3 Steps to Nurture Your Company Culture During a Crisis

man slumped over his desk looking unhappy

3 Steps to Nurture Your Company Culture During a Crisis

When a crisis occurs, and it impacts your business, the first thing many leaders do is move into a place of fear and begin locking down the functions and operations of the business. With anxiety high about incoming revenue, a cull begins. First, it starts with services and suppliers; then it starts in the organisation. 

But acting in this state of lack and worry will only deter innovation and strength to overcome the crisis at hand. 

Instead, responding to a crisis rather than reacting to it, can make your business stronger, and enable you to adapt and survive any economic or global crisis that occurs. It’s simply a matter of approach. 

Company culture is an essential part of a strong business. In fact, research by Forbes has shown that companies with a strong culture see four times more revenue growth than those without a culture.  

It may often be deemed as the ‘fluffy stuff’, and in a crisis as ‘non-essential’, but the fact is, in times where change happens, it becomes even more relevant to create and build a culture where your team will remain productive, and your customers can relate to your mission. 

The truth is, culture doesn’t actually cost a lot of money, which means there’s even more of a reason to spend time on it during a crisis. 

To help you move through a crisis with strength, I’ve revealed the key steps you should be taking to manage your company culture. 

Step 1) Be Authentic

The COVID-19 pandemic has truly shown businesses behaving badly. From claims that businesses are emotionally blackmailing staff to remain working, to those who are using the crisis as an opportunity to change their business structure;  you only need to look across social media to see the press bashing many brands are currently taking. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t just bad press, this is bad business, and one that reveals the businesses who are not focussed on culture and people, but purely profits. 

People and profit come together, and with a strong culture, they thrive. It doesn’t have to be one over another. 

Being authentic and honest is where most businesses need to focus their attention right now. That includes your customers just as much as your team. 

When a crisis occurs, it is all too easy to act like everything is fine, when the reality is very different. 

Putting on a mask in front of your people, and not being honest about the impacts of this crisis leads to major distrust, which then leads to disengagement. Besides, if you’re acting dishonestly, you only encourage this behaviour from your own people. So how would you prefer it? 

Instead, be honest about the state of business with your people, and foster a deep trust with your team. When you’re honest, you’ll be surprised as how much people may want to help, or offer suggestions. 

Step 2) Include Your Team

Once you know a crisis is well underway, it’s time to start being strategic about how this will affect your business operations and your people. After all, most businesses cannot run without a team. 

But rather than doing this on your own, use this opportunity to collaborate with your people. 

Your team live, breathe and work in your business daily. They know your product, they know your customers, and they know the industry, so allow them to help you think of ways of coming out of this. 

Leaders that go it alone won’t be able to handle the weight of the situation. 

If you need a great example of this, I recommend you research FAVI, a brass foundry in France who overcame the recession in 2009. FAVI’s then CEO, Jean Francois Zobrist faced a troubling time when the company hit financial turmoil due to the economic crash. However, instead of covering this up, he stood up in the factory, told his entire team about the situation. Jean Francois told the team that if they couldn’t come up with a solution, he would have to make redundancies. The entire team decided to take a short-term pay cut in order to save jobs and save the company. Today, they continue to be one of the most successful brass manufacturers in Europe.

Step 3) Think Ahead

There’s a great saying that every business leader should remember – people remember how you treated them in a time of crisis. And it’s so true. We remember those who help us, those who hindered us, and those who stood by and watched the chaos. 

As a leader, how you act right now, and the decisions you make will have a broader impact on your company culture in the future. 

Do not be naive to believe that once this is over, you can blame your decisions on a crisis. That attitude simply shows poor character. 

Instead, use a crisis to further strengthen your position as a leader and what you expect from your people. 

To help you understand, company culture is the way your business acts and behaves to achieve its overall vision. If you act poorly, with dishonesty, then this is how you can expect to see your culture develop – into one of toxic distrust. 

The way you communicate, the way you behave, and the things you say will all be influencing your team during this crisis. So think about how you’re coming across, and how you want your company culture to feel after this crisis is over. 

By thinking ahead to the future of your business, you can remain focussed on what you should be nurturing, even through a crisis. 

So, how do you want your company culture to feel when this crisis is over? 

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About The Author

Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.