By Candace Coleman, CultureWise Content Manager
What a marathon. In mid-March of 2020, the pandemic upended the working world along with our personal lives. Cast into uncharted territory, business leaders spent the rest of that year learning to carve a lane in a newly defined race.
When we started to fill in our 2021 calendars, many CEOs began to feel cautiously optimistic about returning to normal in the coming months. Yet despite significant strides to overcome the health crisis, COVID lingered throughout last year and continues to affect businesses as we begin to navigate 2022.
As organizations continue to regroup and look ahead, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the pandemic and our correlating reactions and course corrections are poised to have a lasting impact.
New, Newer, Newest Normal
Throughout the pandemic, most companies proved amazingly resilient and adapted with new work strategies to not just stay afloat but competitive in a difficult time. For example, many organizations adopted the work-from-home (WFH) model, and employees in multiple industries learned to perform their jobs effectively away from the office.
An eventual transition to this new work format was probably inevitable, but the pandemic super-charged the need for it. By 2021, numerous businesses had permanently adopted at least a partial WFH policy for their employees.
In addition, when many companies started bringing some employees back to the office, they did it on a hybrid basis. For example, staff members split their weekly schedules between home and office, with many people working staggered shifts.
Why Remote and Hybrid Work Models Are Here to Stay
Organizations made alterations to where and when staff members work for several reasons. At first, they did it because a significant number of employees remained reluctant to get back to “business as usual” amid ongoing concerns about COVID and its variants.
While health and safety protocols initially spurred this workplace reformation, workers’ attitudes influenced employment policies even more. After experiencing the flexibility afforded by the new work models, a growing number of employees lost interest in going back to the way things used to be.
Many workers had no interest in resuming a daily commute that often consumed hours. People who are most productive first thing in the morning or after 5:00 p.m. reveled in working during their former commuting time.
Other WFH employees and those operating on a hybrid schedule could meet personal obligations, such as caring for families and pets, more effectively and with less stress.
As a result, numerous employers who tried to reinstate a nine-to-five, on-site workforce last year were affected by “The Great Resignation,” an ongoing phenomenon in which thousands of people are quitting their jobs. Now many leaders offer competitive WFH and hybrid options to quell turnover and lure talent in what remains a buyers’ market for employees.
What began as a strategy to cope with the pandemic has taken root, and experts predict that remote work and flexible schedules are here to stay. The challenge for business leaders is how to make the most of the brave new world of employment.
3 Problems Business Leaders Face in 2022
CEOs are still recovering from the fallout of 2020 and 2021 and many are experiencing uncertainty as they gear up for the new year. New issues relating to maintaining a stable workforce now overlay standard Q1 concerns about profit, budgets, and operations.
Specifically, leaders may be wondering how to tackle three challenges:
- Retaining and attracting top talent in today’s volatile employment market
- Effectively managing and getting consistent performance from a remote or hybrid workforce
- Remaining competitive in a constantly evolving business environment
Most leaders view these as concrete problems that require tactical resolutions. While the topic of company culture may have caught their attention, many CEOs don’t see it as part of their operational strategy. With so much to nail down, they may wonder why focusing on something as intangible as culture matters right now.
Actually, the timing couldn’t be better.
The organizations that have fared the best throughout the pandemic strengthened their teams and remained competitive by focusing on how their people feel, think, and perform. In other words, they prioritized their company culture.
A strong culture maximizes an organization’s ability to succeed in any year. But having a vibrant company culture in the unprecedented period we’re experiencing now is more critical than ever before.
The Real Definition of Company Culture
Many practical leaders hesitate to devote time to culture because they misunderstand what it is. For example, they might not buy into the notion that culture can solve problems because they associate it with feel-good perks like recreation rooms or pizza parties. Or they believe they’ve already addressed the topic by prominently displaying formal company values to motivate their staff.
While they may be appealing, it’s clear that these things don’t solve an organization’s problems. And leaders who conflate them with culture understandably look elsewhere for tangible solutions. But they’re missing an important distinction. While fun benefits and company values are tangential to corporate culture, they don’t create it.
A company’s authentic culture is reflected in the everyday conduct of the people who work there. It is defined by people’s attitudes about their jobs and how they interact with team members and the public. A healthy culture is evident when staff’s ongoing behavioral norms are positive and productive.
