There’s nothing like a crisis to test our workplace culture. Climate disasters, financial recessions, health pandemics, plummeting oil demand, 911 terrorism – the list of recent crises is long. Today, many of them are occurring all at the same time. It’s no wonder our heads are spinning and uncertainty is at an all-time high.
During these times our culture shows its true colors. I remember the ice storm of 1998 that took down thousands of hydro and telecommunication wires. I was a senior executive in the telecommunications industry and I was never more thankful to have had a strong positive culture going into that crisis. We had a year’s worth of work dumped in our laps overnight. The current processes just couldn’t scale to meet this demand. A whole new way of doing business was needed. We were resilient, adaptable, and collaborative. This enabled us to come through the crisis quickly and successfully.
Keeping the Good
As you reflect on where your organization is today, what elements of your culture are helping you to get through? What are the attributes you’re thankful to have had in place already? Are they part of the core values that you previously defined for the organization?
In addition to having a positive culture in place, while a crisis is in play certain parts of our culture need to step up. For example, during this pandemic as employees have shifted to working remotely, collaboration needs additional focus. As companies fight for survival, innovation and adaptability are critical. Open communication is in huge demand to counter all the ambiguity. Coming into the pandemic these values might not have been in your top five.
It’s important to capture what’s working well in your culture. These values brought you to where you are and are carrying you forward into the future.
Watch for the Bad
Finally, what organizational behaviors have raised their heads and are contributing to the struggle in your organization. Limiting, or negative values, such as bureaucracy, blame, or resistance to change might be manageable during our normal day to day. During a crisis, they can put us on the edge of the cliff between survival and bankruptcy.
New limiting values are also creeping in such as job insecurity. Safety, not usually top of mind with our employees, is now number one. Employees are spending more time obsessing about these cultural elements and it’s impacting their productivity. Leaders need to focus on their employees’ most basic needs in order to keep the ship upright.
It’s time to reflect – Did your culture assist you during the crisis? Or did it hinder your ability to manage through it? Now that you’re shifting your businesses as a result of the impact of this crisis, how might your culture need to shift too? Are your core values still as relevant as they were entering this crisis?
Let’s face it, your culture today is probably not where it was before the pandemic. The people experience has changed for your employees, your customers, and your suppliers. Their needs are different and their attitudes have been altered. As you build your blueprint to come out of this pandemic, your culture needs to be a part of the plan.
Winston Churchill said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”. There has never been a better time to get a handle on your culture. With our culture-specific online assessment tool, we can quickly provide critical insights. Reach out to us here to learn more.
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