Overcoming Virtualophobia – Or How We All Went Home And Became A Better Company

Part Two: Wrap the Love Around the Metrics

Building a virtual workforce that works isn’t easy, but it’s well worth it. At Decision Toolbox (DT) we’ve been virtual for years and I’ve been sharing what’s worked and what hasn’t. In Part One I wrote that the first step is to establish and track metrics. The next step needs to come right on the heels of metrics: culture. That’s the topic here in Part Two, continued in Part Three.

It’s alive!

You don’t build culture like an office or implement it like a new accounting system. Think of it as a plant, a vine that grows and changes all the time. You need to tend it, water it, prune it, and (yes) fertilize it. It requires as much attention as any other aspect of your business. Here are some suggestions for creating and nurturing virtual culture.

  1. Hire for entrepreneurial passion

Virtual isn’t for everybody. Some people flourish in structured environments, some people crave the face-to-face interaction, some people do their best work when they know someone is watching them. And there always will be sticks-and-bricks businesses.

But if you plan to go virtual, start by hiring professionals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for excellence. Self-discipline is essential, but it has to be motivated. You can see passion on résumés in the form of awards, advanced degrees and leadership roles. If a team member fits this profile, I don’t care how many hours they work — I know they’re getting the job done. DT’s Director of Recruitment Quality, Kathy Marshall, wrote a whole blog series on the topic of passion and excellence.

Mission statement . . . or rallying cry?

A few years back, when we were much smaller, the team got together to draft a mission statement. Well, it turned out to be more of a rallying cry: “We are a team of kick-ass bitchin’ recruiters who boldly go where no recruiter has gone before.” You get the idea: get everyone focused on the common goals and make sure they are passionate about pursuing those goals.

In case you’re still wondering why culture is such a big deal, this is a key reason: it helps you attract and retain the best talent. You’re getting the results you need from your team, and your team has the flexibility to go to the gym at 11 AM, volunteer at their child’s school, get a load of laundry done . . . whatever they need to maintain life balance.

  1. Get everyone on board

A lot of people think vision and mission are about WHAT a company does. At DT we believe it is all about WHY a company does what they do. If it’s about the why, it’s more likely to become infused into your culture. For example, at DT we strive to be experts and innovators in recruitment because recruiting is important — it has an impact on companies and on candidates and their families. As DT Founder Jay Barnett says, “Recruitment is too important not to do it well.”

But it has to be more than a poster on the wall. You have to tend culture like a garden. And in a virtual world a lot of the watering is digital, so you need to be creative. Whenever anyone at DT brings in a new project or secures a hire, we send out “Green Flag” emails. Why we call them that is a long story, but everyone at DT knows that “Green Flag” means a teammate has scored a success. We also send out best practices emails to acknowledge top performance. The Kudos column in our weekly email newsletter features shout outs submitted by one team member about another.

Next up, I’ll cover two more aspects of culture: making sure no one is an island, and measuring it (yes, you can measure culture!).

Editor’s Note: This Article was co-authored by Tom Brennan, Senior Writer (DecisionToolbox).


Kim Shepherd
Kim Shepherd
AS CEO of Decision Toolbox, Kim Shepherd leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships, alliances and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources community. A recognized thought leader by HR organizations nationwide including the Human Capital Institute, Kim is a regular speaker at national and regional events on various business models. Kim joined Decision Toolbox in 2000, and brought her unconventional approach to the company she had admired as a client. Today Decision Toolbox is 100% virtual, with more than 100 team members working remotely across the U.S. This company is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise. This unique business model has played a key role in the company being awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Decision Toolbox was also named one of the "Fastest Growing Private Companies" by the Orange County Business Journal in 2012. In addition, they have been named 3 years running to the INC 500/5000 List of Fastest Growing Private Companies and have been a 7-time recipient of the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen for Midmarket and Emerging Markets. Calling Kim unconventional is an understatement – her former endeavors include 10 years as a TV and Foreign Correspondent, a stint at Club Med and a near miss at a spot on the Olympic ski team. Kim is an active member of the Adaptive Business Leaders Executive Roundtable and the National Association for Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter). She served on the Executive Board of Trustees for Girls Incorporated of Orange County and is also the Board Chair for Working Wardrobes. She is also a former member of Impact Giving. Kim is the recipient of the National Association of Women Business Owners (Orange County Chapter) 2013 Innovator of the Year Award, the 2014 Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year, and the 2015 Family Matters Award from WomanSage.

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  1. Hi Kim, as someone who’s worked many years in both environments, I love your focus on constant communications with virtual employees. Many companies fail to communicate well even when everyone is onsite. And when the workforce goes virtual, that becomes a serious problem. Thanks for your great articles on this topic!

  2. Managing people virtual is different when managing people on premise. Virtually are great for real producers that just want to get an activity done. When it involves planning and scoping, on-premise is much easier than virtual. 🙂