Reassessing, Refocusing, and Reinforcing Culture


February 17, 2021

Margaux Morgante

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5 min

Woman showing signs of happiness because her company reinforces their culture daily on Kudos.

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This article is part 2 of our 5-part Employee Engagement and Culture Checklist Series:

How would you describe your organizational culture these days?

An Institute for Corporate Productivity survey reported that over 50% of respondents anticipate “major change” to their culture due to the pandemic. With entire families working from one kitchen table, devastating illness preventing many people from working altogether, and a general sense of uncertainty surrounding the future of many businesses and industries, the change in organizational culture was a top concern for many business leaders. Leaders are left wondering how they can be more intentional about their culture to prevent environmental forces, like mandatory remote work, from controlling their employee experience moving forward.

Ignoring significant shifts in organizational culture can be costly. The right culture can help employees fulfill their need for meaning and purpose at work, leading to more impactful discretionary effort and higher performance levels. Building on that, culture is a known powerful driver of employee engagement and better financial performance for organizations.

Let's dig a bit deeper into the idea of culture. The most common definition speaks to a particular groups’ shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices. As HR professionals and business leaders, it’s important to remember that those values, goals, attitudes, and practices must be intentionally defined, shared, lived by leadership, and recognized widely and often to build the right culture.

In 2021, successful organizations are reassessing, refocusing, and reinforcing their culture. In considering the steps below, you’ll be well on your way to seeing a more engaged and higher-performing workforce this year.

Reassessing Culture

Do you suspect there’s an issue with the culture in your organization? Do you have a good pulse of your employee experience over the last year?

Today many workplaces have a hybrid workforce, combining in-office and remote workers. So, what does that mean for culture? Simply speaking, if you thought your office environment with a ping pong table and popcorn machine was the backbone of your culture, you were wrong. One thing that we’ve learned in the last year is that organizational culture is about relationships, not things, and it now needs to evolve based on what employees are experiencing day-to-day. For that to happen, leaders need to take the time to assess what’s working and what needs a bit more attention.

Forbes offers a simple 8 question model to assess culture, with questions like “What was the biggest adjustment for you when you started working here?” and “How are meetings typically run here?”. In a modern workplace, it’s also important to ask questions about what has changed in the last year and what challenges employees are experiencing. That is important to understand because, according to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement and directly affect how employees experience workplace culture.

Nowadays, it's essential to consider your findings based on the employees' individual workplace (in-office, remote, and hybrid.) Ideally, your organization should have one overarching vision for its culture independent of each employee’s work environment. Armed with knowledge on how culture is perceived and experienced, you're now ready to make the necessary changes to make your culture strive.

Key Takeaway: Workplaces have changed forever - it’s time to reassess your current culture and uncover issues that need work. [Click to Tweet!]

Refocusing Culture

After assessing where your current culture stands, you can determine if there are any components that don't align with -or are actively impeding- your organizational goals in our new normal. Take the time to rethink your employee experience and make sure it’s conducive to what you’re trying to achieve. Ultimately, culture guides employee behaviour, so it’s essential to formulate a solid plan.

But it’s about more than just your business’ cultural vision.

A big part of organizational culture comes from employee attitude. The right tools make your employees feel more engaged, supported, and connected to their organization. In a 2021 survey by Deloitte, the three top factors identified as most important to making remote/virtual work sustainable were:

  1. Introducing digital collaboration and communication platforms
  2. Allowing personal choice in determining how work gets done
  3. Establishing new scheduling and meeting norms
  4. Limit communications to standard work hours

First on the list - collaboration platforms - can be an excellent space for employees at all levels and work locations to come together to work and live out the culture. Business collaboration and communication platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Slack are great for work but also consider a separate and dedicated space to connect, communicate, appreciate and celebrate to focus on employee engagement, like Kudos.

The next three factors from the list above are great examples of specific practices that can be encouraged or even mandated to build a consistent employee experience, and thus a strong culture that aligns with your goals and realigning work-life balance. Canadian company Loblaw Digital provides a great example of putting this into practice. Loblaw recently shared their new meeting guidelines on LinkedIn, which include rules about meeting times and lengths and no meetings at all on Fridays (imagine!)

Once you've settled on a vision for your culture and determined some cultural norms that make sense for your organizational goals and your employees, set up a timeline and benchmarks to track your success. Using an employee engagement system like Kudos can help with built-in analytics that tracks which aspects of organizational culture are most prominent in day-to-day work.

Key Takeaway: Create a culture that aligns with your organizational goals and your employees' needs. Using the right tools (systems) for work and culture building is critical for success. [Click to Tweet!]

Reinforcing Culture

What can leadership do to reinforce and reinvigorate culture? The most important thing is to share the vision through a clear culture statement that employees can revisit often.

Another critical component to maintaining culture is how you hire. Gone are the days of hiring for culture fit. Instead, managers should be focusing on hiring for culture add. As Management scholar Adam Grant shares in this video, hiring for culture fit, where candidates are hired based on shared values, isn’t as effective as was once thought. He shares the importance of culture add and culture contribution. For example, if you feel your culture is stagnant and lacking new ideas? Hire someone with an entrepreneurial background.

But most importantly, what can you do on an ongoing basis? Reinforce your culture daily by living your organization’s values, making sure they’re understood and top of mind, and being true to the priorities you’ve laid out. Simply put, if your executives and managers are walking the talk, you’ll get better buy-in organization-wide.

Key Takeaways: Live your culture every day and hire for culture-add, not culture-fit. Leadership needs to be mindful of the “Say Do” trap – lead by example, not edict.

Organizational culture is a complex notion that can significantly impact the bottom line. A common misconception is that culture happens organically; culture should be deliberate and strategic. Take the time to reassess and refocus your culture for today’s workplace and your organizational goals. Then, start reinforcing culture daily and encourage all organization levels to do the same. A fantastic culture is within your reach!

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About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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