The role of culture in the new workplace: What CEOs & senior leadership need to know
Culture has been a buzz word for HR professionals and leaders for a few years now. But what exactly does building culture mean and why does it matter? In the past year of work colliding with personal life and values, it’s become a major discussion point like never before.
This is the question that Mike Morini – former NFL athlete and current CEO of WorkForce Software set out to solve last year for his workplace. At the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US, Mike immediately enforced a unique culture of trust at his company that allowed workers to manage their tasks on their own time, and truly ensured their personal lives were impacted as little as possible by work from home mandates.
He emphasizes that culture has to be more than simply lip service. To do this, he recommends taking the following steps.
Restore and recognize COVID-19’s impact to employees. Leaders should genuinely express how much they appreciated the employees’ past contributions and their flexibility during an uncertain time. When COVID-19 hit, WorkForce Software implemented cost saving measures just like most organizations. These included measures like salary reductions and postponing salary increases. This shared sacrifice should be recognized by managers and restoring salary cuts due to COVID-19 should be a top priority for companies. If possible, in addition to reinstating and back paying employees, leaders should be encouraging their businesses to honor previously accrued vacation time and PTO.
For the rest of 2021, workplaces will still feel the impact of the pandemic, and continuing to support more flexible work options to enable employees to balance personal and professional commitments will be important to supporting the needs of employees and creating a positive culture.
Encourage employees to maintain a true work/life balance. People are juggling a lot right now and the lines between work and personal life are getting blurred. This can take a toll on mental health. Leaders need to create strategies to help their workforces thrive in the face of these challenges. Some of the strategies we’ve implemented to support our employees include unlimited vacation, flex time to take care of families, a story-time program for families, charity partnerships that benefit families, and fitness reimbursements for equipment and gym memberships.
Leaders need to focus on taking better care of essential employees during this challenging time. Our own software offers fatigue management systems for companies in these industries. These systems can monitor hours worked, tasks performed, breaks taken, and time-off scheduled in order to flag employees that may be at risk of becoming fatigued.
Trust employees. Even before Covid-19 hit and the remote work mandates went into effect, WorkForce Software set flexible rules and trusted our employees to get their work done, regardless of their location. In some of our offices working from home was less common before Covid-19, so it was an adjustment for those managers, but they have learned to trust their employees to manage their day-to-day work from home. We work with our employees to manage their work volume and their personal lives in a way that works for them. Being flexible is a great way to earn the respect and loyalty of your team and to build a culture of trust at your company.
Listen first, talk second. During the pandemic, the world of work has evolved, but despite the changes, employee experience should always remain a top priority. Living by a “listen first, talk second” mentality is critical when managing a company with teams of all sizes. Before making decisions as an organization, it’s critical to listen to your employees’ feedback and adjust practices where necessary. A business is ultimately about its people, so ensuring your employees are satisfied and feel appreciated is key to being successful especially during a challenging time.
Be transparent. After a year like 2020, transparency is the most important thing a leader can practice. You need to communicate openly and frequently because people need to know what is going on in the business - the good, the bad, and the ugly - so they know that you are all in it together. At WorkForce Software, we have an “Ask The CEO” email inbox where employees can anonymously reach out and inquire about different workplace concerns or questions. This really helps to promote transparency and openness in our place of work, and also allows executives to engage with employees on a personal level.
CEOs and senior leadership will need to make major shifts in the coming year if they hope to reap the benefits of all the change and lessons learned from 2020. Critical action steps that they can take include:
Shift from thinking about the present to repositioning for future growth. Leaders need to be ready now for the future growth of their business. Leveraging the team to envision what they want to create vs. simply reacting to the next fire is an important mindset shift if they want to impact their industry and economy vs. solely being impacted by it.
Allocate larger budgets to continuously investing in new technologies. It’s not just about upgrading software or buying new computers. It’s about eliminating antiquated, paper-based processes that are ineffective and identifying the technology that will help the company evolve its capabilities in all areas.
Plan for a hybrid team workforce. We are set to reenter the workplace. But many companies have recognized the cost savings of a work-from-home option. Many employees will still need and want to have options to work from home. Key actions to set this new environment up for success include:
- Adopt new HR technology tools. Leaders will need to adopt new HR technology tools to help manage who’s in the office vs. who’s working remotely as these hybrid models take shape.
- Develop a purposeful video call approach. Many employees are hitting and exceeding video burnout. The goal is to connect with an individual not force them to stare at you while talking. Identifying the critical types of meetings that truly benefit from the video interface enables the flexibility to return to balancing out communications between the in-person, emails, phone calls, texting or instant messaging with video calls.
- Encourage casual over professional when appropriate. At casual companies, leaders should be comfortable with people not dressing as professionally as they did when they came into the office every day. Identify when formal attire truly supports the brand and when casual allows employees to relax and focus on the work vs. on appearances.
- Normalize time offline. Building a positive culture has a lot to do with trusting staff to make good decisions when it comes to figuring out how to get the work done and manage their time. Many managers worried about whether they could make sure their employees were actually working when at home. More often than not, leaders really need to be worrying about whether their staff are able to effectively set boundaries and manage expectations to avoid burnout.
- Prioritize employee development. Leaders and hiring managers should be very interested in giving employees more opportunities to own and grow in their roles, and to contribute to the development of a positive company culture, regardless of their location.
These are all things that need to shape the way leaders take their workforce into the future and beyond. This may not be done overnight but embedding these actions and focus areas in the business strategy and integrating them into the fiscal budget could make or break a company’s success and relevance in the coming year.