Culture is ultimately about values that everyone buys into and aligns their actions with. But creating a culture is unlike any other business endeavour. It involves making an intangible set of subtle rules and ideas that are often difficult to manage.
This set of unwritten rules defines your company culture, whether you employ three or three hundred staff in one office or multiple locations. These informal rules are a powerful hidden force, governing everything from where you sit in a meeting to how you address your team, peers or manager.
The biggest loss in separating employees is the loss of personal interaction. The little things set the tone of an organisation, conversations by the coffee machine, friendly exchanges in the kitchen, a passing comment in the hallway and even a shared sense of 'office humour'. These personal interactions will also often set the tone for employee collaboration, teamwork or bonding. With multiple offices in different locations, one of the biggest challenges is finding ways for these interactions to occur, for employees to stay in touch and learn a bit about each other without it being contrived.
Culture has taken a massive hit since the pandemic - It has been deteriorating since people have been away from the office, and there seems to be a view amongst business owners of how can you live your culture when you don't live in your culture?
But hybrid working was once a novelty, then became a necessity, and now it's normality. Gone are the traditional 9-5 office jobs; we've entered a world where flexibility is at the core. And with all the time people now spend working from home, many have become attached to the flexibility and work-life fulfilment it offers, so how do you fix the issue of company culture remotely?
The good news is, while people are growing to expect more flexible ways of working, I think most companies appear to be open to this as well. I know we certainly are. But, yes, l I know it doesn't solve the ever-growing problem of how companies cultivate a constructive culture when people aren't in the office together?
And contrary to popular belief, I get a sense that people want to get back to the office because they want that connection to a company purpose, a sense of community and support for their productivity, recognition for a job well done.
I have always been a massive advocate of company culture, and let's face it. Culture is critically important to any company's success. When cultures are more effective, organisations see payoffs in revenue growth, retention and a positive correlation with increased sales.
So here are a few things I think you need to focus on to create and maintain a good company culture in the new era of hybrid working:
When your entire team is at the office, you take communication for granted. Small interactions happen all day, and team members can get quick answers to questions. While you may not have been having formal meetings every day, information was constantly shared. To allow for this sharing and maintain communication in a hybrid workplace, it's good to have frequent and quick virtual 'stand-up' meetings on a more regular basis.
Develop your employer brand
Something we have put a huge onus on over the last couple of years - When it comes to company culture, your employer brand is everything. It's how you can create a shared vision amongst your workforce. Define your values - what do you stand for? What are your objectives? To create that shared vision, it's important to communicate all of this with new and existing employees.
Make the most of time together
Our teams are split geographically and physically, so it's vital to make the most of our time when everyone is together. While this used to be a daily occurrence, having our entire company in the office or an event is now rare. How you use that time should be carefully considered.
Organise social events
Social events are great for team building; they give employees time to connect over something outside of work. In addition, social events give colleagues a chance to build friendships and will also help to strengthen their working relationships too, which in turn helps to maintain the culture.
Work on your employer brand, stay clear and consistent with communications, keep the social aspect alive with regular interactions and keep listening to what is wanted and needed from your team.