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CEO and Executive Creative Director at Tribe, Inc., working with national and global brands to build employee engagement.
How do you support a strong culture when employees are on a hybrid schedule of some days in the office and some working from home? That seems to be the burning question for executive leadership at many companies as they contemplate the future of work post-pandemic.
Five days in the office is over.
It’s become clear that we won’t see all employees who previously worked full-time in the office returning five days a week. According to a national benchmarking survey our agency fielded recently with large companies in technology, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail and financial services, most corporate employees will be offered some flexibility in terms of working remotely as their companies bring people back to the office.
Leadership opinions on remote work have shifted significantly over the past year or so. Corporate management has seen that employees can indeed be productive working remotely. Having demonstrated this, employees now have new expectations of flexibility in their work location moving forward. To be competitive in recruiting and retention, companies won’t be able to insist on everyone being in the office every day.
Culture might be less contagious.
Before the pandemic, we could count on employees picking up a lot of the culture just by their day-to-day interactions and observations in the office. Culture spreads from one person to another and from group to group, thanks to proximity and familiarity.
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But now that we won’t have the vast majority of employees showing up in the office every day, we’ll need to make reinforcing culture a new priority. We’ll need to maximize the cultural exposure when employees are on-site and find new ways to spread culture while employees are working remotely.
Four Ways to Support a Hybrid Culture
1. Weave culture throughout internal communications.
One of the most obvious solutions is to begin placing a heavier emphasis on the culture in internal communications. Make your values top of mind by weaving them into communication channels ranging from newsletters to the intranet. Maybe develop a series of videos of employees describing how they apply the values to their individual jobs, or how they describe the culture to others, or what they find most important about the culture. Look for opportunities to celebrate whatever is unique about your culture and make it more visible.
2. Ask executive leadership to emphasize its importance.
It also helps to make sure the culture is being reinforced at the top. The value of culture is something that executive leadership can and should be talking about — in town halls, in meetings with the next layer down of leadership and in any executive communications. If there are ways the pandemic has strengthened the culture or brought employees together, that’s also important to mention.
3. Build an employer brand.
If you don’t yet have an employer brand, this is a good time to develop one because it reinforces the cultural reasons employees choose to work here instead of anywhere else. It’s not just a recruiting tool, but a rallying cry that can unite current employees. While your consumer brand is a promise to people who buy your product or service, the employer brand is a promise the company makes to employees.
4. Engage employees around their passions.
Culture-based connections don’t happen just because people work in the same building. They can also be built on shared passions. This is a good time to ramp up programs like diversity-based Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), corporate volunteer initiatives, sustainability teams and wellness programs. Instead of bumping into each other at the coffee machine, employees can connect online around these efforts as well as at the occasional on-site events.
Help employees make the connection between the company culture and these sorts of passion-worthy activities. And then create more opportunities for them to connect with each other around these causes.
Culture is the glue that holds your company community together. It’s how we treat people inside and outside the company, what values are priorities for the community and what traditions have been created over the years.
Although some of the ways we reinforce culture in the office may need to be re-addressed as employees move to a hybrid work schedule, our new future of work also creates new possibilities. Fortunately, culture is something that can be communicated in a myriad of ways beyond just face-to-face in the workplace.
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Author: Elizabeth Baskin, Forbes Councils Member