As COVID-19 causes big shifts in workplaces everywhere, attention to your culture might get lost in the shuffle. But don’t let it. A healthy organizational culture could be the key to your survival.
Just because you can’t have all-hands meetings or weekly check-ins in person doesn’t mean you can leave your employees adrift at home right now. If you’ve worked to build a strong organizational culture that connects your team to each other and fuels their sense of mission, you have a valuable asset to leverage when the team is scattered and you’re facing new challenges together.
How can you nurture your organization’s culture from a distance and tap it to keep your team engaged and productive? Here are a few ideas from different organizational disciplines:
Ensure that everyone is working together. Clearly, collaboration, brainstorming, and problem-solving—which often benefit from teams gathering in a room together and bouncing ideas off the wall—are more difficult now. In a ZDNet column, authors Vala Afshar and Brad Martin explain that connection is still key, but it needs to be supported differently. “In today’s work environment, physical proximity to your co-workers is not an option,” they write. “You must embrace digital proximity, and empower this digital proximity with the best business culture to support your customers, employees, stakeholders, and community.”
Don’t let technology get in the way. It’s important that tech infrastructure adapt to worker needs in a new setting, according to Sachin Bajaj of the Indian technology firm HCL Technologies. “For this model to function effectively, businesses need to ensure high levels of synergy and transparency across all levels of the enterprise architecture,” he writes on the HR site People Matters. “However, only a few organizations are adequately prepared to adopt such a digitally transparent ecosystem. Most organizations continue to struggle with unstructured data and disparate systems, which among other things leads to shadow IT, and uncertainty in face of challenges.”
Think like a survivor. Many of the same actions that an organization might take when facing a bankruptcy or market share decline are essential right now, former oil company CEO Bill Higgs noted in a recent interview with Chief Executive. “From a leadership standpoint, you have to take all of those drastic actions to make sure you survive to fight another day,” he said. “And that’s what people need to understand that I think they’re starting to learn a little bit more as we go through this.” Organizations with that survivor mentality have a better chance to bounce back, he said.
Reflect organizational culture externally, too. The shoe company Zappos has a long-standing reputation for going above and beyond and building a strong culture of creativity. At the beginning of the month, the firm launched a Customer Service for Anything hotline, intended to help people find solutions to their problems, even if they have nothing to do with shoes. The hotline drew headlines after a doctor at the Mount Sinai Health System called and explained that he was running out of pulse oximeters for patients. As Forbes recently reported, the company turned to its supply chain network and located more than 300 of the devices.