6 Signs Your Company Culture Won’t Survive Coronavirus
The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has sent a wave of fear, worry and uncertainty across the globe, disrupting our home lives and our workplaces. Which means company culture has never been so important.
Unfortunately, it’s clear to see from the outset those companies who have fared better. From our experience over recent months, companies who have already invested in their company culture and nurture it consistently, have adapted better to the disruption caused by the virus than those who have treated their culture like a tick-box exercise.
According to a survey by the Society for Human Resources, more than ⅓ of employers have faced difficulties with company culture during the coronavirus pandemic .
Existing strong cultures have proven to be more agile, provided stronger support systems for their team members, and been able to continue operating regardless of the situation.
In his landmark 1859 book, The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin showed that those species that adapt best to their changing environment have the best chance of surviving, while those who do not adapt do not make it.
Culture has always been a differentiating factor for organisations; but now more than ever it has shown the clear winners and losers in this pandemic. As a crisis always does – it brings out the very best and very worst.
The trouble is too many organisations are seeing the covid-19 crisis as a short-sighted issue, a ‘once-in-a-million’ occurrence, rather than the possibility that this could actually become something we have to contend with more regularly in the future.
If not a global pandemic, there will be other life-changing events that will happen in our lifetime that will also disrupt the way we work. From environmental disasters, the rate of technology transformation such as artificial intelligence, and even the economic changes such as our ever increasing life expectancy.
To help you identify if your business is going to come out of this stronger, I’ve revealed some of the negative attributes that poor company cultures are showing. Take it from me, it’s a now or never situation.
1) Ignorance to Flexible or Remote Working
The phrase a ‘new normal’ has become a global buzzword signifying that the way things were before covid-19 won’t be the way things are post covid-19.
And it’s true, even from the conversations I’ve had with people; nobody wants to go back to the way things were. The work-life conflict, the long hours of commuting, the outdated working hours.
Now that everyone has had a taste of remote working, and even flexible hours, organisations will have to consider their approach to working hours. The attitude of “this is the way it’s always been done” will not help companies survive. In fact, it will do quite the opposite.
For companies who don’t embrace remote or flexible working there will be a high turnover rate, as individuals decide to seek organisations that can suit their needs, and support them in gaining that work-life balance.
A struggle for great talent will commence, meaning organisations slow to offer significant remote or flexible working options will be left in the graveyard.
According to data from Aviva in 2019, one in four UK workers left a company due to a lack of flexibility. I believe this will rise in 2020 due to the impact of the coronavirus.
Everyone has realised that we don’t need to be in an office, let alone work a solid eight hours for five days a week in order to get work done.
2) Commanding Rather than Coaching
Unfortunately during this pandemic some organisations have still felt it necessary to micro-manage their teams – despite the entire world being in a crisis state.
Moaning at teams about dress codes, sickness, and mild lateness, when the reality is we’re all surviving a pandemic. A little lateness really isn’t the end of the world!
A micromanaging approach will only push your team to consider whether you’re an employer they really want to work for.
Shockingly, some companies take the stance of, “well if you don’t like it, leave”. But ruling by fear will not gain you business or a strong employer brand. The complete opposite. “Businesses behaving badly” are constantly being shamed in the press, and you mustn’t forget that people no longer value job security like they used to, they want respect and to be valued. The more you push, the more they’ll leave.
To survive such a crisis teams need coaching, supportive leaders who encourage trust and honesty. The world feels like it’s upside down and uncertainty is rife, people look to those who will help them through it, not kick them through it.
3) Meetings for Meetings Sake
We may have all adopted zoom at the rate of toilet roll, but digital fatigue is becoming a prominent issue in organisations during the crisis.
The World Economic Forum revealed that virtual meetings such as Skype, Houseparty, Microsoft Teams and Zoom have boomed during the pandemic, growing from 10 million daily meeting participants to more than 200 million.
Psychologists have been looking into the phenomenon of digital fatigue, and discovered that by not being physically in the same space while interacting is tiring for our brains. We’re working overtime to pick-up on social cues which we naturally do when communicating face-to-face.
The novelty of video calls is beginning to wear off, but companies still insist on having meetings which are not necessary. We may all joke about how painful meetings can be, but they are one of the most unproductive uses of time within a business.
