So, what’s the best way to ensure company culture remains intact in a pandemic and remote-working world? In a nutshell, make sure you have a strong company culture before the pandemic even starts.
Since the pandemic began, we have been faced with many new questions and considerations that didn’t exist before. Several of these new questions surround how we will work in the new pandemic world. What will work look like? Will we work from home forever? Will Zoom video conferences go away once we’re back in the office? Will business travel happen the way it did before? Among these questions is how we can remain connected to our colleagues while not working nearby.
I became acquainted with Firefly when I was a client and was impressed by their responsiveness, helpfulness, and expertise. Since that time, I now have my own business where I support the Firefly team with their marketing efforts and have learned a ton more about their unique culture. So, recently when it was suggested to sit down with the team to discuss how Firefly has built and maintained a solid culture, even in the midst of a pandemic I was eager to participate and hear the secrets to their success. We dove into learning about how this team has been able to preserve the culture and team environment during the pandemic and what qualities of their culture existed before the pandemic that made this shift so much easier.
Before the pandemic, the Firefly team was primarily based in Kansas City with eight out of nine employees within about an hour from each other. Seven of those employees worked in a downtown Kansas City office but also onsite at client locations frequently. The owner of the company works remotely from San Diego. So, being in one location 100% of the time was a part of the company DNA even before lockdown. This helped the transition to our pandemic-era but certainly wasn’t the driver of their cultural values.
The team illustrated that before the pandemic, their culture consisted of a few key tenets.
- Friends that are family. Oh, and coworkers too. The Firefly team works together but are also friends and support each other similar to the way a family would, often teasing each other as siblings do too. Many on the team vocalized the secure feeling that they have toward each other and that they genuinely enjoy each other’s company. One newer team member expressed that he felt that if he needed a couch to crash on, his teammates would be there for him, even though they hadn’t expressed those exact words.
- Helpful nature. The team articulated that they truly want to help each other for the good of their clients. When a new person starts, it may take them a moment to realize that asking questions is the only way and that the rest of the team truly wants to help each other. With frequent check-ins of balancing workload and ensuring clients’ needs are met, helping each other is critical to the success of the clients, organization, and each individual on the team. This isn’t just something they say, but rather something they do daily.
- Environment of trust. The Firefly team has a unique approach to balancing client needs. Every person on the team is capable of answering any issue. There are no hierarchies that support “tiering” of the team members or levels of request that they can handle. If a request comes in, it is initiated and completed by the person who received it. With this structure, there is an inherent trust that is needed and also allows each individual to rise to meet the challenges they may face. No micromanagement occurs which means trust but also each individual must be responsible.
- Hiring on solid traits. Many team members commented that when interviewing for open roles at Firefly, the team decides on whether to hire first based on personality and character. They look for self-starters who can laugh at themselves here and there. Having a friendly demeanor is critical to working with Firefly clients. The team has found that IT experience is important but the character traits take precedence over technical skills.
- Protective of a good thing. Every person on the Firefly team recognizes that the culture that has been developed is unique and not found everywhere. What seems even more unique is that the team values being protective of that culture and will articulate this sentiment to new people the importance of keeping the culture intact. In a jovial manner, as is the nature of the team, the tenured employees will advise a new employee not to mess it up for the rest of them! That sense of personal accountability and integrity to uphold this culture by each person is also what makes Firefly such a special place to work. Team pride is palpable when conversing with this group.
So, moving into the pandemic era, Firefly already had a very solid foundation of a company culture that has created a very low turnover rate for the organization and continuity for their clients as well. But, since the pandemic, other key attributes have emerged that have helped Firefly actually grow in their cultural strength during this time.
- Transparency and communication. From the beginning of the lockdown the CEO of Firefly MSP, Adam Jones, has been very transparent with his team about the pandemic related decisions. While Adam was being fiscally responsible related to business decisions, he was also honest with employees about questions and risks he was observing. He was transparent frequently and in some cases, without complete answers, to provide information to employees about how he was helping protect the company. The team felt that even if Adam didn’t have all of the answers, his forthcoming nature helped reassure them of the direction.
- Supporting your people as people. As team trust was already in place before COVID, supporting each other becomes even more important in our current situation. Adam mentioned in our conversation that, “If there ever was a time, now is the time to blur the line between employer and friend.” This is a hard time for many and we need to support each other as people. If one of the team members needs each other, they are there for each other. Simple as that but even more important now.
- Connect often. Tactically, the team has found a few things that have helped them stay connected while all are remote. Slack is a tool used by many including Firefly but enables quick conversations and given the rapid-fire mechanism also allows more human and informal responses rather than more formal email communication. This allows the team to feel more connected. The team also indicated they have had more casual video chats since the pandemic started. Some of the more social team members felt this was very important as they are craving social interaction. Having video chats without a business purpose can be helpful to check-in and socialize too.
Overall, Firefly has been successful in keeping its company culture thriving during this unparalleled year but the vast majority of this is due to the culture they had already fostered before the pandemic. The foundation that has been built along with the team dedication to keeping the culture healthy will allow Firefly to remain unfazed, culturally.
For those organizations that may have had challenges in fostering a strong company culture before COVID-19, chances are it will not be easier while remote. However, if an organizational culture was already strong, not being physically near each other likely won’t have a detrimental impact and could just strengthen the bond between employees as it looks to have done with Firefly.