Company culture has taken a bit of a hit for many organisations during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dispersed and remote teams, staff on furlough, Zoom fatigue and social distancing can all have an impact on communication, trust and engagement.
Yet as we emerge from the other side and start heading back into the workplace, now is the time to start nurturing and rebuilding your company culture, to ensure it is ready to adapt to whatever our ‘new normal’ at work will be.
But what is company culture and how can we rebuild it after the pandemic?
How is company culture defined?
Company culture, also called corporate culture or organisational culture, is the environment, beliefs, and values, and goals that define a company. In a positive company culture, these cultural and social aspects of a workplace are valued by employees.
On the other hand, in a more negative or toxic culture where employees do not share the beliefs and values of their leadership and co-workers, employee engagement and productivity suffers.
Given the importance of these cultural aspects of a work environment, we asked industry experts for their insights on how to create a positive, strong organisational culture. Here are five suggestions they made to build company culture post-Covid.
1. Manage employee expectations
Employee expectations have shifted considerably during the pandemic, which in turn can influence company culture. For example, many people will expect to work from home more, plus they will be looking to company leadership to provide support with mental well-being, as well as guidance on health and safety.
Ian Barrow, head of culture and engagement at creative consultancy Corporate Culture, says that leaders are crowdsourcing opinion and becoming more inclusive in finding ways to bring employees together and listen to their insights, as this is what staff are demanding.
“Employees have a number of heightened expectations as a result of the pandemic, beyond what they would normally expect from the company and their own role. There is an expectation for organisations to become more human, taking into account how employees want to work in the future.”
2. Facilitate a culture of flexibility
One of the key lessons learnt during lockdown is that, going forward, remote or hybrid working is likely to be the rule rather than the exception. According to a recent BBC survey of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers (covering over a million workers), 43 employers said they had no plans to bring employees back to the office full-time once restrictions are eased.
Hybrid or fully remote working is a major cultural change for a company, and it might take a lot of adapting to for employees who were used to a lot of face-to-face interaction.
Company culture must therefore become more accepting, open and flexible, with strategies adapted to take this into account, says Susy Roberts, executive coach and founder of people development consultancy Hunter Roberts.
“Employers need to develop a remote working handbook and framework, so everyone knows what is expected of them, including hybrid working guidelines. The new way of working, which is inevitable, has to be part of company strategy and drive the culture.”
3. Strive for transparency and open communication
Put simply, transparent communication must be at the heart of your corporate culture. Now more than ever, employees are craving connection and communication, so leadership must be completely transparent, promote honest communication, and encourage a mutual dialogue.
When ranking the factors that contribute to organisational culture, employees rank regular and candid communications highest (50%), followed by employee recognition (49%), and access to management or leadership (47%), a Deloitte study found.
“We need to facilitate clear, two-way, open conversations with all employees, top down and bottom up, about what's important to employees and what their values are,” comments Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co founder of HR consultancy 10Eighty.
4. Support mental health and wellbeing
HR leaders must focus on the mental well-being of employees. They must look at how current policies and procedures can be adapted to be people-first. It’s also important to encourage line managers to take the time to truly understand how each person is feeling emotionally in this changing work environment.
“People will be coming back to work with varying levels of loss and trauma,” remarks Susy Roberts. “Employers have to take a genuine interest in the wellbeing of their workforce and not just pay lip service to new requirements.”
5. Take this opportunity to do things differently
Some organisations have used the pandemic to press the reset button and make huge changes to working practices and the company environment. Now is the time to look at how you can continue to adapt and improve on what you’ve already started.
“It’s an opportunity to look at working patterns, real estate and support services, and build flexibility into processes and systems,” says Susy Roberts. “What’s important to people? How do we embed it into our cultural values, from recruitment to talent retention to day-to-day operations? Things won’t go back to how they were, so we need to grab this opportunity and use it to everyone’s advantage.”
WHY IS COMPANY CULTURE IMPORTANT?
These are important insights for how companies can build organisational culture. If you're still not convinced that now is the time to build a strong corporate culture, here are some of the positive impacts. A strong and healthy organisational culture can:
94% of executives and 88% of employees agreed that a distinct corporate culture is important to a business’ success, the study by Deloitte found.
Research by Glassdoor also demonstrates that company culture is important to employees. In a survey of 5000 people across 4 countries (one being the UK), they found that 73% of workers would not apply for a job at a company if its core values did not align with their personal values.
For many prospective employees, a good company culture is more important than any other feature of the organisation - even salary.
Bottom line: a healthy culture can help a company thrive.