7 ways to use your brand to attract and keep top talent in a virtual workplace

Working from home and having flexible working arrangements are now the norm and they’re here to stay. Employees now demand it and if you’re going to have a shot at recruiting the best talent and keeping them you not only need flexible working arrangements but a culture that fosters a sense of belonging and connection for people who work remotely.

Belonging and connection are fundamental human needs.

We need them to feel safe and secure.

When we feel safe and secure at work, we do our best work.

When employees do their best work the business benefits. It’s pretty simple.

The cost of flexible working

There are countless benefits of providing flexible work arrangements. They far outweigh the negatives. But there is also the danger of a pretty big cost and that is lonelinessand belonging. When people aren’t in the same physical space it’s more challenging to create that sense of connection and inclusion.

But why should businesses care about this?

Belonging equals bottom-line benefits

Belonging is a fundamental human need, it’s core to our existence. We need it to thrive and be happy and we need it to be productive.

According to Better Up, high belonging was linked to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.

Employees with higher workplace belonging also showed a 167% increase in their employer promoter score (their willingness to recommend their company to others). They also received double the raises, and 18 times more promotions.

When people don’t feel that they belong they start to look elsewhere for where they might. This means they may ditch you and go work for the competition. This has a huge cost to your business.

  • Reduced productivity
  • Hiring costs
  • Training costs
  • Additional time for team mates who have to pick up the slack.

Culture in the office vs remote

In the office

You run into people in the hallway and there are lots of opportunities for impromptu conversations that are less likely to be about work. You go out for lunch, grab a coffee or even meet for a drink after work. These things all build connection and belonging.

Things don’t need to be structured and scheduled. It’s how we’re used to building relationships. Face to face.


Everything is scheduled and there is a great big screen between you and your teammates. It’s harder to have spontaneous and organic moments to build connections. It’s not impossible but it takes more effort and needs structure and intention.

Read on for 7 ways to use your brand to create belonging remotely.

But first…..

Don’t get ahead of yourself

Before you consider how to extend your brand to create a powerful remote work culture you need to ensure you have the foundations nailed first.

  • Clearly articulated purpose that inspires
  • A set of values that are easily understood
  • Documented brand behaviours for everyone to follow
  • Rituals that reinforce your brand
  • A recruitment and onboarding system that prioritises your brand and culture
  • A reward and recognition system that rewards based on brand aligned behaviours
  • Repeatable storiesthat reinforce your brand

Once you have these things you can get to work.

1. Intentional virtual onboarding

From the get go make sure new people feel welcomed and connected. This experience should feel the same no matter if they are in the office or working remotely.

From their very first day (in fact the first interaction) employees should have a really clear view of the importance of culture and values to your organisation. Don’t leave it to chance.

If conducted virtually here’s what you can do to reinforce your brand and create a sense of belonging:

  • Share a link to a document which codifies the culture and the behaviours that are expected of them. You may even consider sending a hard copy in the post to make it extra special.
  • Set up a series of meetings so that new hires can meet their team, managers and learn more about ‘how things are done around here’. Ensure one of these meetings is with a culture champion, someone who embodies your culture and can take the new hire through your culture document.
  • Set up a session with a senior leader to take them through your organisations purpose and how the business is tracking against this purpose.
  • Set them up with key team members as buddies to help them ease into their role and the organisation.

Where your brand comes in: This is where your brand values and brand behaviours really shine and if integrated in your culture should be felt immediately by the new hire.

2. Create a virtual place to discuss and celebrate values

Use a slack channel or online space dedicated to discussion, celebration and telling stories about your values. At first this will need to be forced and will require a lot of input from senior managers. But after a while it will become second nature.

  • Encourage people to share events that they have witnessed in the organisation that embody values.
  • Share customer reviews and testimonials that demonstrate values.
  • Encourage discussion around rituals and processes that could reinforce values.
  • Assign a moderator role to a few culture champions (the people who naturally embody your culture and values).  Get them to ask questions, comment on other’s ideas and encourage conversation.

Where your brand comes in:This one is obvious, your brand values. They should align with your positioning and strategic approach and help to make your actions stand out against competitors.

3. Schedule online rituals

Rituals are the repeatable activities and events that happen regularly without thought. They help to build culture, reinforce values and purpose and ultimately create a strong sense of belonging.

