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How to nurture your company culture during Covid-19

Company culture should not fall by the wayside during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, investing heavily in your culture is the very thing that will keep your business – and the people in it – healthy during this tough time. 

7th May 2020
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Has your company altered course in the wake of Covid-19? Whether you’ve cut ranks, trimmed services, or gone remote, your employees are feeling it, and morale is at risk. When resources and market share dip, a positive outlook becomes more important than ever. There’s one fix you can work on that doesn’t cost anything but time and effort – something you may have reserves of now – and that’s support for your company culture.

Remote management demands more feedback, not less, while still preserving employees’ autonomy to perform tasks in line with their thinking and learning styles.

Besides lifting morale, a healthy culture is a business driver. While profitability is uncertain, any low-input, high-return investment you can make will help sustain your organisation’s viability and position you for a swift rebound, when the time comes. Your people are your most valuable asset and they’re vulnerable right now, so focusing on their experience is the right thing to do.

Building and sustaining bonds

Although staff may be working from various locations, increasing teamwork is a good idea right now. It builds trust and encourages innovation, two elements that people and businesses need during uncertain times. Trust in the company and fellow employees, plus the sense of mastery and autonomy that come from devising new methods or products, engage people with their work. For those feeling isolated or distracted after being thrust into a remote working situation, interdependence and creative problem solving can provide substantial motivation.

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If you don’t have projects in need of cooperative input, you can start with job information sharing. Pair up employees and have them exchange progress reports about what they’re working on. This can be the beginning of cross-training, which allows folks to expand their skill sets and try something new, or it can be a means of informing staff of what their colleagues do and why. Staying informed about the roles and goals of coworkers tells individuals whom to approach with questions, or whom to include in meetings or projects to effectively achieve objectives.

Finally, team bonding is fun! At my fully remote company, we routinely bring our people together over a weekly trivia contest – sometimes it really is the little things.

Increase communication and feedback

Some people are more naturally suited to working from home, while those who depend on the social aspect of office life may feel at sea. Those who are still reporting to the workplace may find even social distancing to be a bridge too far. For business leaders, over-communicating is the answer.

First, review your organisation’s transparency status. Does everyone get access to a common information base? Permission to access facts and figures via file-sharing programmes is a great initial step. The more team members know, the better able they are to make informed decisions and satisfy customers and objectives.

Second, are you broadening the lines of communication? Remote management demands more feedback, not less, while still preserving employees’ autonomy to perform tasks in line with their thinking and learning styles. Use phone, email, chat, and video technology to stay in touch with direct reports frequently and create an all-staff chat or message board for casual interactions, if you haven’t done so already.

Finally, make your virtual meetings as ‘in person’ as possible by refreshing people’s listening skills. Steps like muting microphones until speaking, asking for clarification of muddy points, and repeating back what you heard take much of the guesswork out of interpreting what a speaker is saying. This might warrant its own conference focus. As we know from email chains and social media posts, communication breakdown can cause hard feelings, often just through misunderstanding. Thoughtful listening techniques keep people on the same page, hearing the same message.

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Facilitating a positive outlook

Morale is important in the best of times, but it’s even more critical now. If your typical business model is reacting to challenges with a ‘putting out fires’ frame of mind, this is an ideal time to replace it with good, old-fashioned positivity. A positive mindset is contagious, in a good way, just as negative thoughts and feelings drag other people down.

Framing problems as puzzles or opportunities gives you the mental space to overcome them. Taking a step back and planning for difficulty is even more proactive. By keeping a plan B and C in the bottom drawer, you’ll be ready to act, not react, to a need for a solution or change of course. Business leaders can model positivity by starting meetings with a review of what’s going right, before you tackle what isn’t.

Finally, a great way to drive home success is to celebrate it. Step up your acknowledgment programme and give your employees a reason to get out of bed in the morning. This can range from simple kudos from managers, to contests and virtual award ceremonies.

Remember also that peer-to-peer recognition is something that people crave. In my company, we use a customised emoji called a ‘green flag’, which folks can attach to group emails or chat posts when acknowledgment is deserved. When someone sends out a green flag to a coworker for help or above-and-beyond effort others join in, and everybody gets a morale boost. If there’s one thing we need right now it’s to feel stronger, so we can get the job done.

Interested in this topic? Read Coronavirus: the role of the unexpected remote manager.

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