team. But recognizing impact when it doesn’t look like your own is a practice, not a given.
The problem: You have spent most of your life thinking about yourself and your career and how you have gotten here, so your brain takes shortcuts and recognizes behaviours like yours and says “that is good!” when it sees it in other people.
This is called selection bias: you’re more likely to notice something if it has happened to you before (e.g. buy a specific car and start seeing them everywhere).
As a result, it’s much easier to overlook accomplishment in others if they’re creating different kinds of impact than you would. This is especially true in a remote world where you don’t sit beside your team. It’s also increasingly difficult as your team grows, and you are a bit more removed from the day-to-day tasks of your direct reports. At Remotion, we felt this earlier this year as our engineering team grew by 50% relatively quickly.
Building a practice of more inclusive recognition is one of the keys to making sure you can sustain a diverse team with varied skillsets, perspectives, and contributions in the longterm.
4 steps to more inclusive recognition on your engineering team
Address your bias: Proactively look for different types of impact on your team
What practical steps can we take to work around our biases and support our diverse team? Bias is not something that’s really “fixable”, but awareness and intentionality really help.
Spend some time thinking about all the different ways people have impact at Remotion, and look for specific examples. Train yourself to recognize types of impact that aren’t your expertise.
Here’s a good but incomplete list of different ways that our team members can have impact, from a a Dropbox blog post about engineering impact:
- Domain expertise: technology, product category, etc.
- Innovation: identifying high-impact ideas (either technical or product) that you and the team build and that successfully improve our products or productivity
- Product expertise: working with product, design and other stakeholders to deliver solutions that validate customer needs as quickly as possible while designing for the appropriate level of scale, reliability and future maintainability
- Project leadership: delivering very large, deep or cross-functional projects through your technical understanding and contributions
- Technical leadership and mentorship: levelling up those around you through the practice of your craft, guidance, and example-setting. Impact comes through how you influence how your teams
How to start: I keep a document of unexpected moments of delight and moments when I’m impressed with something a member of my team did.
A recent example of something I added: I joined a meeting for a project handoff, and the teammate handing off the project had already created a Linear project and handoff document—not something we’d asked for in advance, but definitely something that helps the team run much more smoothly. Added to the list!
Create a shared impact document to drive visibility and recognition
Educate your reports about different types of impact and have them keep an “impact document” that’s shared with you, where they keep track of work they’ve done and how it impacts the company.
Example of something you could add to impact document:
- Task: Defining a framework to use linear points to track estimates, and creating discipline around it.
- Impact: We get better at estimates course-correct sooner when things go over, planning becomes more predictable, we get better at shipping on time and waste less time.
The impact document has a few benefits:
- Your reports might start getting creative with how they impact the company
- They will be more confident that you see and recognize their impact
- It will be easier for you to see and recognize their impact
- It will help your reports recognize their own accomplishments and build up their own confidence
Align with your direct reports on expectations for growth
Work with your reports to define their role and a path for growth, aligning on their career goals. You need to be CONCRETE about how to measure that growth!
So, I recommend coming up with “success metrics” for the next 3, 6, and 12 months. I learned about success metrics in this blog post that is actually about hiring but is just a really helpful framework for thinking about growth.
A good role definition document format:
- A short section for company goals and context (manager fills this in, short paragraph)
- Personal goals of the teammate
- Role definition should include 3 one-liner themes to focus on, with a couple bullets to explain each
An example theme in my role definition doc: “Build a strong, diverse team.” I describe this theme with a few sub-bullets: 1. Attract strong, diverse talent to the team and 2. help direct reports (and others) thrive at Remotion by learning about their unique needs and creating space for them to flourish.
- Success metrics for 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year
Example goals for these time horizons: define career growth goals with direct reports, hire 2 engineers, ship beta to users.
The benefit of coming up with this is that you can set concrete goals together (help your reports visualize their growth) and get aligned on expectations on a timeline. Sit down with your direct reports and define it together.
Celebrate more, privately and publicly
While it’s important to train yourself and your team to recognize one another’s contributions thoughtfully and frequently, it’s equally—if not more—important to actively celebrate them once you do!
Build a practice of celebrating these diverse accomplishments—perhaps it’s a biweekly demo day with time for wins at the top of the meeting, or a wins channel, or a unique practice you come up with alongside your team. Whatever it is, do it frequently and intentionally.
Recognizing and celebrating diverse impact is a foundational step towards building a truly inclusive remote team
Creating an environment where teammates of all backgrounds and skillsets feel recognized for the work they are proud of is crucial to retaining diverse talent, and building a more engaged, higher-performing team.
The case for virtual coworking: build a connected remote culture.
Regularly coworking with your hybrid or remote team can help you build the social cohesion that makes work feel less like work.
Here are the biggest reasons we think coworking is an effective way to create a close-knit remote culture:
1. It fosters casual conversations.
Building a connected remote culture is all about fostering 1:1 or small group organic conversations. Virtual coworking makes space for those conversations. When you spend time together outside of agenda-driven meetings, spontaneous chats naturally occur, as they would in an office.
2. It's more inclusive than scheduled social events.
It can be draining for introverts to have to participate in scheduled, purely social conversations. Coworking allows the team to spend time together and occasionally chat without having to constantly be "on," making it more inclusive for introverts and extroverts alike.
3. It's easy to say yes to.
Purely social events are important, but if your team is busy or on a tight deadline, it's tough to find the time for social chats without it feeling like an obligation. Coworking is much easier to get your team onboard with because it doesn't take time away from getting work done.
4. It improves remote collaboration.
Coworking can lead to unblocking and shorter feedback loops. Quick questions get answered easily and in the moment, without a having to schedule a meeting or go back-and-forth in messages.
5. It's scalable.
Coworking works for teams of all sizes and is a great way to scale your remote culture as your team grows. It's helpful to create opportunities for teammates from different functions to get to know one another.
6. It creates shared momentum.
The feeling of togetherness is motivating!
Get started with virtual coworking: choose the type most aligned with your priorities.
It takes intentionality to make virtual coworking feel natural and energizing enough to stick—it's not as simple as leaving a Zoom call open all day.
Here are a few of the ways we've set coworking up for our team. We recommend choosing one to start with. If it works, make it routine and experiment with other types from there.
Try independent coworking.
Try project-based coworking.
Best practices for virtual coworking.
Keep group sizes small.
Limit your coworking sessions to 4-6 people to keep things from getting distracting and help make introverted teammates comfortable chatting.
Signal boost coworking.
Set a norm of letting the entire team know when you're hopping into a coworking room or session.
Make it routine.
Once you've figured out what kind of coworking works for your team, make it a regular, opt-in event. Set up a recurring calendar event to do it at the same time each week to maximize the impact.
Set expectations ahead of time.
When you're first introducing coworking to your team, share what you're imagining in your calendar invite and at the top of each session to get everyone on the same page. For example:
Let's try virtual coworking! We'll work independently on our own projects with our cameras off, but we'll share space and listen to music together — like we might work side-by-side at the office.
Listen to music together.
Play music while you work to create a shared environment and add a little bit of personality to your coworking session.
Set up Coworking Rooms in Remotion.
Most of the above is doable with any video chat app, but much easier with Remotion—which we designed with a lightweight, smooth coworking experience in mind. Easily set up Remotion rooms that your teammates can hop into for different styles of coworking.