Simply put, culture is an inclination of people in a context to behave in a certain way. In the words of Stan Slap, it is ‘where the humans gather, formed with shared beliefs around the rules of survival and emotional prosperity’.  With COVID-19, many teams did not ‘gather’ for some time.

As we ask people to return to the workplace (whether a full return or hybrid), we may assume that the cultures we left behind, will remain intact, when we return. This is, however, very unlikely considering the extent of disruption that has taken place at an individual and at a business level.

According to Bill Schaninger, a senior partner at McKinsey – “This is an unbelievable opportunity to remake culture. It’s rare in a leader’s lifetime to have such a clean drop for reshaping how you run the place.”

In theory, this sounds great, but in practice, how does a leader meet the need of their people working in a hybrid way, while maintaining a sense of community and connection? Creating a cohesive culture where people are empowered to participate in meaningful ways, regardless of whether they are at home or in the offices, requires more than a set of new policies. It requires leaders to be intentional when shaping an environment that is deeply connected, inclusive, as well as highly productive.

From our own experience, and our work with leaders in diverse industries, the steps leaders can start taking to creating deeply rooted, strong cultures include –

There are definite self-sustaining patterns of behaviour in your current culture that ensured business continuity through the crisis. Identify those as strengths that need to be built upon.

  • Engage your people

Culture is not the sole preserve of leadership, it is owned and lived by all in the company. Connect with your people to understand their perceptions and experience of the change in culture, what still holds true, and what they believe is needed for teams to thrive and feel connected and productive in this new world of work.

  • Identify non-negotiables

Synthesise these insights to arrive at a few critical, non-negotiable behaviours that need to be lived. These are behaviours that not only drive cohesion, inclusion, and performance, but deepen the existing, and valued roots of your culture.

  • Provide support

Introduce and embed both face-to-face and online platforms, engagement processes, and learning opportunities that best suit business needs, to set your people up for success.

It’s no secret that there is a “Great Disconnect” between the renewed way employers and employees view remote or hybrid working.  According to a global study released by Future Forum, executives who work remotely are nearly three times more likely than employees to prefer returning to the office full-time; while 76% of employees don’t want to return to full-time office work, and 93% want flexibility when they work. In a world where talent is scarce, leaders need to be able to adapt to the needs of their top talent.

While these are uncertain and challenging times, they are also exciting times with opportunities to meet organisational and employee needs, if navigated with both intent and skill.

At Joint Prosperity, we partner with leaders, teams and businesses to enhance their capability, improve performance and realise their potential – shaping an environment and culture where talent can contribute and thrive.

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