5 ways to strengthen company culture during a crisis
When you are trying to navigate the management of a business in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s all too easy to neglect the maintenance of your company culture. Yes, it’s true that other priorities might seem more pressing right now; after all, your clients and suppliers won’t be sending you impatient emails demanding to know how you plan to safeguard your internal team relationships.
Nevertheless, although culture takes a long time (and a lot of hard work) to build, it can be risked in moments. If you let colleague morale and that sense of shared purpose fall by the wayside at this moment of crisis, you may be putting the future of your business at serious risk.
Without daily face-to-face interaction, it’s your team’s alignment with the company goals and sense of shared responsibility which will motivate them to perform to the best of their abilities from home.
At Goodlord, we take immense pride in our strong company culture but, like most businesses, we’ve had to work hard at adapting in order to maintain its vitality in a work-from-home world. The following five strategies have proven the most successful for us, and they’ll also support you in developing your own personalised action plan.
1) Redefine your mission
Has COVID-19 put the brakes on your growth trajectory, made your USP temporarily irrelevant, or vanished your raison d’etre overnight? If your team feels that their goals are no longer meaningful or attainable, this will take its toll on morale and eventually on company culture.
Take action to prevent this by clearly communicating how the company is planning to adapt its practice to thrive in the new business environment. Whether you’re planning a major overhaul of operations or a temporary shift in focus, you’ll need to outline tangible new milestones and an actionable plan.
The Goodlord team recognised that long-term forecasting is near-impossible at the current moment, so we’ve shifted our usual quarterly goals to monthly ones. They now provide focus but also allow a flexible response to external or internal developments.
Whatever you do, be sure to dedicate time to share new decisions in a clear and meaningful way to your team and to your clients or customers.
2) Stay connected
Working alone takes some getting used to - especially if your team is used to regular face-to-face interaction, or if you rely on big meetings, shared coffee breaks and informal breakout sessions to drive creativity and keep spirits up.
But thanks to the plethora of new technologies which have emerged to meet the needs of a newly-disparate UK workforce, there’s no reason why all members of your company can’t remain in touch throughout the day.
The most important step is to schedule regular meetings on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts. These are superior to conference calls as they enable you to pick up non-verbal cues - such as facial expressions and body language - which will ensure more effective communication. It’s tempting just to fire off team emails or use messaging platforms such as Slack, but maintaining your normal routine of meetings will help your team structure their day and retain a sense of normalcy.
Of course, work-specific meetings are only one aspect of your team’s usual interaction, and social communication between colleagues is equally important in maintaining your culture.
Encourage your team to explore different platforms for informal communication - whether that be a Slack channel dedicated to sharing memes or a WhatsApp group to gossip about last night’s TV.
You could even try running a poll to source the most popular ideas for socially-distanced socialising - many companies have been replacing their Friday happy hour with a virtual version, or planning online quizzes and games nights. In our team, our virtual kindness challenge (where we award prizes for those who have demonstrated acts of kindness and generosity) has been a big hit.
3) Encourage open feedback
Working from lockdown is new territory for everyone, so make sure that you make a special effort to call for and listen to feedback from your team.
Allowing everyone’s voices to be heard will empower colleagues at all levels of seniority and remind them that they are each a valuable asset whose opinion counts. In addition, regular one-to-one engagement and check-ins are more important than ever, as they provide the space and privacy which facilitates honest communication.
At Goodlord, we are continuing our regular 360 degree team feedback sessions so that our colleagues are able to learn more about themselves and develop. Senior managers are leading by example and regularly reaching out to colleagues to actively seek out their opinion. We’re also still running our Friday ‘huddles’ where everyone has the opportunity to share thoughts and constructive feedback.
4) Look out for one another
The Goodlord mantra is “if something happens to one Goodlordian, it happens to us all', and we are committed to this family-style approach when it comes to supporting our colleagues.
You can help to alleviate anxiety and stress amongst your team members by making it clear that the company is willing to make any necessary adjustments for team members going through a particularly difficult time.
A good starting point would be to discuss altered working hours for colleagues who are caring for family members or young children, or to look into mental health support services for colleagues who could benefit from talking to an external expert.
Small gestures such as sending birthday cards or reaching out to a furloughed colleague for a chat could also have a big positive impact.
5) Reward and acknowledge
If you really want to strengthen your company culture, you need to recognise and reward those who exemplify it.
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to instill good practice and encourage its replication. So, if a sub-team smashes their target or a colleague works late to exceed a client’s expectations, send them a shout-out in a company email or raise a toast to them at your next virtual drinks.
If a colleague has achieved a milestone work anniversary, send a cake or bunch of flowers to their home - and promise to plan their proper celebration when you’re all together again.
Above all, remember to acknowledge that everyone is trying their best and coping with changes under difficult circumstances.
So with a newly-defined mission and a connected, motivated and mutually supported team, your business will be set to come out of this crisis stronger than ever before. From my own experience, I can attest that some concerted effort towards suring up your culture during the tough times will allow you to reap the benefits of a more engaged, happy and productive team both now and in the future.