Safe Guarding Organisation Culture During The Pandemic
Well around 6 months back the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Indian corporate workforce into the confines of their homes to isolate from the perils of this newfound disease. Leaving out the fraternity of consulting organizations, we majorly remained immune to the idea of large scale work from home before this crisis hit us on the head unguarded. As we all know that crisis is the mother of unseen opportunities, after the initial hurdles of acceptance, we now stand equipped with an armor of advantages of the new age – technology-driven work from home.
“Fast-moving Tech organizations read as Google and the Amazon of the world, have quickly understood the employee advantages and business benefits of WFH and declared that this will be the new normal. Quite a few Indian Tech-Product organizations followed suite and are now re-engineering business and people strategies around the same.”
This means gone are the days when coming to office was considered to be the only way of looking productive and adding business value.
What happens to Organization Culture when everyone’s working from home? …. Well almost everyone! Organizational culture has always been formed through emotional and physical togetherness of small and large teams. These norms, sometimes said and sometimes unsaid, were emulated by observing others exhibiting the required behaviours. In the new normal, can these behaviours be sustained and replicated from behind the computer screen? Well, it’s going to be easier said than done. As the tide turns on the new ways of working, leaders will have to play a pivotal role in safeguarding the organization’s or the team’s culture than ever before.
As we march forward we can keep some critical aspects in mind to address the culture dilemma.
These are unprecedented times and now is when individuals need to know that there are people looking out for them and ensuring that they remain connected to the larger cause and vision. Leaders need to now put a disproportionate focus on creating online and offline platforms to ensure that they and their teams are on the same page regarding what needs to be achieved, how it needs to be achieved and by when. Connect and Broadcast platforms such as Leadership town halls, Skip level meetings, Fire-side chats with Leaders, Ask-Me-Anything sessions and informal one on one catch-ups are going to be crucial for leaders to communicate the organization’s culture and core values. Such sessions should highlight instances where employees have upheld organization culture and or exhibited core company values. While these have been happening in the past too, but ‘frequency’ will be the game changer now.
Trust and Empathy will go a long way
One of the feelings that somehow starts creeping in is ‘out of sight out of mind’. Don’t let your team members feel isolated. A lot will depend on how you engage with individuals in the team. There can be a tendency of overloading your top / critical performers (to a point that they start feeling the burn) and ignoring (unconsciously or consciously) your steady contributors. We understand that this is the time that everyone rallies in together to collaborate and build so that there is a feeling of ‘wanted-ness’ and ‘togetherness’. Remember keeping the team/individuals productive is going to be a difficult task. Build certain norms of operating remotely and adhere to them. Giving them room to breathe and helping them find their own comfort zones will also help in establishing a conducive environment to work. Gaining and building trust within the team will help to get the team together to achieve objectives and targets during these ambiguous times.
Stronger Organizational and Functional Induction
This is going to be a challenge for all organizations, especially when you are on-boarding new talent remotely. If there was a greater need for re-inventing Induction programs, the time is now. The focus should now be on formal and informal methods of inducting new joiners in the organization or in your team. This would involve that the joiner gets a helping hand in the form of a Buddy who helps him/her navigate through the cultural norms of the team and the organization. Instead of letting the new folks unravel the org/team culture, it will be required to put all details on the table for the person to consume directly. This will require outlining the cultural norms, the org values, and also the unsaid expectations. Organizational and Functional inductions need to be detailed, exhaustive, and immersive in nature where individuals need to experience the org culture directly through its leaders.
Opportunities to Collaborate
A great way of bringing people together virtually will be through platforms to collaborate. Opportunities to collectively brainstorm or ideate on exciting projects will put people face to face on a monitor screen and get on with consultative action. In today’s day and age technology platforms have provided a plethora of collaboration tools such as in-app polling, break-out sessions, activity tracker, and a lot of other easy-to-use applications. Running virtual Idea-Thons or Hack-a-Thons will bring people together as part of diverse teams to work towards a common exciting goal. People managers should be now focussing on bringing the team on common grounds more than often. What used to be over the shoulder discussions have inadvertently transformed into calendar invites, with these organic opportunities to participate in discussions that have eroded. Conscious efforts need to be put on setting up group discussions for goals that need to be achieved together.
Appreciate and Reward
A great way of sustaining and elevating employee morale is by appreciating instances of desired behaviour being exhibited. Organizations that create recognition philosophies that leverage culture and value systems to recognize individuals will always find it easy to re-enforce their culture to the employee core. It is going to be important how well we are able to communicate role model behaviour across the organization and recognize individuals who exhibit these behaviours. Appreciating employees on open virtual forums and sharing evidence will help in institutionalizing org culture and values.
Organizations have invested a lot in ensuring that their teams and individuals remain productive and connected during the pandemic. A tremendous amount of effort is being put in to ensure that individuals across grades and functions remain knitted together. These unprecedented times have tested organization’s culture and we have read many stories as to how teams have come out successful in keeping everyone unified and have achieved the unseen or the unheard!