There’s a familiar line in the management world that a simple definition of an organization’s culture is “the way we do things here.” At least it was simple when we all agreed on what ‘here’ meant.
Offices have proven remarkably resilient this year in getting used to Zoom conferences and remote strategy sessions. But the pandemic has also put pressure on leaders to develop new ways to use their emotional intelligence and engage with workers. There is evidence that the task takes a toll. Last week Gallup reported that compared to May, in June American employees felt significantly less prepared to do their joband that their employers were not showing clear action plans in response to COVID-19, or caring about employee well-being.
“The protracted and dynamic nature of the pandemic has left many people tired and eager to reach the finish line,” the Gallup report said. “But for employees looking to leadership for communication and direction, the challenges of COVID-19 are still alive and well. Leaders need to work harder to ensure employees are well-informed and prepared. »
Part of this effort may involve communicating your organization’s culture to employees and looking for ways to practice this in a remote setting. In a recent article for MIT Sloan Management ReviewCambridge Judge Business School professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville makes a point that reinforces Gallup’s findings—that the shift to remote work poses a threat to the culture that has become established, which in turn risks eroding productivity and engagement. Now that we all know we can working on Zoom, leaders need to clarify How? ‘Or’ What best to do this job.
Howard-Grenville writes that part of that task should involve leaders reminding their employees of the kind of culture they established before remote work became the norm. “A manager can remind team members that they arrived at a certain approach because they are so good at leveraging multiple perspectives,” she writes. “Laying bare this aspect of the cultural toolbox not only reminds people of its existence, but also signals its value.”
On the other hand, these same leaders must speak out when the organization fails to live up to its established values, to “visibly censor practices that deviate from the desired culture.” Remote work is no excuse to dispense with the established pillars of your culture, although there are certainly opportunities to make adjustments. We are all learning new ways to connect, communicate, solve social problems, homeschool and more in this environment, and leaders should welcome feedback on how to bring what everyone learned at remote work. “We now understand that organizational cultures are much more open and interactive with their surrounding environment – responsive to expectations to be more socially and environmentally responsible, for example – and aligned with other aspects of employee experiences beyond beyond the workplace.
People love remote work, and they say they’ll want to hang on to it after the pandemic is over: A survey late last month from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that nearly three-quarters of office workers will want to work from home at least two days a week. But they don’t want to give up the kinds of things offices provide: networking opportunities and the feeling of having turned off the switch when work is done for the day. Many employers surveyed say they are understanding: about half say they provide more help managing workloads and building relationships. Wherever COVID-19 takes the office, more leaders will need to do this kind of soft skills work to create the culture they want.