News | Company Culture

Here’s How HR Leaders Are Keeping a Pulse on Remote Teams [Built In Boston]

April 8, 2020

By Michael Hines

Boston HR teams have had a lot on their plates these past few weeks. Ensuring a company safely and successfully transitions to working fully remote is a process that involves much more than simply ordering everyone standing desks and monitors. In addition to finding ways to replicate formal and informal office interactions, like team lunches and all-hands meetings, HR leaders have also doubled down on communication and gathering feedback.

Now more than ever, HR teams are relying on technology to keep a finger on the pulse of their companies. We spoke with four local HR leaders to learn what specific tools they’re using to keep their colleagues engaged, informed and happy during these uncertain times.

Mariah Slone

What is your HR team doing differently in light of the COVID-19 crisis, and why?

At CMT, we’re being much more intentional about creating community and making sure that all our employees feel engaged and connected, not isolated. Our company community is so creative — we’ve come up with ideas like guided meditation mornings, lunch groups with randomized participants, afternoon group exercises, game nights and even an after-hours talent show, all using Google Hangouts. HR helps to enable and support the administration of some of these activities, but in reality, most of them are happening organically and are led by employees from across the company. We’re really proud of our employees for coming up with so many interesting initiatives and running with them.

What HR tools or culture surveys are you using right now to keep a pulse on how your team is doing? Why did you decide on these tools specifically?

Something we value highly at CMT is collaboration, especially the kind that happens spontaneously when you are connecting with people in an open office environment. Preserving that spontaneity was really important to us when our office transitioned to telecommuting. To keep the spirit of an open office alive, our IT group implemented a remote work collaboration tool called Sococo to digitally simulate our office. It features digital rooms that our IT team has configured to look just like our physical office.

There are conference rooms where interdepartmental squads can gather and collaborate via voice and webcam, breakrooms where people can go for water cooler talk and a game room. Best of all, you can see everyone’s avatar if they’re logged in, knock on their door and initiate conversation. Even though we’re distancing ourselves physically, we find it’s been crucial for us to come together digitally every day in these various ways. It’s really helped us to continue operating as a cohesive team.

How are you leveraging the information you collect from these tools to inform decision-making or drive new HR initiatives?

Our HR group is watching how people are communicating and collaborating from a bird’s-eye view, and it has generated a lot of ideas for how we can be more efficient with our meetings and conference calls, support organic ideas for great group activities and think about organizational structure and cross-team collaboration in new ways. We will be using many of these insights once we return to the office as methods for helping our full-time remote employees feel more connected and able to collaborate more effectively with the Cambridge team.

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