It’s a challenging time. COVID-19 has forced significant changes. People are working remotely and businesses are scrambling to keep their doors open. It happened in the blink of an eye and most people were caught unprepared. What has this taught you about the culture of your business?
Culture is the glue that holds everything together. It’s an invisible force that has a huge impact on the attitudes and behaviours of the people in your business. It’s best defined as “the attitudes and behaviours people adopt to fit in with the expectations of the people around them, or in the case of a remote workforce, the people they interact with.”
Ask yourself this question. If someone new joins your company and hears conversations about how bad the company is, or its poor management, how long will it take before they too start complaining ?
People adopt the attitudes and behaviours of the people around them because they want to fit in, and that creates a company culture.
Think about another scenario. A strong leader releases a very motivational and inspiring video in response to the current crisis. It outlines the company’s plans and how they will survive and thrive. It’s excellent.
After watching the video a new employee joins a ZOOM meeting and overhears two people, who have been with the company for some time, talking about the video and how it was a load of rubbish. They tell each other stories about how the company couldn’t possibly achieve the things the leader was suggesting.
Now ask yourself, what final message will this employee be left with? The positive message from the video or the negative message from the conversation?
To keep a culture strong in a time of crisis you need people to expect the right attitudes and behaviours from each other.
When that happens the culture becomes self-sustaining and inspiring. It’s the only way a culture will survive a significant challenge like COVID-19.
How do you achieve such a culture? Start by building it on an inspiring foundation. Start by talking about the purpose of your organisation. Why you exist, the contribution you are making in the world, and the contribution you are making right now in the middle of this crisis. You need people to align with a strong and compelling purpose. They don’t need to have the exact same purpose, but they do need to align with it.
People will gladly participate in this conversation, even remotely, because it’s a conversation they want to have. Deloitte’s 2019 “Global Human Capital Trends” report found that employees want a career, purpose, and meaning from their work. They don’t want to hear about how much money the company is making, they want to hear about the contribution you are making in the world because that gives their work meaning.
Then ask people about the culture you need to deliver the purpose. These two conversations will build an intrinsic motivation that keep your culture strong in difficult situations. The ideal process is to “A.D.A.P.T.” which stands for:
- Align with purpose: Engage with people in your company and talk about how they can support the purpose of the company.
- Discuss the culture you need to achieve that purpose and how you will build that culture remotely.
- Assess your current culture: This is best achieved through interviews and focus groups. They are the only way to get accurate and meaningful data about the attitudes and behaviours in the business.
- Plan how you will transition from your current to your target culture, and how you will review and evaluate your progress.
- Transform: Implement your plan and transform the culture and your business.
When you build a strong and self-sustaining culture you will build a competitive advantage that will make it much easier to survive unforeseen challenges like COVID-19.
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