Don’t let remote working change your company culture

By now, most of us have adapted to the “new normal” by navigating our way around Zoom meetings, finding the work-life balance, and assisting customers in new ways. We are 7 months in from when the Pandemic started to affect us, and this is therefore a good time to reflect on how the organization has evolved during this period and the impact it had on the Company Culture.

Why is Company Culture such a buzz word? According to Frances Frei and Anne Morriss at Harvard Business Review: “Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”

This has never been more relevant than now. Research has shown that even when you create a culture that is strategically aligned, shared by the staff, and hugely valued, it won’t help you over the long run unless you also develop a culture that is adaptive in real-time. One of the key aspects of an adaptive culture is recruiting individuals that show resilience and adaptability. But this is not quite the most realistic possibility in a time where companies are shedding their workforce. So, how do you build an adaptive culture with a small or settled workforce?

1. Lead by example One of the interesting aspects of leadership is how people take on the characteristics of those they follow. Staff imitates and take on the behaviors and methods displayed by their leader. This is a good time to show resilience and adaptability. Consider your personal approach to change. How do you respond when facing change? Be curious and don’t get too attached to a single strategy or approach. Inflexible leaders limit the adaptability of the team. When you want to change or add to your organizations culture, ask yourself what you can do to embody and reinforce that behavior.

2. Communicate your expectations

  • Affirm what is working. You will have staff that has portrayed resilience and adaptability during this period. Highlight those characteristics or aspects and take the time to recognize great things that are happening. This will set a standard of what you expect going forward.

  • Clarify the ideal outcome by painting a picture of what "good" looks like. Make sure that the workforce always knows what you are trying to achieve and how you plan to get there.

Every behavior, no matter how complex, is changeable. Altering your workplace culture during these unusual times is not impossible. Just be sure to slow down and take in some expert advice before you commence on the journey to shifting your culture.