Many organisations still run on outdated hour long meetings which go round in circles discussing an issue, rather than encouraging people to come with solutions.
Research by Harvard Business Review has found that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years, to the point where executives spend an average of 23 hours a week in them.
Meetings need to change, because fundamentally in any company culture, they affect collaboration, decision making, and how work gets done.
4) Lack of Empathy
No matter how resilient you may be, it’s undeniable that the coronavirus pandemic will have affected you in some way. It’s human nature to feel disrupted when a change such as this has dramatically impacted our lives.
For many people this disruption has caused loneliness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, alcoholism, and even grief for those directly hit by the virus.
If your company culture doesn’t nurture empathy or compassion, you could be causing more pain and discomfort for those who are already suffering.
From “man-up” to “keep calm and carry on”, in the UK we have many phrases that make us feel as though we shouldn’t allow our feelings to be part of the equation. But our feelings are important, they allow us to connect to each other, and find deeper meaning in our work. To deny anyone of how they are feeling is inhumane.
However, it’s not good enough to just listen, you must also act.
Company cultures which enable people to gain the full support they need during this time – whether it’s professional therapy, or financial support, show that as a culture you see people for the human they are rather than a cog in the wheel of the business.
Being a human-centred culture is what people need.
5) Outdated Operations
The switch to remote working was an entirely new concept for many businesses, meaning much of their operations weren’t ready for the transition.
Still working in spreadsheets, or even localised servers, a lack of streamlined internal comms, and zero project management tools – it’s surprising these businesses still exist, but they do!
Now take these outdated infrastructures and operations and take them remote and you’ve got a headache.
For businesses who were still working in the dark ages the transition into remote working was either clunky at best, or not possible. Ultimately leaving them vulnerable and unoperational.
If your company culture has the operational agility, you can adapt and pivot no matter the situation.
During this crisis we’ve seen many organisations adapt and pivot their business quickly. From hairdressers doing online tutorials, gyms launching digital classes, clothing brands launching face masks to beauty brands launching sanitisers. If you’ve got the smooth operational capability your business can move quickly.
You might be thinking – “well this is bad for business but not for company culture” – you couldn’t be more wrong.
Poor operations go hand in hand with a strong company culture. It affects productivity, efficiency and people’s capability to get things done.
Do you think people want to stick around for a business still working from a spreadsheet?
6) Not Living the Organisation's Values
You might have your organisation’s values on the wall, but how much have you been living them during the crisis?
Company culture is an organisation’s behaviours at scale – basically what it says and does. Those values on your wall is how you should be acting, but for many organisations these have not been the guiding principles.
The disconnection between saying one thing, but acting another way breeds distrust in organisations, and guess what – it spreads like a virus.
As distrust increases it transforms once a happy workplace into a toxic space where people are fearful, dishonest and disloyal.
If your organisation hasn’t been living it’s values during this time, it tells your people that those words don’t really matter.
The greater the disconnection, the more likely you are to see disengagement.
It won’t be the crisis to blame for your lack of productivity, but your actions.
Culture Rules to Survive the Coronavirus
- Start looking at a new way of working. From 4 day weeks, 6 hour days, to remote working, there are many different ways to work flexibly. Download my free eBook on flexible working and make a start.
- When a problem occurs with your team, put support at the forefront of your mind rather than reprimands. Become a good coach first, and a scolding parent last. Get curious about what they are struggling with. All issues big and small have a bigger reason at the heart of them.
- Enhance your meetings. Approve an agenda, only choose those who NEED to be in the meeting, and keep it short.
- Get feedback on your team about the operations of your business. They are the ones on the ground working it day-to-day, so ask them what would help them be more productive or efficient. Don’t do a top down approach.
- Assess whether your company values are truly still relevant and if they’ve been actioned during the crisis. This is an ideal time to reflect and get better connected with the actions and behaviours you’ve actually been putting out there.
Improving your poor company culture may not seem like a priority during a global pandemic, but it’s the right time to focus on becoming a stronger team and learning from this experience together.
By creating a strong company culture, you build a more agile culture that can adapt to any situation. Contact me today about how I can support you in adapting your company culture.