Businesses of all shapes and sizes continue to learn a lot about themselves during the pandemic. Making operational adjustment in the face of safety concerns, supply chain disruptions and especially remote working arrangements, took time, energy and resources to pull off.
Many companies surprised themselves on how well they adapted, even to the point of having banner years amid all the change. Things are by no means back to normal, but at least American business – from Main Street to Wall Street – knows they can adapt and survive.
One aspect which continues to challenge companies during all of this is maintaining a strong company culture, especially where remote working is still the norm. Bringing people together under a common banner is difficult enough under great circumstances; managing fractured work groups makes it even more so.
But why should management care about company culture anyway? Actually, there are lot of reasons why this should be top-of-mind for managers and executives alike. Corporate culture – defined as what leaders and employees say and do that is unique to the company – is critical in how employees deliver on the business strategy. Employees who feel engaged in honorable or beneficial work are more motivated to hit goals and introduce the kind of innovation that propels a company forward.
More than that, research has shown corporate culture is an important consideration on where employees choose to work and for how long, which has grown more important as labor pools have steadily run dry. As a survey by Glassdoor found in 2019, 75 percent of workers said they carefully consider a company’s culture before applying for a job somewhere and 56 percent of workers ranked a strong workplace culture as more important than salary.
Research shows this isn’t empty talk, either. More workers are putting their money where their mouth is on this point: 35 percent in one survey said they would turn down the perfect job if they didn’t like the company culture and 15 percent in another study said they had done just that.
So, how does a company create, maintain and make real a company culture compelling enough to inspire employees scattered all over the place? Inc. Magazine suggested the following as good starting points:
1. Measure company culture the same as any business objective.
You employ goal-setting activities to establish targets and scrutinize everything in your company based on performance metrics, right? Company culture is no different. Think about what kind of company you want and then hold that model up to the mirror. What are you trying to achieve and why? How does this translate to employee-facing protocols and messaging? How are you measuring success?
2. When times get hard, communicate 10 times more.
Communication is a slippery concept, tough to define yet immediately apparent when it’s lacking. But if there’s one thing last year taught us, it’s the importance of keeping your people informed. So many challenges hit so quickly demanding so much change last year that communication between management and workers was nothing less than the difference between which companies survived and which ones didn’t.
3. Invest in people's well-being.
It’s not enough to assess how well an employee is performing; work to find out how they are doing. These aren’t the same question; a recent Harvard Business Review article noted research that shows nearly half of employees experienced a decline in mental health during the pandemic. Companies attuned to this fact threw wellness weeks, offered free yoga or meditation classes or brought in experts on managing anxiety. Such moves can galvanize employee loyalty.
4. Develop an ongoing D&I strategy.
In this day and age, a company must demonstrate its commitment to diversity and inclusion at a systemic level if it wants to survive. This is not only out of the mouths of customers, but also employees who are increasingly vocal about such issues in the workplace. Assess what you are doing now on D&I, look for ways to get better or more transparent and include employees in the process wherever possible.
5. Find creative ways for people to connect.
You might think separating from the usual office tiffs to work at home would be refreshing but in fact, many employees miss the human connections that came with being part of a work group. Companies that provide events as a means for reconnecting and strengthening these relationships, even virtually, help put that dynamic back into balance, making all workers feel relevant and valued, no matter where they are physically located.