These will be different for each organisation depending on your culture and values. Some ideas to get you going include:

  • Daily team huddle – a quick team meeting to bring people together. Get alignment on short term priorities, uncover roadblocks and celebrate wins. You can use this as an opportunity to create an agenda item in-line with your values. If one of your values is Be Supportive you might have an item where team members show public appreciation and support for something another team member is working on.
  • Create an online system for celebrating milestones– send a notification, ring a bell or do something else that creates a shared celebration among teammates.
  • Choose a pump up song to play when people are entering a zoom meeting.
  • Create channels and platforms for people to share informationwith each – songs, jokes, videos, resources.
  • Lunch and learn – schedule time for employees to come together online and learn about something new either from each other or a guest speaker.

Where your brand comes in:Make sure the rituals you chose are reinforcing your brand values and behaviours. While they can be grass roots initiated from employees they should still be aligned.

4. Make time for socialisation and bonding

Making time for social activities/groups where people can get to know each other personally will build a strong sense of connection and belonging.

It may be hard and feel a little forced at first but before long it will be second nature. So persist!

Some ideas you can think about:

  • Dedicated slack channels for non-work related comments and chit chat. Managers and leaders will need to lead by example to keep the conversation flowing.
  • Virtual happy hour or coffee and cake catch ups.
  • Holding friendly workplace challenges like a steps challenge or caffeine fast.
  • Hold donut meetings and pair team mates from different work areas so they can get to know each other.
  • Arrive at zoom meetings a few minutes early for some social chit chat (like we all used to do at in-person meetings).
  • Have group discussions about music, books, movies or anything related to your field.
  • Have friendly competitions or challenges.

Where your brand comes in:When people interact in social environments they get to know each other deeply. This connection can help in times of stress where tough decisions have to be made. These social bonds will help teammates to trust each other to make the right decisions in-line with your brand and values.

5. Use snail mail

When people are working remotely, things that remind them of an in person work environment can help to boost their morale and sense of belonging.

Use good old snail mail to send them things to make them feel connected. Here are some ideas:

  • If you’re planning a social experience, what can you send employees so everyone can share a social experience together. A cocktail pack? Recipe pack?
  • Handwritten thank you notes in the post.
  • On-boarding pack before they start with stationery and things for their desk.
  • Send birthday cakes, flowers for special occasions and other things to make them feel special.
  • Uber Eats vouchers so everyone can order their own lunch and have lunch together. Technically this is digital but it does the trick.

Where your brand comes in: Plan events and send things which are an extension of your brand’s purpose, values and behaviours. If your value is “celebrate progress” then you can send a bottle of champaign to everyone when your team hits a key milestone.

6. Reward and recognise – publicly and often

It’s easy for people working remotely to feel out of sight and not noticed or recognised. When people are not acknowledged or thanked it makes them feel as if their work doesn’t matter.

You should have a formal reward and recognition program that is based around your values. Then you need the platform to deliver this system. It must be done regularly, at least once per month. Once per week is even better.

Where your brand comes in: tie rewards and recognition to values led behaviour. Have a set of brand values and brand behaviours that are clear to everyone so people know how to behave to boost your brand.

7. Codify your culture

In an office there are many things that influence culture that are unwritten – dress code, decore, music, conversations, interactions. In a remote work environment it’s harder to see these things.

So you must document your culture and what is expected of the team. If you’re thinking no one is going to read a lengthy boring document about culture, you’re right. Make it engaging and fun, create videos, build colourful brand bibles or books, create online portals with interesting content.

And then document everything. The very act of documenting something means you are creating it with intention and thought. You’re not letting it evolve organically.

This should be done in an engaging and entertaining way, get creative.

Where your brand comes in:use your brand tone of voice, brand values, key messaging and visuals to make your culture code interesting and engaging. People should want to read or watch the content.

HUbSpot Culture Code
HubSpot has a famous example of a codified culture shown in this PDF detailing their culture.

A powerful remote working culture could be your edge

By being deliberate, intentional and by working hard you can build a powerful culture even when you have teammates working virtually. It’s not an option, but a necessity if you want to attract and retain top talent. When you attract and keep the right people and you pair this with a strong brand foundation you have all the ingredients you need to create a high performance culture where people feel they belong and can thrive. When your people thrive, your business thrives and so does your bottom line.

Need some help with codifying your culture

We can handle the whole process for you. Or, for advice or feedback, book a 90 min Spark Bar coaching session.