It’s no surprise that in these unprecedented times, the first question that organisations have asked themselves is ‘what are the skills our people are going to need in order to navigate this?’ Adaptability, leading through crisis, leading virtual teams. These are critical skills required for our organisations to survive and even thrive during this uncertain period. But what about culture?
Many organisations around the world will reference ‘innovation’ and ‘collaboration’ as their guiding values when it comes to culture. But what do these behaviours mean for your business in our modern world? What does good look like in your current context? How do your people and leaders live these values at a time when they’re trying to get used to the new ‘normal’? And do they even need to?!
The power of culture
Here at Lane4, we believe the answer is ‘yes’ – they do need to.
Whilst this is hardly a surprise given our definition of culture - ‘the values, behaviours, beliefs, and environments that shape people’s experience within a company’ – at a time when organisations’ culture and values are being stress-tested more than ever, we feel there is huge potential for a ‘say-do’ gap to develop. For the space between culture as it is articulated and that what is experienced daily to widen. And the repercussions of this can be catastrophic – for both your people, brand, customers, and organisational performance.
Already we’re likely seeing examples of this. As Andy Slinger, Director at Brand Vista references in his recent article, multiple organisations have made decisions that are unlikely to role model their vision statement or leadership model. Neither are they likely to drive positive Glassdoor reviews or customer loyalty in the long-run; putting these organisations at significant risk of repercussions that go far beyond those initiated by COVID-19.
But at the same time some organisations and senior leaders are getting it very right. BrewDog Founder/‘Captain’ James Watt, alongside his Co-Founder Martin Dickie, have forgone all of their salary for 2020, with many of their senior team volunteering to take pay cuts in order to protect as many jobs as possible. This is in addition to their COO David McDowall volunteering to take a 50% pay cut. A quick scan of LinkedIn, and it doesn’t take long to see the significant positive impact that these acts have had on the entire business – with many employees referencing the fact that in doing so, they are living the long-term vision of the BrewDog ‘family’!
So why is it that some organisations are getting it very right, whilst others are getting it very wrong?
Whilst businesses’ focus is rightfully going to be on the foundations that they must lay in order to bounce back from this awful virus, we believe that culture could be the thing that not only has organisations bounce back, but sees them bounce forwards. But how? We propose (and offer) the following four ideas - which can be achieved both virtually and face-to-face:
1. Define and communicate what your organisation’s vision, mission or purpose stands for in your current context.
How can your people best live your values when working remotely (for example)? What changes have you made to your strategy (if any), and why? What does this mean for your people and their daily lives moving forwards (both working and personal)? What should people stop, start and continue doing in order to give your organisation the best chance of navigating this difficult time?
2. Go beyond getting your people to understand.
Engagement is not as simple as understanding at a rational level. Your people need to connect at an emotional level. To care! Draw line of sight between the work that they are doing now, and how this is helping you to achieve your vision tomorrow. Even better, go further – how is the work that they are doing helping the world to recover? Once you have done this, engage them behaviourally. Equip them with the skills they are going to need in order to flourish in your new world – both today and tomorrow. As well as recognising that they will have ideas and answers for the questions that you are grappling with in the board room.
3. Monitor the extent to which you and your people are living your organisational values and desired culture.
Define observable behaviours that you believe are going to have your people and organisation perform in these challenging times, and have them provide two-way feedback to one another. Through quick, easy to complete anonymous peer-to-peer reviews, you can track the impact of your leadership development initiatives (for example), whilst holding a mirror up to your leaders who may believe that they are effectively leading their teams through crisis (when in actual fact their teams are not getting what they need). Having done this, offer support that tackles the development needs that your leaders have now – rather than those that were relevant pre-coronavirus.
4. Don’t forget the people side of performance.
Whilst cash is likely to be king in these challenging times, your people are often the resource that determines the extent to which you bounce forwards. Appreciate that they are going to have different reactions to the world within which we now live. Make sure that the environment you are creating for them – virtual or otherwise – is high performing, and that you are satisfying their needs, as chances are your long-term organisational effectiveness will be determined by the culture that you co-create with your people now.
Put bluntly, the world has changed. Culture and organisational resilience have taken on a whole new meaning. Whilst few organisations will have planned for something like coronavirus, the majority now have the opportunity to evolve their culture and ways of working in a manner that means they come out of this stronger. Whether that be financially (for some), or at least as a community of people who are willing to go above and beyond for their organisation in the new world.
Lane4 are experts in culture change. We go beyond performance to ensure that your people are game changers. In these challenging times, we want to support you and your business to not only survive but thrive in the face of COVID-19 – protecting your financial position whilst developing your people so they are ready for the new ‘normal’. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this article further, and would invite you to share any immediate questions or feedback with Adam Wilson (Head of Leadership and Team) direct – at email@example.com, or through his LinkedIn here. Thank you.