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How to learn from the pandemic to optimise company culture

The ever-changing nature of COVID-19 and the response by global governments has left employers across the nation facing the reality that working conditions will likely never be the same again. Meanwhile, employees now have different expectations of their employer. But this isn’t all bad news. The pandemic has forced companies to deliver an employee experience that’s more human, more caring and more flexible – and these attributes are connected to better business results.

When employees believe their company authentically cares about their well-being, they are ten times more likely to recommend their company, nine times more likely to stay at their company for three or more years, seven times more likely to feel included at work, four times less likely to suffer from stress and burnout and twice as likely to be engaged.

Now, with many employees slowly returning to physical office environments and many ‘hybrid’ models of working emerging, it’s more important than ever for employers to consider their company culture and how they will show employees they care as the new normal continues to shift. Business leaders must invest in their employee experience – and find technology that can help them deliver it at scale.

RELATED: Why a ‘people plan’ is just as important as a business plan

So how does a positive and caring workplace culture actually impact the bottom line?

It drives behaviour. Culture can also be described as “how work gets done around here.” It’s what happens behind closed doors, during the lunch hour and in online chatter. It tells your employees what matters, how to react to difficult situations and how to treat their peers. When the foundation of culture is a sense of mutual trust and shared values, businesses thrive.

It creates a more aligned business. Culture should be intentional and aligned to business goals. A “culture of health” makes sense if you’re a hospital system, but a coffee shop chain might be better off with a focus on positivity and service. When you define, communicate and operationalize your culture, you create a more aligned business that compels employees to work toward a common goal that they feel responsible for and connected to. Culture can help you socialise new employees more quickly, set better expectations and forecast more effectively, and inspire connection that gives employees confidence to take the initiative.

It helps you get better results. There have been many studies proving that companies with aligned cultures have higher growth – revenue, employment, and net income growth. Culture is also a competitive advantage when looking to secure talent.

Limeade’s ‘Cultures That Care’ study focused on the importance of culture in the employee lifecycle:

  • 92% agree that culture influences desire to work there
  • 73% agree culture is the reason why they would choose one workplace over another
  • 81% agree culture influences whether they put as much effort as they can into their work
  • 88% agree culture influences whether they keep working there

It attracts top talent. Even before the pandemic, employees – namely Millenials or younger – said they would take a pay cut to work somewhere with an excellent culture. This is even more true today, as we emerge from a world where well-being is a priority and flexibility is table stakes. When you deliver an intentional culture that comes to life in the big and small moments of the employee experience, employees will spread the word, and top talent will notice.

RELATED: What Gen Z and other workers want from the work environment

Now that you know the why, here’s the how:

  1. Conduct a workplace culture audit

If you’re struggling to know where to start, a good option is to conduct a workplace culture audit. This will help you understand how your values are visible through the employee experience. For example, is your organisation top-down or participative, hierarchical or flat, secretive or honest? And most importantly, does your culture align with strategy so you can achieve business objectives?

  • Find technology that can deliver culture at scale

Remote work will remain an option for most companies even post-pandemic, so leaders can’t rely on the office as a sole vehicle for the employee experience. So, look for mobile-first technology that can reach employees where they are, bring culture to life and connect employees to the company as well as each other.

  • Thread your values through processes

Values are an important piece of the culture puzzle. Make sure they support the culture you’re trying to achieve and then do more than put them on your website. It’s important to operationalize your values through processes, policies and procedures throughout your business operations. Make them part of your interview process, recognize people for emulating them and have the courage to dismiss employees that aren’t willing to take them to heart.

  • Make sure leaders are walking the talk

You can’t build an open and honest culture if you have a leader who doesn’t align – or isn’t willing to try. Similarly, you can’t preach work-life balance if you have leaders driving their teams into the ground. Make sure your leaders understand the culture and what’s expected of them and evaluate how they’re mapping their management style and behaviour to the culture.

  • Communicate the culture

Don’t be afraid to talk to your employees about culture — how it’s defined, what’s expected and how they can “live” the culture. As always, all communication should align with the culture – so if things are formal and structured, your communication should follow suit. Alternatively, if your culture is more innovative and iterative, you may communicate using a casual conversational tone.

  • Listen, learn and adapt

Be willing to fail fast and fix faster. As you take on the role of culture architect, there are several ways to know if you’re moving in the right direction — like employee feedback, behaviour, and straight-up business results. Test your methods frequently and be willing to reiterate often, as swiftly as you can.

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Henry Albrecht

Henry Albrecht

Henry founded Limeade in 2006 and has led the company from an idea in his basement to a high-growth, industry-leading SaaS employee engagement company now listed on the ASX (ASX:LME) that serves some of the smartest companies in the world.

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