“Leaders must intentionally and systematically develop the culture they want their company to have, rather than live with the culture that emerges by default. And doing it well, just like any other area of business, involves having a plan and following a process.”
Strong culture provides the backbone that supports and sustains a business. It enables top performance on a routine basis and holds organizations together in stressful times. Culture is so critical to a company’s success that it should be an intrinsic part of every leader’s business strategy.
The Universal Solution
A healthy culture offers a wellspring of solutions for business leaders staring down the challenges of 2022. Here’s how culture factors into the top three issues CEOs will face this year.
#1: Retaining and attracting top talent in today’s volatile employment market
Accommodating remote and hybrid employees is essential for many employers embroiled in the newest battle for top talent. But the pandemic left workers craving more than flexibility in where and when they perform their jobs.
People reassessed their priorities over the past several years as they waited out the health crisis. As a result, many began to seek different employers because they felt unfulfilled or were simply unhappy in their pre-pandemic roles. An increasing number of workers want to know that their daily responsibilities make a difference in their organization, and they want to enjoy their work.
A strong, supportive company culture comprised of positive behavioral standards is the most effective means to nurture and retain top staff. It helps employees feel included, informed, and empowered to be their “best selves” so that they feel good about their contributions.
And companies with outstanding cultures develop great reputations in the marketplace. Consequently, they lure the best young recruits as well as seasoned employees looking for greener pastures. Moreover, once people join a company with a superior culture, they develop a high level of engagement and are far less likely to look for something new.
#2: Effectively managing a remote workforce
As many employees gained a better work/life balance in their new remote or hybrid jobs, their bosses experienced upsides, too. For example, they could engage a wider talent pool because they weren’t limited to local staff. And they could grow their companies without incurring additional real estate or equipment expenses.
But the new work models also include challenges for both workers and their employers.
Some organizations with WFH staff experienced a dip in communication and collaboration. And managers found it harder to train, coach, and guide their team members than when interacting with them in person. Companies must remediate these problems for remote and hybrid jobs to remain a good option for all.
A clearly defined company culture can significantly improve the efficiency and vitality of remote or hybrid teams. A thoughtfully developed culture initiative will generate a “common language” that helps everyone understand “how things are done around here”—even if “here” is technically all over the place.
Dynamic organizational culture eliminates operational inconsistencies and improves collaboration because everyone is on the same wavelength. It’s the glue that holds everything together.
#3: Remaining competitive in an evolving business environment
As companies continue to respond to pandemic-related issues, they’re also coping with a rapidly shifting marketplace filled with an increasing number of sophisticated rivals.
Organizations must be agile enough to change course as needed and different enough to distinguish themselves in a crowded business arena if they want to remain competitive in 2022. A healthy culture supplies the structure that allows companies to achieve both goals.
Companies that surpassed expectations during the pandemic not only responded well to the changes that ensued—they created better strategies for the future. Of course, not all changes are as seismic as COVID, but many organizations fare poorly with change of any kind. A corporate culture that leans on “the way we’ve always done things” is usually the source of this problem.
Conversely, a company culture that prioritizes continuous improvement encourages people to be flexible and become creative problem-solvers. It allows them to see the opportunities that changes or even setbacks pose and find new ways to get things done.
No matter how good a company\’s product, service, or value is, other businesses vying for the same customer base can easily duplicate these things. So how can leaders successfully differentiate their companies? They must first acknowledge that how their employees operate is more important than what their company sells or charges.
Teams whose actions are guided by a strong core culture work seamlessly to keep things running smoothly. And they’ll do whatever it takes to provide outstanding experiences every time they interact with a customer.
An exceptional organizational culture not only facilitates continuous high performance, but it’s also almost impossible to copy. Culture has the power to propel a company to the top of its field—and keep it there.
How CultureWise Can Help
For their companies to make the most of 2022 and conquer the problems outlined in this article, leaders must prioritize their organization’s culture. One of the best methods to achieve this goal is through CultureWise, David Friedman’s unique system to create and sustain the kind of organizational culture that gives management and staff the tools to thrive.
Based on the intentional approach to developing culture outlined in Friedman’s book, Culture by Design, this turnkey operating system for culture is compatible with EOS and is offered at several pricing levels, making it actionable and affordable for companies of any size. To learn more, schedule a time to connect with a member of the CultureWise team.
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