No one needs to be reminded that the last two plus years have brought about lasting changes—invited or not—to just about every facet of life. Arguably, the workplace has borne the greatest brunt of the pandemic’s impact. Mix in considerable social unrest, and the result is an organizational environment in need of reassessment. What worked for most organizations in 2019 simply doesn’t cut it in 2022. The key to successfully moving forward is creating a culture that transcends the boundaries of physical space.
To naysayers, company culture is just about pizza parties and goofy activities that take time away from the real focus—the corporate bottom line. But to savvy leaders, it’s company culture that’s driving the bottom line. While many organizations widely proclaim that their people are their greatest asset, a good deal of them don’t run their businesses like they really believe that. New employees are smart enough to quickly figure this out. Those who find a disconnect between the corporate mantra and actual policies and corporate culture won’t be around long.
- Does the swing in how and where people work mean that an organization’s pre-pandemic culture needs to be completely revamped to attract and retain talent?
Clearly, some changes are necessary, but this should be a time when leaders pause to reflect on what is most valuable and still applicable from the past while incorporating new elements that are in tandem with workplace evolution. To do this, leaders need to challenge former commonly held beliefs and assumptions to be sure they still resonate.
- What matters most to today’s workforce?
Discovering what’s important to your employees is just as important as developing your organizational purpose. In fact, what’s important to your people should be intertwined with what’s important to your company.
Offer Predictable Flexibility
According to most studies, flexibility is no longer viewed as a perk to be earned over time and through loyal service. It’s simply an expectation. Many employees will change jobs if not provided the flexibility to decide for themselves when they work best at home and when it’s more productive to work in an office setting.
An O.C. Tanner Institute 2022 Global Culture Study found that job tasks that require intense concentration, creativity, or meeting deadlines may be better performed from home. Yet transparency, communication across teams—and even career advancement—are best fostered by time spent engaged with coworkers in a common physical environment. Collaboration, when thoughtfully deployed to increase productivity and enhance the capabilities of others, can be an additional positive byproduct of onsite work. Having a regular presence among coworkers also helps assure that everyone has and keeps a seat at the table. When employees are granted predictable flexibility—meaning usual days working in and out of the workplace—their organizations enjoy:
- 41 percent greater likelihood of engagement
- 77 percent greater likelihood of retention
Foster a Sense of Belonging
A byproduct of the social unrest that coincided with the pandemic, the need for a meaningful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategic plan has never been greater. Among other barriers, COVID surfaced inequalities in healthcare access and job/financial stability. Pre-pandemic, many organizations may not have had a formal DE&I plan in place, or, if they did, the plan may no longer address current issues. Making sure that everyone in your organization feels an equal sense of belonging starts with the behavior modeled by leadership. Surrounding leaders with people who bring diverse perspectives—and then making them feel heard—is the pillar of post-pandemic organizational strength.
Acknowledge Generational Differences
Recognizing that the current workforce spans six generations, each of which shares a different perspective and preferred means of communication, a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely to be successful. While some Baby Boomers may be longing for “the good old days,” most Millennials and those born after them are embracing many of the resulting changes. This is an important population to consider since they will comprise 75 percent of the workforce by 2025.
A study by Applauz Resources found that identity and belonging is highly important to most Millennials. Once fostered more frequently by external sources like religion and local communities, identity and belonging are now primarily fueled by employers for many in this generation. Like most people, Millennials value appreciation and personal development. They seek a culture where they have opportunities for training and mentoring. The same study found that over 94 percent of those in this generation want to apply their professional skills to give back to a charitable organization. Born during the technology explosion, Millennials fully embrace innovation and will leave companies that lag behind. In short, Millennials care about much more than an organization’s bottom line and look for employers that demonstrate aligned values.
“…culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.” -Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Former CEO of IBM
Companies that thrive during this transitional period will be those that practice empathetic listening and transparency, make time for questions and feedback, and involve everyone in the workplace evolution. A sense of community and wellbeing has never been more valued by employees who are looking to their employers to provide this. An organization that prioritizes an elastic culture that evolves with its business needs and those of its people will be best prepared to meet and even prosper during whatever challenges may lie ahead.
Learn more about our careers, culture, community, and the benefits of employee ownership at Oswald at OswaldCompanies.com/Culture.
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