When we talk about organizational culture, it is commonly associated with the cognitive culture of the business. This relates to the spoken values of the company and what matters the most within that organization. It relates to how people think about that company and their mental image of the business, relating to topics such as public representation or mission statements.”
Cultural problems emerge when there is an inconsistency between the cognitive and emotional cultures within the business. And can mean different to different people within the organization. If the shared values of the organization do not align with the feelings and attitudes of individual workers, the company culture will collapse.
While it is not uncommon for a gap to exist between the two, it is during times of crisis that the distinction becomes profoundly apparent; essentially, it is at times of emergency that the true values of a business become clear.
Therefore, it is so important that employers are mindful of the steps they’re taking to ensure cultural consistency while their team is in lockdown. “It is a time to consider the purpose of the organization during the crisis and how they can openly communicate this to staff to ensure that actions and decisions are aligned with the company priorities.”
The situation that every business finds themselves in at the moment is completely unprecedented. Protecting and maintaining your company culture means protecting your staff. All the actions that you take should promote the physical and psychological safety of everyone on the team.
Re-communicate Your Values
The first step for all businesses to maintain their culture is to reiterate their values, today, “You could go up to a legacy employee and ask ‘what are the values and mission of the organization?’ and unless it’s something that’s being talked about as a matter of course, most of your people will say ‘I don’t know’. So most importantly one needs to Recirculate, recommunicate those values to make sure they’re very clear.”
Communication with employees should be clear and concise – make sure you spell out what is expected of everyone, and what they should not be doing. Company values & culture are worthless unless they are understood by everyone in the business.
One of the tough things about reiterating or restating values is that often, there’s a lot left unseen. For understanding culture: things like time-keeping, attitudes to health and safety, noticeboards, and personal artifacts are all visible emblems of the company culture, but asking questions, diversity and inclusion, competitiveness and cooperation are hidden from the casual observer, however important they are to the business’s core values. When reiterating company values, let it be an employee-led exercise: you may find more nuanced, hidden suggestions coming from their experiences.
“A people-orientated approach is really vital at this juncture so create chances for employees to give their own thoughts, ideas and feedback to promote creativity, engagement and inspired thinking. For example, if one of your core values is Community, what are you doing as a business to support the community and how could staff contribute to an action to reflect this value?
Many company cultures won’t survive lockdown unless they trust and empower their team. “At this moment in time, many feel like we don’t belong because we’ve lost our place and our way in the world – this is a big, heavy thing that everyone is dealing with, and we’re all affected in different ways.” E.g. Job loss, salary cuts, fear, anxiety, etc. Additionally, the persistent guilt for not being able to balance work and family time.
As the company figures out how it would work together complete remotely, what is equally crucial is providing an enabling environment, including the softer aspects of building trust and accountability, refraining and discouraging casual remarks. “Even if you can’t see them working, you know that everyone is pulling together to get the job done to the best of their ability,”. “Also cutting people a bit of slack is important – to acknowledge the fact that not all homes were designed to accommodate an uninterrupted workspace.”
However, relying on gimmicks to boost staff morale will only go so far. You need to strike a good balance between work and play, with clear delineations between them – if you have a strong, trusting culture among your team-trusting that people know what to do, you shouldn’t need to do too much to ensure this happens. You also need to ensure that your team has a work/life balance. Agree individually what each team member’s working hours are (there will need to be flexible here as some people will have to balance things like childcare). If you need to contact them, stick to those hours.
We also need a virtual replacement for the traditional watercooler chat or the lunch hour conversation. Let your staff chat with each other over whatever technology you’re using, whether it’s, your own platform, Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams. Don’t police their interactions too much, they need to express & vent their angst, frustration.
Enabling this journey and providing conducive mental workspace companies will accelerate the mindset transition, that puts the organization in good stead to retain the people and navigate through the unprecedented situation.