5 steps to sustain firm culture in a socially distanced world
Sustaining firm culture during the pandemic is becoming a hot topic. With no end in sight to remote working practices and travel restrictions, companies are worried how to sustain core values, build trust, and strengthen social capital.
Step 1: Embrace the remote working model
Their firms are moving toward a model where working in an office is an option and not the default— during the pandemic and beyond. The starting point for their employees is remote working— with the firm providing all the technology and support to make it effective. Employees who need or want to work from an office can do so in a dedicated, company-branded— or shared— office suites space. Benefits of this approach are reduced office expenses and wasted commute time— with savings from both invested in measures to strengthen internal connections with employees and brand awareness with customers.
Step 2: Forget culture, embrace values
These leaders recognized that “culture” was far from homogenous within their firms pre-pandemic. It varied between offices and regions. Different business units had different cultures and work practices largely driven by the clients they served. Field teams had a different culture than team in offices. So instead of trying to strengthen culture or “that bottle of smoke” as one CEO described it— their focus was to ensure that their firm’score values were understood, embraced and lived every day by every employee no matter where they were or what they did.
Step 3: Direct line of sight on the CEO
They recognized that the CEO is THE role model for exemplifying the firm’s values. So, they increased their cultural ROI from video technology investments by regularly having their CEOs proactively and directly connect with all employees via Teams or Zoom to report on progress, provide updates and discuss the future. They also made their CEO available for regularly scheduled video “coffee” or “fireside” chats to answer questions in a relaxed non-agenda driven conversation format with employees. Combined, these initiatives allowed every employee more access to— and time with— the CEO than pre-pandemic. This communication channel provided the opportunity for the CEO to reinforce firmwide values and establish a firmwide culture – beyond the traditional silos of offices, business units, or field vs. office.
Step 4: Living shared values through the agency of others
These firms created and promoted digital communities for their employees to help each other like never before, strengthen firm-wide culture and elevate the importance of empathy during these times. For example, through these digital communities PTO hours are being “donated” to employees who need extra PTO to help kids with remote learning.
Step 5: Convert formerly wasted commuting time to strengthen your firm-wide culture
Many managers now have an additional 30 minutes to an hour or more in their day since they no longer have a commute. Firms are taking some or all of this time and ensuring that these managers invest it exclusively in the development of their teams and individual direct reports. They see these new-found hours as a massive opportunity to intentionally transform their culture during the pandemic. A critical element in making this approach a success is training the people managers to develop their remote training and development skills— training the trainer is critical.