The events of early 2020 forced most companies to quickly adjust to new challenges. Now, almost a year later, many are still laboring in this "new normal" environment -- increased safety precautions, scaled-down teams and empty offices. With teams scattered geographically and connection opportunities often limited to computer screens, now is a great time for leaders to check in on their workplace culture.
Culture is the optimal performance driver. It is an unsigned contract between an organization and its employees that gives individuals license to accomplish goals and get things done without the burden of worry or uncertainty about negative repercussions. And every employee in an organization has the power to amplify or detract from its culture.
If something yields the result we want even once, it’s human nature to do that exact same thing again. In general, people are creatures of habit. Just think about how many times you’ve gone to your local coffee shop and ordered the exact same latte. Once you found the mixture of ingredients that your taste buds enjoy the most, you probably chose to stick with that.
However, in business, this “stick to what you know” mentality often means that companies hire the exact same type of employee over and over. The thinking is often that if employee X is doing a great job and everyone gets along with everyone, that the smart thing to do must be to hire more people exactly like them. This mentality leads to hiring managers seeking out candidates that identically mirror their existing workforce. They’ll look for the same educational background and skillsets, source from the same narrow list of companies, and look for similar personality traits during interviews. Before you know it, you end up with an entire staff that looks, thinks, and — to a degree — acts almost exactly the same.
For boards of directors, the rhythm of virtual board and committee meetings continues. New directors are being recruited, interviewed, and onboarded in a completely virtual environment, and the traditional board dinner the night before a meeting has fallen away to, at best, a few minutes of banter into a webcam at the beginning of a videoconference as directors assemble around the virtual boardroom table. And this is just the surface logistics of serving on a board in 2021. Looming much larger are the changes in business models, ways of doing business, and ways of thinking that are being challenged by the extended pandemic.
Remote work has been an adjustment (to say the least) for everyone, and its effect on our professional relationships has been just as significant as the impact on daily tasks. For early-career employees, the lack of casual conversations at work poses a considerable challenge. How does one learn best practices to succeed in one’s career when you’re working alone from home? How does one build the professional relationships that are critical for survival and advancement? On the organizational side, how does the business build a culture that supports diversity and inclusion initiatives in the middle of a pandemic? Based on our recent experience leading organizations focused on online mentorship, we believe an organizational commitment to mentorship can address all of these issues.
To retool companies for the new world of work, managers need fresh insights into what makes their teams tick. With staff routinely working from home, and many expecting to visit offices much less frequently, leaders can no longer rely on water-cooler moments to fuel innovation and growth.
One solution is performance coaching, a talking technique that proponents say can untangle gnarly workplace problems. Coaching has long been the preserve of senior management, but leaders and coaches alike say it’s time to open it up to lower-level workers.
If the tumult of 2020 has prompted your organization or leadership team to reconsider people priorities such as employee well-being, resilience, or purpose, then you’re in good company.
Your employees are reconsidering you, too.
Nearly two-thirds of US-based employees we surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And nearly half said that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic. Millennials were three times more likely than others to say that they were reevaluating work.