Between the economic downturn, the continued spread of the global pandemic, civil unrest, and the shift to remote work, we are in the midst of learning how to navigate our new reality.
In the wake of change, company culture often becomes collateral damage. People are rightly focused on handling their day-to-days as current events and unforeseen demands pull them in different directions. For company leaders, uniting employees under a shared vision during a fractured time presents a sizable challenge — but overcoming it has never been more paramount.
Company culture is foundational to an employee’s work experience. It is also essential to business success. With so much unpredictability in the world right now, a company’s culture should become an unwavering aspect that provides what is currently lacking in many areas of life for all of us — community, connection, and trust.
While it may be tempting to fill the void with easy “fixes” like Zoom happy hours, these solutions are nothing more than temporary bandages. Leaders need to take a deep look at how to integrate culture into daily decisions and operations. Here are five ways to get started.
Be Nothing If Not Transparent
To engage and inspire a workforce during times of significant change, leaders need to share the “why” — the rationale and context behind decisions. Times of uncertainty naturally spark fear — put minds at ease with transparent information. And when you don’t have the answers right away, it’s okay to share that you’re still seeking the right path forward. Leaders are humans, too, and what’s most important is establishing trust.
Just as critical as transparent communication is empowering employees to be part of the solution. Establish a culture where every voice is heard and employees are encouraged to bring their unique perspectives and ideas to the table. The best decisions are often made when people of diverse backgrounds, roles, and levels join forces to solve a problem together.
Go the Extra Mile in Enabling Your Managers
Your managers are on the frontlines of fielding employee questions during these rapidly changing times — but they may not have all the answers because they aren’t involved in conversations at the leadership level.
Do not overlook your managers and the essential role they play in sustaining company culture. How your managers promote culture will have a trickle-down effect to their teams. Leaders need to hold themselves accountable for providing managers with contextual information, the “why” behind business decisions, and ensure they’re set up to successfully navigate difficult situations.
In addition, encourage them to include more empathetic elements in their management approach. This could mean dedicating 1:1 time to simply ask how their directs are doing or revisit goals. Template-based approaches to people management are no longer suitable when times have so drastically changed.
Invest in Learning and Development
Training and professional development are a key piece of a thriving company culture. When a company invests in setting people up for success, they are more likely to exceed goals, feel satisfied, and continue to grow with the company.
With the onset of COVID-19, the training world was turned upside down because so much of it relied on in-person sessions. But what we quickly found is that being in-person isn’t essential for engaging training. In fact, going virtual provided a valuable opportunity to step back and reinvent our training to make sessions even more interesting, easy to consume, and interactive.
Your training investments should be focused on helping your people become better at their jobs. Don’t train just to train — instead, train to make an impact. What makes a massive difference is thinking about the mindset employees will arrive with, and the one you want them to leave with, as well as how this will translate to actual behavioral change. This means going beyond tracking training completion rates to using technology to measure the ways people are working differently — and how the results they’re getting have improved.
Close Knowledge and Communication Gaps
The issue of “tribal knowledge” — where pockets of understanding and expertise are siloed by regions, offices, or even individuals — was never sustainable. Now, companies are faced with sharing best practices across an entirely remote workforce.
The widespread adoption of digital collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams is a foundational first step, but companies must invest in their communication channels and tools beyond the basics. For example, having a sales enablement platform where content and guidance come together in a single source of truth is essential for supporting the intentional, streamlined sharing of information — something that is key for a collaborative company culture.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the new generation of sales and revenue talent has grown up in a world without antiquated technology, where the digital consumer experience has been defined by the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Apple, and Amazon. So, when they enter working life, they expect a similar quality of insights, analytics, intuitiveness, and user experience from the tools and processes their employers implement.
Don’t Lose Sight of What Matters Most — Your People
For many companies, acquiring new customers has become even more challenging in recent months. As such, organizations are shifting focus away from acquisition and onto preservation of their existing customer base. With changing priorities, strategies, targets, and metrics, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and new list of to-dos. But, in reality, delivering extraordinary customer experiences begins with your employees.
When employees are happy, aligned, and motivated, it has a ripple effect throughout the business, from surpassed expansion quotas to customer satisfaction. Put the extra effort into supporting your employees now, and the business outcomes will follow — because at the end of the day, putting people first is what really matters.
Culture Is Key
Looking ahead, more change is on the horizon. The best way to prepare for whatever may come is to invest in the areas within our control that can make all the difference. Take the steps to strengthen your company culture — your employees and your business will benefit alike.