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Working life after lockdown – will your organisational culture survive?

By Yvonne Smyth, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Hays


With many of us now having become accustomed to ‘lockdown-life’ and working remotely, the big challenge facing organisations will be how to manage the evolution of working practices as social distancing measures are gradually eased. This ‘new era’ of work is unlikely to immediately constitute a complete transition back to life as we knew it before, with many teams likely to be working to different schedules and in different locations for the foreseeable future.  

A key challenge for employers as they navigate the transition into this new era will be how to retain the strong organisational culture that they have built amidst a ‘hybrid’ way of working.

With this in mind, here are some tips for keeping your culture strong as the lockdown lifts:

1. Reiterate your values

It’s possible that amidst all the hurried transition to remote working, the logistics of grappling with video calls and the myriad of emails, that the purpose and values of your organisation have been somewhat lost in translation. With your staff potentially operating from separate locations as we move into this new era – some working from home, at least on a part-time basis, and others in the workplace, checking in and reiterating your mission and what everyone is striving towards as a cohesive workforce is crucial.

When re-communicating these to your teams, be clear, concise, and crucially, make it an employee-led exercise. Many elements of your company culture, such as collaboration, commitment and diversity and inclusion, are important to your workforce but not easy for an outside observer to quantify. It is therefore key that you get feedback from your employees (perhaps via an internal survey) to gauge insight into their experiences and understanding of your core mission as we move forward. Questions to ask include:

  • What makes you proud to work at this organisation?
  • What makes our workplace culture unique?
  • Is taking risks encouraged, and what happens if you are not successful?
  • When do you feel the most motivated?

2. Make sure all communication is inclusive

Communicating with teams working to ‘hybrid’ schedules and in differing locations presents a significant challenge and formulating a strategy that is both inclusive and effective will be key. This way of working will undoubtedly mean that technology will still have to be heavily involved in order to bring everyone together, which will mean establishing processes for gauging when employees are available and what software and systems they have access to. Team-wide meetings should be prioritised on a regular basis so that department-wide updates are not missed and successes are celebrated.

On top of the unfamiliar way of working, personal challenges caused by the pandemic may also be creating ongoing anxiety and apprehension amongst your teams, so if you are a manager, making yourself available to staff who want to speak to you is crucial. You’ll want to give them the freedom to decide when they need to do this, so consider making yourself available for an hour a day for your team to contact you, either for a private or group catch-up.

3. Find a way to facilitate workplace chats

Maintaining the fun, social aspect of work just now should be a high priority – and as social distancing is gradually reduced, this should also start to come more naturally. For those still working remotely, virtual get-togethers are still important, so try to pencil in a ‘team drinks’ or call once a week at a suitable time that brings together employees working in different locations.

However, whilst these organised activities are important, you should also try to galvanize as much organic interaction between your teams as possible. If you have a strong, trusting culture then this will probably not require much additional input from you, but you should make it clear that virtual replacements for ‘kitchen chats’ are encouraged over whatever technology you are currently using, whether Microsoft Teams, Zoom or anything else.

4. Empower your staff

Trust in your team is of the utmost importance right now. As we transition to a new way of working, many will be feeling unsure of their place in the world and keen to re-establish a semblance of normality. If you don’t ensure that people feel empowered to do their jobs and able to put their individual ‘stamp’ on their work, you risk losing them.

Whilst achieving organisational objectives is important, the emphasis right now should not be on ‘how’ this is achieved. Resist the urge to micro-manage – during this time your employees may be working to unusual schedules and with conflicting personal and professional priorities. If possible, adapt your expectations to these unusual circumstances – you may not be able to see people working at all times, but you will be able to recognise if your teams are pulling together in order to get the job done.

If you have any further questions or concerns about hiring in the current climate, please contact your Hays consultant, or visit our Inspire Me in the New Era of Work Hub to access a collection of resources that will help you to manage your team, undertake interviews and successfully onboard new candidates as we move forward.

About this author

Yvonne is Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Hays, working with our clients to ensure their recruitment strategies are aligned with the latest equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) policies and initiatives. She is responsible for creating and implementing diverse recruitment strategies that effectively support the representation of more diverse staff profiles within their business.

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