In the past twelve months, business leaders have managed their workforces through closures, downsizings, disruptions, and the shift to remote work. Because of this, maintaining positive company culture, values and engagement has been critical to business resilience through COVID-19, writes Libby Roy, Managing Director of Optus Small and Medium Business.
In such a climate, no matter the size of your business – from three employees to 100 – it’s more important than ever to define your business’ values and culture to ensure that you are supporting your workforce.
Globally, the pandemic saw an initial uplift in engagement scores in organisations, however longer periods away from peers and business pressures meant that the engagement soon returned to pre-pandemic norms. There is an opportunity to learn from behaviours seen at the start of the pandemic and to maintain a great culture, but we need to act. Leaders are now in the unique position to shape, cement and leverage their company cultures to create the greatest impact for their organisations.
Here are three tips for creating and maintaining a strong company culture:
Get clear about your company’s culture and values
People like to have a noble purpose, so when businesses find the right way to tap into this, they can really bring a company’s culture to life.
Whatever you choose as your messages and passions as a business, articulate and stick to them because consistency of messaging helps to create clarity and increase motivation with employees. Additionally, investing in your team and educating them allows them to model your values and champion them among themselves.
Celebrating and recognising your team’s hard work every day is a great way to reinforce this culture, making it clear why you have all come together. This is key to building proactive and positive teams during difficult periods as when people know what is expected of them and know they are supported in those efforts, an organisation will rally around a shared goal.
Building your team and beyond
Your employees are your most direct and public brand ambassadors. As you would when choosing external ambassadors to work with, it’s important to set your employees up for success by ensuring that they are the right fit for the organisation and its culture to start with, and then share all the information they need to put these values into practice. Making culture and values part of the hiring process helps to ensure that both employee and employer values are aligned, and helps to create a sense of inclusion and belonging for the whole team.
As we all know, employee experience and advocacy are inextricably linked. This means that if they feel valued in their roles, that they will return the appreciation which will show to your customers. The most effective company cultures value people, provide career growth, and adapt to meet customer needs.
Ensure that you have the right technology tools to connect, communicate and collaborate
Having the right ideas and team only works when everything is connected and communicated – regularly and openly. A great idea for businesses who are hoping to build or reinforce a workplace culture is to create a repository of information through which more people have information more quickly in order to guide decisions and actions.
As many businesses pivoted towards remote working and teams became more disparate, connection and communication became harder to achieve. Small businesses in particular felt the strain as these smaller, close team dynamics were suddenly put to the test and forced to embrace less personal forms of collaboration.
Investing in technology may not be the priority during times of economic stress, but there are platforms and tools available for big and small organisations that can make remote collaboration and connections easier, and benefit businesses in the longer term These solutions help to create an environment of learning and mentorship, even when teams are remote, facilitating networking opportunities so that your team can still gather and work together.
Putting it all together
Culture has always been one of the most powerful differentiators for an organisation and following recent challenges, the need to manage culture intentionally and purposefully is especially vital to business success.
The pandemic may significantly shift how your company responds to the market, but it is surely an opportunity to strengthen your culture. As they say, culture eats strategy for breakfast.
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