Forward-thinking companies know that the secret to long-term success lies in improving company culture. The reality is that COVID-19 radically shifted and emotionally drained the entire workforce. If companies want to find success in a post-COVID-19 world, they will have to find ways to improve and cultivate a thriving company culture.
Employees need companies that are passionate about fostering positive and empathic work cultures. However, company culture problems aren’t always easy to identify or improve.
This new, post-pandemic world requires new takes on an old topic and some company culture ideas created for this emerging era.
7 Methods for Improving Company Culture Today
1. Bring Fun to the Front Burner
Ping-pong tables and beer kegs in the office are old ideas, but there is still merit to fostering a culture of fun. After all, people spend one-third of their life working. Fun atmospheres are energizing and stress-reducing, and they cultivate a culture of creativity and playfulness.
The most innovative companies have fun company cultures. Companies that want to improve company culture have to find ways to bring fun to the atmosphere. Some ideas include casual Fridays, friendly competitions (with prizes), and company celebrations and parties to acknowledge milestones and wins.
2. Prioritize Safety in a Post-Pandemic Workplace
Safety has always been an essential component of company culture. If employees don’t feel safe, the culture will inevitably suffer. However, safety has moved to the front of employees’ and employers’ minds as they transition back to the office. It’s why 99% of companies plan to make sweeping office changes in response to COVID-19.
Sanitation protocols and socially distant offices are only a part of the new, safer office equation. Some companies are adopting hybrid models or keeping their employees remote. At the same time, others are trying to bring people back to the office with smaller, private office spaces. Which is best for employee safety?
It really depends on the location, employees’ feelings and legal requirements. For example, suppose a company is going back to the office in an area like New York City. In that case, leaders have to consider how they can make their employees feel safe using public transit. It might require providing reimbursement for ridesharing or getting an employee bus.
The reality is that requiring people to come back to the office will require extra thought and care. Companies should ask or survey their employees for direct feedback on safety metrics and provide individualized solutions to ensure that everyone in the office (or remote) feels safe while working.
3. Stop Prescribing What Well-Being Means
Too often, companies try to meet the needs of their employees with broad stroke wellness programs. Pre-COVID-19, wellness programs focused only on physical, financial and mental health. Now it’s clear that wellness means different things to different people.
For some, well-being might mean meditation or counseling. For others, it might be grocery delivery or childcare. If a company wants to improve its culture, it has to broaden the definition of well-being and incorporate wellness initiatives that benefit all employees — not just a few of them.
4. Provide Autonomy, Flexibility and Choice
Employees want to be trusted to do their jobs and make decisions about their work and life. Micromanagement and one-size-fits-all work solutions and benefits don’t create thriving company cultures. People work differently, and modern companies are finding ways to allow their employees the freedom, flexibility and choice to choose the workflows and benefits that work for them.
This will be a vital thing for companies transitioning back to the office. Companies that worked virtually during the pandemic will have a challenging time telling their employees to come back and work just like they did before, because they’ve proven they deserve a bit more autonomy and flexibility.
Companies that allow more autonomy, flexibility and choice will have an easier time improving their company culture. If everyone is allowed to work in a way that benefits them the most, the entire company will thrive.
5. In a Remote Environment, Lead With Empathy and Provide a Means of Connection
There’s no denying that virtual work makes company culture initiatives more challenging. How can leaders improve company culture if everyone is dispersed? Without the option for spontaneous lunches or quick conversations, how should leaders adapt?
Leaders have to be empathetic to the obstacles employees are facing at home. Working from a home office often brings new challenges, and the pandemic has exacerbated those. For instance, many employees are juggling a full-time job and homeschooling all at the shared kitchen table. Leaders have to be understanding and interested in connecting with (and supporting) individuals where they are.
Supervisors should check in with employees regularly, in-office or not, via emails, phone calls, Zoom chats and text messages. Additionally, leaders have to find ways to keep the company culture thriving even if everyone’s remote.
Employees need to be able to talk to each other just like they would in an office. Supervisors can facilitate this with things like an employee-only shared Slack channel, casual Zoom chats, virtual competitions and in-person meet-ups (once it’s safe to do so). Culture depends so much on the interconnectedness of the people inside the company, so establishing reliable and regular communication channels is vital to a thriving company culture.
6. Promote Equity and Diversity
Unequal treatment and favoritism aren’t going to fly anymore. Neither is a homogenous employee base. Companies need diversity and equity because diverse teams provide greater problem solving and innovation, not to mention promote healthy work cultures.
A company with equal treatment and abundant diversity will experience higher retention rates, happier employees, and better overall morale. Organizations should ensure they’re taking steps to hire and keep diverse team members and have safeguards to protect against unequal treatment.
Leaders should adopt an open-door policy regarding issues of inequality, equity and diversity. Employees should feel safe to speak up about problematic behavior from supervisors and co-workers. Moreover, employees should feel able to speak about company-wide, systemic issues as well. The road for a better work culture will be paved with inclusion, equality and the type of innovation that only comes from a diverse team.
7. Provide Meaningful Recognition and Benefits
Employees need recognition and acknowledgment for their achievements and efforts. If employees don’t feel valued, they’re liable to leave, and the company culture will suffer. Organizations must have recognition programs in place to make sure every employee feels seen and valued.
The recognition has to be meaningful, too. The impersonal gift card or quarterly review isn’t enough. Leaders need to find ways to show their employees they appreciate them, regularly and intentionally.
There are many ways to do this, but one of the best is by offering customized lifestyle benefits. When employers provide their people with benefits and perks that matter to the individual employee, their people are much more likely to feel valued. The entire company culture flourishes when individual employees feel appreciated.
Meet Employees Needs and Improve Company Culture
The bottom line is this: When employees’ needs are met, a company’s culture will improve. So, companies should focus on connecting with and meeting their people’s needs in this new, post-pandemic world.
Whether through better communication, heightened safety protocols or individualized benefits, companies that take the time to understand their employees will unlock the secret to improving their company culture.