How to build or shape an effective and sustainable culture at a covid-hit workplace?
Different parts of the world are dealing with the pandemic differently and healing at a different pace. With the pandemic stabilising in some parts of the world, some countries are coming back to work while others continue to work from homes.
Amidst the changing norms and normal, culture is the linchpin that offers necessary control to the organizations. And if we are not attentive enough to these shifts, culture could lead to chaos. Managing change will be the easy part, what’s going to be tricky is the identification of what’s next and the pace of ‘next’ that we are looking at.
How to identify what’s next and why is that important?
It’s simple – to understand what comes ‘Next’, one has to look at the ‘Now’ with a magnifying glass. Most of the ‘after’ outcomes can be predicted by closely looking at the ‘before’ behaviours, attitudes, reactions, responses. Most of the ‘culture was awry’ situations occur because someone responsible refused to look at the obvious. It is imperative that team leaders have a deeper understanding of things like:
What your people have missed in the last year and a half and what changes have they appreciated
Analyse how your team is responding to the notion of coming back to the office and what do they fear the most about tomorrow (hugging/ shaking hands with colleagues, crowded elevators, sharing meals in the cafeteria, too many people using the same washroom and so on). It is important to treat each of these are legit fears)
To begin with, provide people with a safe space for conversations. And then make sure to collate significant parts of the conversations to be able to identify patterns and impact on outcomes
It’s no surprise that with changing ways of business operations, people’s preferences are also changing. If leaders do not make necessary notes of those preferences and patterns, it will be the systemic chaos that will rip the organizational structure apart, not the impact of the pandemic!
We need to be cognizant of the fact that culture is about people, and people have no obligation to subscribe to a culture.
How to build on the changing aspects of the ‘new’ culture?
For the next few years, change is going to be the defining part of the world we function in. The second wave just got over for some parts of the world, and we are preparing ourselves for the third wave while keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t emerge as forcefully.
How do we prepare for the unknown?
- Make sure to carefully audit and document changes at the workplace
- Make sure to document new processes and policies and leave space for addendums, especially inputs courtesy your teammates – do not take this for granted!
- From hiring to promotions, from manual process to automations, make sure to record expectations and assess outcomes
How to ensure that we don’t go wrong with the ‘new’ culture?
Whenever you are confused, revisit the very basics of culture. I see companies following the footsteps of market pioneers in terms of what they are doing for their people. It’s good to be inspired but remember no two organizations’ collective beliefs and value systems are exactly the same. People in different industries and markets interact with elements of changes differently, be it new appointments, new policies or new technologies.
Conduct regular cultural audits, understand how people are interacting with new systems and technologies. Is the end user comfortable? What changes do you need to make to inject comfort and collaboration in the system?
Culture hinges on people, people hinge on culture. Do not take it for granted. No matter how obvious a piece of information seems, do not assume. Clear and effective communication is the differentiator between successful and not-so-successful organizations.
As with most things in this world, it needs reminding, the devil, old or new, lies in the details