Strengthening organizational culture in the age of remote work
Building a culture should be the goal of every organization – and the responsibility of every leader. A strong culture is the secret ingredient that allows companies to compete and thrive in their markets.
But in a pandemic, this difficult task has become even harder.
How can you maintain, build, and improve upon your company culture when collaborators work from home and no longer enjoy the team-building rituals that once brought them together?
That is what many leaders are asking themselves, as they face the prospect of a vanishing corporate identity. In response, they are finding ways to differentiate themselves and their companies in a work-from-home context.
Below, you’ll find some pieces of advice on reinforcing your company culture:
- Connect with your purpose. This is the perfect opportunity to place your company’s purpose front and center. Now more than ever, collaborators need to understand the reason for – and meaning of – their work. Purpose is an emotional anchor for your organization. It ensures everyone aligns with and commits to the same goal. Try to understand how your company culture generates value and strengthens the ties between different areas, products, collaborators, clients, and customers. Purpose is also crucial in retaining talent. Without an attachment to the company, your collaborators will set off for other, more purposeful shores.
- Generate new, strong connections. Do you remember what made your organization unique before the pandemic? What made collaborators identify with it? It was the company culture. That is, the values, priorities, and interests that create a sense of belonging and form connections between collaborators. Deepen these connections and make sure they are shared by new employees – both now and in a potential face-to-face, post-pandemic future.
- Communicate differently… and listen up. Communication is the lifeblood of an organization. Messages convey emotions, ideas, and dreams to all collaborators. Direct, honest, relevant, focused, and inclusive communication can unite the entire organizational system. So, analyze what you communicate up, down, within, and without your organization. Ensure important messages are heard by those who need to hear them and that they produce the intended, positive impact on stakeholders. More than that, however, listen – and listen more closely than ever. Communication is not about verbally bombarding your collaborators. On the contrary, a sharp ear is the foundation of all successful collaboration. You must understand what your collaborators are thinking, feeling, and living through. And you can do this through polls, collaboration platforms, meet-ups, bonding rituals, and so on. These will let you gauge your organization’s emotions and thoughts. Retrain leaders to adopt more humble, personal, and sincere forms of communication, so they can mitigate the solitude and isolation people are suffering during the pandemic.
- Preserve your organization’s rituals. Remember all those special events and get-togethers that gave collaborators space to have fun, plan for the months ahead, and bond with each other? All those lunches, onboarding meetings, and birthday celebrations? How many of these moments can be resurrected in the age of remote work? As it turns out, most of them! They just require more creativity to organize. But if these rituals are important to your organization, you must preserve them. So, figure out which rituals are the most unique and relevant – and reimagine them in a work-from-home context. Digital collaboration platforms, most of which are free, let you set up activities, group sessions, contests, and social events in a manner that is quick, remote, and hassle-free.
- Get everyone involved in charting the road ahead. Right now, most leaders are short on answers and have no idea what lies ahead. This is the perfect time to involve everyone in the decision-making process and strengthen participation and inclusion. With creativity and an innovative mindset, your organization can be fueled by your collaborators’ best ideas. Everyone should have a chance to shine, even if they used to be on the quiet side. This means more opportunities for all – and, in the long-term, intellectual capital for your organization, as more voices are heard.
- Improve formal and informal recognition. Our old metrics and models no longer work. Key performance indicators have changed and their time spans have shortened. In this context, you should not forget the importance of recognition. Make sure to applaud resilience, small and large accomplishments, and effective collaboration. This will build a positive and motivational atmosphere for your teams. In today’s remote workplace, every day can seem the same. Recognition can help against a backdrop of constant and monotonous uncertainty. In response, try to rethink and reinforce your monetary and emotional rewards.
To summarize, no one expects you to reinvent the wheel. The key is to listen, think, and recognize what makes your organization special – not only in the eyes of the world or the market but, more importantly, in the eyes of your collaborators. Because they are the ones who define the heart and strength of your organization, and who will allow it to face the future and thrive.
By Rogelio Salcedo, Managing Partner, OLIVIA México