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How To Adapt Company Culture And Values In The Hybrid Work Era

How to Help a Large Hybrid Team Feel Connected

Business leaders need to be active in shaping the employee experience to provide the best possible environment for their staff and the customers they’ll serve.

Every business culture is composed of two parts, and they’re not always equal.

One part is the aspects of culture that are developed and actively promoted by the company’s leadership. This is usually based upon the business’s core values.

The other part is the culture that emerges organically, over longer periods or time, and is influenced by the attitudes and lived experiences of employees themselves. This can be informed by the company’s leadership, but it is also influenced by peer relationships.

In the end, company culture can be defined as the norms and behaviours that become part of the experience of working there – and, perhaps as importantly, a key factor in the experience a business delivers to its customers.

There are always external factors that can change company cultures, from the state of the economy to the outlook of new generations of professionals that enter the workforce. Over the past few years, for example, global events have transformed the nature of work in such a way that business leaders may need to reassess the state of their internal culture, and to ensure that their values are in line with what employees expect and need.

In many, if not most industries, for instance, age-old habits around managing and organizing the workforce have been completely upended. Technology has made it possible to work successfully from anywhere, whether it’s the comfort of an employee’s home, a coffee shop or a traditional office. Companies are recognizing as a result that they can pivot from the concept of a physical “head office” to a digital HQ, where they use the tools available of them to operate and manage people in a much more flexible manner.

We might need more time before the full impact of remote and hybrid work on company culture is well understood. Business leaders can’t afford to sit still in the meantime, however. They need to be active in shaping the employee experience to provide the best possible environment for their staff and the customers they’ll serve.

If you need some ideas on how to go about this, here are a few exercises and experiments that might be worth a try:

Invite The Team To A Virtual, Ongoing Off-Site

Before hybrid work, when the vast majority of employees worked in the same offices, it was not uncommon for organizations to arrange a periodic “off site” meeting. These could be held at a hotel or other location and could combine a mixture of professional conversations and leisure activities. The best off-site events have been a way to develop and reinforce the culture by offering experiences that promoted bonding among team members and departments.

As you try to determine the culture that will help your company become more successful, think about how you might offer a virtual off site. This could be done through a series of video calls with remote or hybrid employees, or even by creating a designated channel in Slack.

Rather than treat this as a one-off, however, think about what would happen if the off-site meeting was ongoing – an organic conversation between leadership and the team using digital communication channels. You could drive engagement by asking targeted questions, but also playing games or asking fun quiz-style questions to nurture stronger relationships.

Issue A Call To Document The ‘New Day In The Life’

Seeing people in person regularly meant that we were all witness to what other staff did all day, whether it was attending internal meetings or presenting to customers. Hybrid work has meant some people don’t necessarily see what those on their team or in other departments are up to, other than when they formally connect in a virtual meeting.

Try this exercise: identify some of your more engaged employees and reach out to them. Ask them to write a “day in the new life” based on how they tackle their jobs now that they’re not wasting hours commuting. Encourage them to give a timeline of their average workday and the key sorts of milestones or habits that tend to play out. (Consider offering an incentive, like an afternoon or full day off for getting this done.)

This might be when you discover employees have developed a mindfulness practice of some kind, that they play a sport on their lunch hour or learn that they dedicate spare time to volunteer work and taking care of their family. Share the results of these exercises on your intranet or though Slack. It will deepen the understanding of new norms among distributed colleagues, and might make some of them feel less alone.

Host A ‘Living The Values’ Scavenger Hunt

Even if a company writes out their values and puts them on a plaque somewhere, not everyone reads it. You can send them out in a mass e-mail and they could still be ignored. As you fine-tune the way you articulate your values, you need employees to live them out – even if they’re working far from where you are.

This can be gamified and made more fun by starting a regular practice that’s akin to a scavenger hunt. Suggest to various teams within your company that they call out their colleagues’ behaviours and actions when they clearly speak to the values you’ve outlined. Again, this can happen in a Slack channel or could be a standing agenda item in a virtual meeting.

Have prizes (like a e-gift card, for instance) to make this a habit among everyone across the business. It will serve as a way to go beyond the values spelled out in a vision statement and infuse them directly into the culture.

Hybrid work culture can be a healthy, affirming, inclusive culture – it’s just a matter of business leaders setting the right intentions and trying a variety of approaches to continue developing it.

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