The pandemic and subsequent office closures have given us some perspective into things about work we never knew we would miss. For some, it’s the raw energy of being around the hum of a lively office. For others, it is the huddle around the lunch table with your favorite group of coworkers each afternoon. For probably all of us, it is those shared moments of celebration for individual successes or even laughter at an innocent prank. I, for one, really miss pranks.
It is these types of interactions with our coworkers that play a large part in the makeup of company culture. Without them, we see culture begin to break down. The problem is, that we have relied too heavily on physical offices to make these moments possible to make building a positive culture possible. I imagine distanced workers have known this to be true for quite a while. Let us pray that these brave employees who worked remotely pre-pandemic have mercy on our souls.
What many companies are now realizing is that culture has never been about free snacks or ping pong tables. It is created by the collection of human moments we share together.
As we face continued challenges, we’re learning how crucial a strong, positive culture is to surviving when times get tough.
Remember how all those “best places to work” videos show off the “amazing” napping pods, game rooms, facilities, and company parties? In the future, they are going to need to highlight what the company does to foster connection for everyone, wherever they are.
Start by Connecting Everyone
The heart of your company culture doesn’t lie within the walls of the office. It’s in the network of connections between employees, wherever those connections take place. What matters is the ability to connect on a human level, consistently.
Although companies usually have at least a few channels for employees to interact digitally, many of them are simply ineffective at driving behaviors that truly bring people together. It is because they were never designed to! Mass emails get sent to spam, and Slack posts live and die in obscure channels that everyone forgets about.
If it is a hassle for employees to say thanks or share appreciation, you won’t see those things happening at a healthy rate. Employees are already under a lot of stress to complete projects, fumbling through different technologies just to get work done. We have got to make sharing positive moments easy, with a consistent way for employees to connect for both work-specific and regular human interactions.
When people can communicate in an environment that feels natural and encourages participation, you begin to see a sense of community form. Within a community, people know each other and are more motivated to work together. Modern engagement solutions can help strengthen those connections with personal profiles that share information, like interests and job responsibilities, giving employees a better understanding of each other and what matters to them. This isn’t breaking news, but without the office, we need better ways to get to know each other, without the awkwardness of Zoom fails.
Once people are motivated to connect, what is next?
Enable Leaders to … Lead?
We all know the personality of a company’s culture is highly influenced by top performers. These are the employees who are most engaged and intrinsically motivated to drive results. What tends to happen naturally is that these top performers get promoted to management positions, which gives them further influence on the culture.
Just like we look to them to inspire high performance among their teams, we must also equip managers to lead positive culture growth. This means losing the “management” baggage and doing things, that real leaders do. But we frequently have that expectation without giving managers the support to make an impact. Some managers are working with team members they have never even met in person. Managers are feeling unsupported, but we can give them tools to help make a difficult job more natural.
So, instead of leaving managers high and dry, modern employee engagement solutions need to provide managers with tools that drive consistency in key activities. Based on my own conversations with business leaders, I believe those to be:
- Recognizing and appreciating their team
- Having frequent and effective one-on-ones
- Providing continuous performance feedback
- Clearly communicating priorities
- Developing succession plans
- Identifying key players
By providing a framework that creates consistency in how managers build relationships with employees, you will see them shift into leaders who drive the most productive cultures.
Maybe, maybe help people have a little bit of fun from time to time. A little? I meant a LOT. Motivating employees shouldn’t feel like work. Let us make work fun.
OK, Now what?
Make Recognition Meaningful
So, you have got people connecting, and you have got leaders on board to be actual leaders (not just manage people; I repeat, not manage people). How do we then drive lasting behavior change? It goes back to employees, and the whole organization, understanding each other on a personal level.
An effective recognition program has to give employees the power to recognize each other in meaningful ways. The strongest company cultures understand what motivates employees because they get each other. With the added stresses employees are facing right now, this is more important than ever. People desperately need to know when they are doing good work, and the tired old rewards, catalogs, and recognition boards aren’t going to cut it.
Engagement platforms have to put the power of recognition in the hands of employees with a simple, easy-to-use solution. If we can just get out of the way and give employees the ability to customize the ways they recognize peers, give rewards, celebrate anniversaries, and appreciate each other, you will see a culture of reinforcing positive behaviors emerge. The best part? It won’t be forced.
It Is About Being Human
The formula for a great culture has always started with building strong connections and support. It is about the human relationships behind the work. Some of us may have lost sight of that, but the pandemic has made culture more important than ever. In fact, it may be the most important KPI you are not watching consistently.
Motivating employees under current circumstances is a challenge none of us were ready for, but business leaders who can adapt the way they support positive culture activities now will be better prepared for the needs of the future.