As companies worldwide begin planning for a *fingers-crossed* post-pandemic 2021, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that workplace culture is considered one of the most important topics for leaders. According to Bain & Company, companies that exhibit a winning culture, have a strong internal compass and inspire their employees are 3.7 times more likely to be business performance leaders. Unfortunately, the pandemic is forcing most to work from home for the foreseeable future and causing an existential crisis for corporate culture.
Offices and workspaces make culture-building a much easier task because interactions happen naturally. Yet, we continue to see significant corporations making headlines for deciding to keep their staff at home permanently – committing to creating a fully online culture. If you’ve yet to finalize details for your post-pandemic strategy, we’ve listed a few reasons why culture – and how much effort you’ll need to maintain it – should be one of your top considerations.
When you’re in the office, corporate culture can grow serendipitously. You never have to plan the watercooler chats or pre-meeting coffee runs to establish and maintain rapport between employees. Additionally, team members emphasize core values in the inherent actions that take place naturally around an organization. Suppose a young staffer sees a senior customer service rep going above and beyond to delight a client. In that case, the young team member learns by osmosis that the organization prioritizes an excellent customer experience. These interactions and observations don’t happen naturally in virtual environments and require much more forethought from leadership.
Lauren Moffatt, owner of Spark HR, executive career coach, and HR and leadership consultant, says culture is essential to define and measure more now than ever.
“Culture is felt and experienced in person as well as through operations. As employers it’s our responsibility to “dial up” the communication on culture – what matters most and to communicate this more frequently. The more “distance” we have between us, the more important it is to bridge the gap – with increased and intentional communication, feedback and care. These are now considered necessary daily practices, just like meetings and KPIs, to ensure culture is experienced.”
Have you ever hopped on to a Zoom happy hour to find everyone staring at each other in awkward silence? Yeah, us too. Now, we aren’t knocking companies for trying to engage virtually during this time. We are all trying to make it work online! However, when planning your path forward as a company post-pandemic, it’s essential to consider if your online culture-building activities have felt like a bandage for your organization or if you think they are sustainable long term.
If it’s the former, but you still want your employees to have flexibility, schedule culture-building activities several weeks in advance and host them in-office. Your team members will thank you.
If you’re planning on being fully remote, consider investing in platforms like Donut and the Icebreaker bot for Microsoft Teams to create those relationship-building interactions between your employees in a virtual environment.
Fostering a culture of employee development is highly sought after, especially with younger generations like Millennials and Gen Zers. For many orgs, training and growth opportunities have primarily fallen to the wayside throughout the pandemic. We get it. Everyone is just trying to function! However, these opportunities create loyalty and affinity between employees and their organizations, so don’t neglect them!
If you’ve not yet translated your development programs into a virtual format, consider using the existing tools in your arsenal (like Microsoft Teams) to build growth tracks for your team. There are also tons of cloud-based SaaS organizations that can help you create a digital environment for development.
For many companies, flexibility is the way of the future. We believe most organizations will develop a hybrid model where employees can work both in-office and at home. However, our research has shown that the hybrid model will pose the most challenges to organizations, as coordinating what needs to happen online vs. in-person will take more effort than ever. If you plan to move forward with the hybrid format, inclusivity in culture building needs always to be top of mind. Every event hosted in-office should have a virtual equivalent so team members that are home can join and feel part of the organization.
When building your hybrid schedule, consider rotating departments so team members can interact with different people and continue to build rapport outside their immediate team. Cross-functional collaboration is essential to solving big existential problems, which will benefit both your culture and business.
Re-entry poses a lot of challenges, but it is doable! If you’re interested in taking the next step to getting your people back in the office, take a look at our COVID-19 resources and contact one of our workplace consultants. They’ll work with you hand-in-hand with you to craft a solution that meets the needs of your organization.