Some of the ways leaders can promote and cultivate a strong company culture (such as hiring for diversity or ensuring everyone feels comfortable sharing their own unique perspectives) are timeless. However, it’s also important to remember that the best ways to develop a positive organizational culture can also change depending on new circumstances, shifting employee perspectives, and other factors.
That’s why leaders should consider these trends and suggestions as we move into a new year. After all, improving company culture should be a constant priority, not merely a short-term goal. These tips and insights will help you continue to strengthen your organization’s culture in 2021, regardless of your particular industry.
Covid-19’s Lasting Impact on Remote Work
The Covid-19 pandemic forced many companies to dramatically change the way they operate on a day-to-day basis. For instance, many companies suddenly had to shift to a remote work model.
Even in the early days of the pandemic, people were speculating that remote work and distributed teams might become the rule, rather than the exception, even after the pandemic. These same predictions continue—remote work will likely be the new normal even after the pandemic is over. (It’s also important to keep in mind that the end of the pandemic is not in sight. European countries are seeing a spike in cases, and in the US, at least 31 states set one-day case records during October.)
The transition to remote work has created challenges for companies. For example, in the spring, many companies simply adopted the communication technologies and applications for remote work (think Zoom) but never made deeper adjustments to processes and policies. Distributed teams are a fundamentally different approach to work, and companies need strong leadership and a clear long-term plan to make the transition. Your company may need to assess its approach to remote work to see what’s worked and what hasn’t over the past eight months.
You may also need to re-assess how remote work has affected morale. For example, many employees report that working from home has blurred the line between their professional and personal lives—sometimes to the detriment of both. Remote work may have also damaged the social aspect of your company’s culture. Going into 2021, fun, socially distanced get-togethers like Zoom happy hours or “water cooler chat” Slack channels will likely still be important.
Refocus on Values
This is another point that ties in to the pandemic’s impact. Because many leaders were forced to make quick decisions to adapt to the unexpected circumstances, some companies haven’t been able to focus on aligning their organization’s work with their values. As they scrambled to adjust their operations, they lost sight of the defining principles that help employees feel their work has meaning.
Leaders can use 2021 as an opportunity to refocus and realign their work with their values. Many companies that have remained active during the pandemic have already made changes to continue being productive. Now, it’s time for them to get back in touch with their core identities and missions.
Adopting Effective Means of Communication
Again, one of the most significant elements of any strong company culture is open communication in many forms. Employees need feedback and to feel that their voices are heard. Research shows that employees are also more likely to be engaged when they genuinely believe their employers value their insights.
You probably already know this, but due to the pandemic, you might have had to change how you communicate with your team members on a day-to-day basis. If your company shifted to a remote work model, maybe you could no longer spontaneously share thoughts and feedback with each other the same way you could in an office. Your approach to meetings likely changed too.
These shifts will have naturally affected the nature of communication within the company in general. To preserve a strong company culture rooted in good communication, evaluate which new approaches to meetings and feedback have been most effective. Then, take action to avoid communication breakdowns.
Focus on Optimism
If you’re reading this, odds are good your organization has managed to stay afloat or even thrive during what has been a very difficult year.
Remember this when communicating with your employees. Because the pandemic hasn’t ended and continues to be a source of stress for many, it’s not uncommon for workers to worry about their job, the company’s health, and of course personal matters.
This attitude can affect their performance. It also has the potential to infect a company culture with an overall sense of negativity. That doesn’t need to be the case. You can leverage your company’s response to the pandemic to promote a culture defined by optimism and pride.
No matter what type of work you do, responding to the pandemic was almost certainly difficult for virtually every member of the company. The fact that you managed to do so successfully speaks volumes about your organization’s capacity to overcome various challenges.
Remind your employees of this whenever you get the chance, especially as the year winds to a close and we head into 2021. Encourage your employees to focus on what you’ve managed to accomplish together in the face of a massive challenge.