By Karen Bridbord, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist and Organizational Consultant
When I wrote about the inflection of workplace culture back in May, I was expecting the pandemic to be a distant memory by now. Remember when we all thought it was going to last three weeks? Yet today, six months into the most significant global health crisis of our lifetime, we find ourselves still grappling with uncertainty.
Instead of creating new rituals to uplift and ground us as we find ourselves, as I recommended in the beginning of the pandemic, we now must find a way to sustain ourselves. We’re collectively exhausted. This pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint, and we need to act accordingly. This includes adjusting our company values and how they’re operationalized in our organizational cultures.
In work cultures that thrive, employees are guided by organizational values and understand what is expected of them. Defining and building a shared purpose–a key component of culture– becomes the glue that binds members of an organization together. As reported by the Harvard Business Review, a shared purpose in the workplace is multidimensional, practical, and dynamic, and positively impacts individual effort.
Your core values pre-pandemic may not be the same as they are today. Many organizations, and rightfully so, are now putting more value on the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. And in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I) at work. Organizations can no longer sit on the sidelines on social issues.
In a time of so much uncertainty, one thing is certain: the companies that survive the pandemic will be the ones with strong organizational cultures.
Understanding your values
Your core values show what is important to your organization. They’re the deeply ingrained principles that guide all of your company’s actions, and they need to be constantly reinforced and reviewed.
According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, one third of companies say they found maintaining company culture difficult during the pandemic. The productivity and resilience of your workforce, and ultimately your company culture, depends on your ability to adapt.
Core values are things like communication, diversity, leadership, and trust. Let’s take a look at how each of these values has been impacted by the pandemic.
Whether your organization is returning to the office after months of remote work or continuing to work remotely, the value of communication is more important than ever. With that said, organizations need to be intentional about which topics are reserved for synchronous phone or video meetings, especially those that are sensitive and can create interpersonal conflict. You will have a greater likelihood of repairing those conversations by face-to-face discussion than by text or email.
As a core value, diversity goes beyond inclusion. Diversity is a commitment to equitable treatment and elimination of discrimination in the workplace. New research shows that employee intersectionality (multiple minority identities in a single employee) has an impact on their experiences at work. For example, Black women have considerably different perceptions of belonging at work compared to white women. Identify areas of exclusion, bias, and micro-aggressions and address them.
Your customers care, too. Following the Black Lives Matter movement, 60% of Americans say that brands must take a stand and speak out on racial injustice, according to a June survey conducted by Edelman. What active steps are you taking to champion diversity, not just talk about it?
Strong leaders create strong organizational cultures, and the best leaders during a crisis are the ones who are honest and transparent. Employees want to know where they stand, and where the company stands, at all times. Being dishonest or withholding information will lead to fear and disengagement.
Leadership during a crisis is also about putting your people first. In a previous article, I called on founders and organizational leaders to check-in with their employees about their mental health. You can start by asking, “What do you need?”
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