While customer-centricity will remain the focus, a collaborative mindset and an attitude that fosters continuous learning will become essential organizational elements
It is now given that the post-pandemic world of work will be hybrid. While it has unlocked new ways of defining work, put digital transformation on steroids and created new value, it has also thrown up some tough challenges for companies; like what happens to organizational culture. These have also helped us to ask critical questions about work and purpose. We have always done things this way, which was no longer valid.
The situation has created an interesting opportunity for employers to help people figure out what really matters to them, help them find more purpose in what they do. Several companies have found that people were actually living the organization culture. When the crisis hit a telecom services company that provides ICT services to communication service providers, employees automatically coalesced into volunteer groups in many countries, which mounted an incredible effort to help those of us who fell ill. Every employee family was reached out to with any support they needed.
When we think about culture, we think about a common set of behaviours, plus the underlying mindsets that shape how people work and interact day to day. We saw this in action during the peak of the pandemic. Organizations prioritized employee health and safety as paramount and showed that they genuinely cared for their people. Nothing else could have underscored the company’s culture in any better way. It reflected that the company truly believed in its culture statement, that has always hung framed in its walls.
The pandemic fast-tracked three interwoven transformation genres affecting every industry: the embracing of digital technologies, the creation of new business models, and ushering in new ways of working. There is an underlying connection between these three kinds of transformations – it’s to do with the organization culture. In the beginning of the pandemic, most companies were worried whether this glue called culture will withstand the onslaught of the virus. Let’s see what happened.
Most companies, especially those that had been readying for a digital transformation; had set out on a journey; had transformed themselves; or were born digital natives, enjoyed increased productivity and efficiency. Companies realized that a cultural foundation was the common factor that helped them sustain and even improve their performance during this period of near total remote work.
Trust, as always, was a critical element of culture as physical supervision of work was replaced with management by objectives. Companies in which people trusted each other performed better than others. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies that focused on culture were five times more likely to achieve breakthrough results in their digital transformation initiatives than those that didn’t.
Companies realized that the bedrock of culture will help us survive and thrive even through the most trying situations in the future, if we continue to nourish it through our behaviour, through living our values and understanding that the purpose of being in business is not just to make profits, but to help transform society, change lives, and create sustainable solutions for the planet. Most importantly, organizations must recognize that a culture shift has happened during the pandemic, the effects of which will be long-lasting.
Empowering managers and leaders to immediately recognize and reward people for showing up differently is vital. When people break down barriers, take risks to work together differently, and begin to live the desired culture, leaders must take notice. Encouraging just-in-time creative and personal recognition that employees appreciate accelerates the new behaviours. If consistently applied, these actions quickly build the belief that an emerging culture is “real,” and “the way we’ve always done things” is no longer the way we will be doing things.
While customer-centricity will remain the focus of organizations, employee health & safety have become equally important, a collaborative mindset that even encompasses teaming up with competitors, sustainability, and an attitude that fosters continuous learning to stay relevant even in the most rapidly changing technological and economic environment, have all become the essential elements for defining organization culture during and after the pandemic. Finally, we must realize that culture is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s a continuous effort that needs to start right at the top through demonstrated action, and only then it will permeate throughout the enterprise.