With Covid slowly falling under control in many countries, organizations are looking to the horizon and eagerly discussing what a return to “normal” will look like.
However, the most forward-thinking organizations recognize this moment as more than the end of tragic era. In fact, one of the few silver linings of Covid is the ability to start fresh and create a better work environment than the “normal” of 2019.
Before we look to the future, let us take a quick trip to the recent past to remind ourselves what the corporate landscape looked like way back in 2019. According to the Harvard Business Review, in 2019, “one in five employees reported experiencing a cultural crisis – a significant incident indicative of troubling workplace attitudes and behaviors – in their organization.” More importantly, “an even greater percentage of employees, 30%, expect to experience a cultural crisis – such as sexual harassment, gender discrimination, financial mismanagement, cheating of customers, inattention to safety, or poor behavior in the leadership ranks – in the next two years based on their perceptions of their employer’s behavior.”
So, even before the catastrophic events of the past year, many organizations, according to their own employees, were on a dangerous trajectory with their corporate culture. Fortunately, the many breaks in continuity created by the pandemic have also created a great opportunity to start fresh. To help you take an inventory of your corporate culture, here are 5 Keys to Building Better Corporate Culture.
1. Work/Life Balance
The pandemic has upended many of our preconceived notions of work and productivity. Some organizations have found that people can be more productive at home than previously thought. Others have discovered that any meeting of more than 4 people can only be conducted in person because people on Zoom calls are as likely to go put a pizza in the microwave as they are to actually pay attention. On the other side of things, many office workers have discovered that working from home is not all that wonderful. They miss the social aspects of the office and find that when working at home, there no longer seems to be an official “end” to the workday.
The right answer will depend on your organization and people, but the key is that you do not have to blindly go back to how you were doing things before Covid. As you move forward, consider how much more freedom you can give your employees and be careful about burning them out. When making decisions about how to move forward, just remember: happy employees are productive employees.
Whether working in the office or from home, your employees face unique health challenges. Office workers are more easily temped to eat fast food because they are in a rush, while workers at home are more likely to snack throughout the day with such easy access to their own kitchens. People working from home are also more likely to have unergonomic working spaces which result in posture issues and back pain.
The solution is to foster a corporate culture that encourages health and fitness. Group fitness challenges are a great idea, as are charity walks and runs. Also, making a serious effort to stock the office kitchen with healthy, yet tasty, snacks will go a long way. You can also incentivize or subsidize workers to ride their bikes to work and engage in other fitness activities like going to the gym. Finally, and most importantly, let sick people stay home. Before the pandemic, it was normal for people to come into work with coughs, fevers, and runny noses. It goes without saying that creating a sick leave policy that allows workers to stay home to work when ill, rather than forcing them to use sick days for minor colds would be best for them and for the health of your other employees.
3. Unified Vision
One of the main ways corporate culture can fail to take root is if management and employees do not have shared goals. Many workers feel that their leadership is the enemy, rather than someone on their side working toward a common goal. With many out of the office for a year or more, it has been all too easy for this gap to widen.
As you create the new post-Covid reality for your organization, help maintain a unified vision by ensuring that communication runs freely in both directions. Soliciting feedback from employees will not only make them feel like they have a stake in your organization’s success, but it will also help your management make more effective decisions.
4. Shared Values
We often say that corporate culture is what keeps people invested and engaged when no one is watching. This is most true when it comes to corporate values. The ideal values will certainly vary based on industry, location, and personnel, but the constant will be in how those values are reinforced. Certainly, one must begin by creating and publishing the values that your company and employees should share. Then, to solidify those values, reward and recognize employees who exemplify them.
The reward does not have to be extravagant; it merely has to be more than symbolic. Everything from gift cards to a half day at full day’s pay will suffice. Just as critically, publicize the employee to the rest of your organization. Newsletters, email blasts, social media pages, and office bulletin boards are all great methods. The key is that you have to make some noise when a team member exemplifies the values you hope to instill in their co-workers. Before long, you will have strengthened your corporate culture with very little effort.
The more diverse perspectives have input in your organization, the better you perform. We have observed this happening for centuries on every scale from whole countries to tiny businesses. To that end, it is important to remember a critical point: diversity is not just about how we look or where we are from, it is also about how we think. That is the idea behind neurodiversity.
The complex working situations of the past year have likely shown you that some of your workers flourish at home and some stagnate. Some are morning people, and some are night owls. Some miss the background buzz of office life while others shine in solitude. The key is to accommodate as many ways of thinking and working as possible, as this will allow you to get the best out of the widest range of talent.
One easy solution is demountable glass walls that allow you switch between private meetings and open workspaces in the same office. If you let your team members work in the conditions that suit them best, you will get the best results.
This break gives you the mental space to ask yourself “why did we do it like this before?” Do not just go back to “normal.” Move forward into exceptional by dedicating your efforts to creating a better corporate culture and you will be thrilled with how happy and productive your teams will be.