As we stood and waved a final goodbye to team gatherings and annual company conferences that once brought colleagues together (sometimes from all around the world) and enriched our career experiences with valuable interactions weaving around us that invisible thread tethering us to a company’s underlying culture, we’re now on a new horizon filled with alternative approaches to how companies disseminate those intrinsic values to employees, old and new in the world of #the_new_normal.
You see, culture is the essence of a business. It sets the pace of how things are done in it, how it deals with talents and how they interact with each other. It directly affects the way people collaborate and relate to the mission and values of a company. In the five years I spent working with Saatchi & Saatchi on the Procter & Gamble business, I was constantly intrigued with how P&G always managed to hire like-minded individuals that shared similar passions and related to the values promoted by the company. That intentional approach to recruitment with multiple rounds of vetting, coupled with frequent team and company interactions, ensured that these talents lived, breathed, and drank from the same mug that read “our unique role in the world, is improving the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come.”
You felt that mission permeate across those many winding corridors of their Geneva EMEA headquarters and it was impossible to spend a month working with that company without having those ideals and values seep deep into your work ethic and guide its development.
So, let’s assume for a minute that your company has just returned with a 50% or 70% capacity back to work…. Well, back to a different way of working, with masks and spaced out desks and messaging posters all across the office stating what interactions are allowed and what are not.
With your talents stretched between home and office, and stressed from a prolonged lockdown and confined movement, you’re faced as a manager with a diverse set of challenges, the foremost being how you can keep that invisible thread of culture connected between all your talents, so they stay on mission.
Here are 4 tips to help you deal with that change:
- Make sure your virtual workspace works for talents out of and in the office: A lot of companies invested in subscription software and systems during the lockdown that were a departure from their current ways of working. The worst thing they can do now as they return to offices is dropping these practices and returning to face to face briefings, which are already more difficult behind masks, and creating a disconnect with colleagues who are still working from home. As a manager, your task today is equipping employees with tools to communicate that work whether they are constrained in the same physical space or not, and setting up the right training for how the way they work makes a difference between a connected organization vs. a collection of people working in silos.
- Create a rich calendar of cultural initiatives that spur connectivity: The coffee shop around the corner of every building used to be the hotspot for socialization and has helped team members bond, exchange ideas and deflate tensions. If you’re not able for any reason to create recurrent virtual interactions between teams and company talents as a whole, then you should explore new experiences such as virtual team gaming (zombs.io and Fibbage are good ones) or set up a virtual coffee club chat that break the ice between people who haven’t seen each other and helps maintain a sense of continuity for talents on your business.
- Explore work beyond home and the office: Offsite conferences used to inject excitement and freshness into the sometimes-stale repetitive environment of the office. Many talents working from home tend to feel the same way. Your challenge as team lead is to inspire a set of new scenarios for where that collaboration can take place. Encourage team members to explore working a week for example from locations that drive creativity and problem solving. Cover the basic costs of it and you’ll see how it will benefit productivity and ingenuity on your business.
- Always remember that a happy team is a healthy team: A sneeze or a dirty desk that hasn’t been sanitized these days are enough to cause stress, panic and disrupt productivity. Recognizing that mental and physical health have a direct impact on your bottom line will help you as a manager take critical decisions despite their cost implications, that assure your talents returning to work that you uphold the number one culture building value of them all; “we care about our people”.