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As I sit down to pen this article, we are entering the traditional UK summer months. Usually, this would be a time for many leaders to reflect and renew as they gear up to end 2020 in a strong position. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented other priorities – so let’s press pause and reset. 

Let me explain. 

2020 was hailed as the start of the new decade with much to look forward to, and many changes on the horizon; a BREXIT deal and potentially the US hailing a new president (both are potentially happening whether you are for or against!). 

Fast forward, and we are now in a situation where: 

  • The global economy has taken the biggest nosedive ever recorded 
  • Over 30 million Americans are currently unemployed  
  • One in four UK workers is furloughed. 

In April 2020, statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, because of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

It’s safe to say there have been massive changes for all, and this year has potentially had the biggest impact on the organisational culture we have experienced since the inception of the worldwide web over thirty years ago. 

Will Business Ever Be the Same Again? 

At some level, yes. We might emerge from this even be better, yet different.  

Who knows? 

Though many people are concerned about what the new normal will look like, past data suggests that returning to ‘normal’ will happen.  

Earlier this month I was watching the news, and one of the speakers from Harvard shared that post 9/11 Americans thought life would never be the same and yet fast forward a few short years and nothing much had changed. 

Though is the COVID-19 pandemic different? 

Potentially yes. 

Whole sectors have been either wiped out or put on hold, and remote working has jumped from less than 3% a few years ago to just under 50% after Easter this year. 

Change is imminent, and your current company culture could be the first casualty; lets get back to our initial comment about the need to reset. 

Your Culture Has Shifted 

The truth is many organisations are re-evaluating how and where they work. Twitter is considering abandoning offices altogether, and Google doesnt plan to have anyone back in the office before 2021. 

If this doesnt indicate the need for a shift in your culture, nothing will. Now is the time to define the culture you want postCOVID. 

Gallup defines culture as the way things get done around here. Therefore, logically, an organisations culture involves various points of contact in the employee interaction with the organisation, including: 

  • attraction 
  • selection 
  • development  
  • engagement 

In normal circumstances, these elements can strengthen a culture if carried out correctly or weaken a culture if ignored. 

All well and good  though what if all four elements are turned upside down; which is exactly what has happened in the past few months? 

If recruitment hasnt been frozen, its taking place virtually by stressedout managers who have never conducted a video interview before and yet who desperately need a new hire to run a business-critical department. 

Most employee development has been paused with some organisations pulling budgets away from any form of training until next year. 

Many parents and teachers in the UK are concerned and campaigning for additional school time for their children as they worry about the impact on learning. 

Yet the same campaigning isnt happening in organisations where skills are getting rusty or disappearing altogetherwhich is an uncomfortable thing to say! 

Consider the impact of this, and employee engagement is set to plummet too. 

Rebuilding The Culture You Want 

Though many organisations, at all levels, had a knee jerk response in Marchfurlough, costcutting, redundancies, parttime working etc. Now is the time to regroup and take stock. 

Though Reuters is predicting a better bounce back than many of us are currently thinking, your culture rebuild needs to be a priority.  

So where can you start? 

Current Culture: Xray And Data Into Action 

You might refer to this as a culture analysis, the time to be honest. 

Look at what is actually happening and how this is impacting everyone. Keep copious notes. 

Managers and leaders across all departments need to assess operations at a detailed level. 

Stating the obvious I know, but workplaces are experiencing considerable disruption and how is this being handled? 

New ways of working and experiences can reveal new opportunity and new skills. Who would have thought how critical Zoom meetings would beOr the friendly impact of the Zoom wave for adding connection across the internet. 

Only earlier this month, the training team at Excel were able to run a series of free taster sessions using this platform, to support organisations around the globe who need it now more than ever. 

Data collected gives clarity on your next culture steps, be prepared that it will show the need for a different culture profile in the synthesis. 

Now you know what is working and what isnt, you can start to define your new cultural norms. 

Communications 

The one hurdle of embedding culture throughout an organisation is poor communication. Yet has the new COVID norm has demonstrated to all of us how we can develop our communication channels in multiple ways? There are so many platforms to choose from including Zoom (with break out rooms), Microsoft Teams, Adobe, Slack, Messenger and WhatsApp communities and every form of video just to name a few! 

Remember, use the skills you have to hand to help with your virtual communications, especially when it comes to conversations around culture. For example, storytelling is one of the most powerful tools you have in your toolbox. Many of your team members will have stories to tell about how they are handling their COVID-19 heaven or hell, from amusing anecdotes that lift the spirits to revelations about how to be a secret productivity/ideas ninja 

The critical part of this whole situation is to take the time to reflect on your current culture and your desired culture, keeping the conversation consistently at the forefront of all you do. 

Thanks 

Tom, 

P.S. If you would like help to develop your culture we can help. You can get in contact here. 

 

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