By: Tom Hinton
The past few years have been a whirlwind of change and brought about significant shifts in how people work, and companies manage their virtual workforce. When you consider the after-effects of the Covid pandemic to the shifting political landscape, not much has remained the same in the United States. Globally, the changes have been even more significant and the Culture Shift even more dramatic.
Many businesses have opted to allow their employees to work from home in lieu of losing their best and brightest talent to competitors. But, just as companies are adjusting to the remote workforce another culture shift is taking place as industry leaders are urging their employees to return to the office in order to regain some sense of control to better manage workflow, streamline project management and boost productivity. But what about those businesses that continue to embrace the virtual workplace because they believe employees are more productive at home than in an office environment? Which way should your business go?
It’s a difficult question to answer. While several studies show a measurable increase in productivity when employees work from home and enjoy a higher degree of work-life balance, there are trade-offs. Workplace relationships are harder to forge when workers are scattered across the country. It’s more difficult for many managers and supervisors to manage their employees without regular interface or contact. Also, the principles and values upon which a business is founded and built are hard to sustain when employees rarely connect with leadership, who must constantly share their vision for the future success of the business.
Here are some proven suggestions to help you better manage your Culture Shift as more and more change impacts your business and the virtual workplace.
Recognize Change and the Fact Your Culture is Shifting.
As times change, the needs and wants of your customers are also changing. Nobody wants to buy yesterday’s newspaper or bread. This is why it’s imperative for your organization to recognize and respond to the ongoing culture shift as the world around you is changing. For your business to remain flexible and competitive in your industry, it’s vital to manage change and the culture shift as they occur.
Here are several keys to better manage a culture shift in a virtual workplace:
Your company will inevitably evolve as new employees are hired virtually. Whenever new employees are hired, you can expect changes to occur within a department because new employees bring new ideas and a fresh perspective on how the work is done and projects should be managed.
As things change, technology and innovations will be introduced. This requires leadership to embrace a fresh look at its virtual workplace and consider innovative methods to help their employees work smarter and enhance their productivity. All of these factors will impact your company Culture. They will also impact one key element of your Culture – its Purpose. In other words, why does your business exist?
As change happens, your company Culture will shift – not necessarily change, but it will shift. And so, leadership must also shift its thinking, and how it manages and motivates its people and the changing whims of its customers. This is why setting your intentions is an important aspect of managing your company culture —especially when your culture is shifting as a result of the virtual workplace.
So, how do you manage a Culture Shift? It’s important to the preservation of your company’s purpose, principles and values that every employee knows what the company stands for. Employees must also clearly understand their job and have the tools and resources to succeed. It’s also vital that every employee knows what you expect of them as they work virtually or remotely.
We believe there are several factors that leaders must address to ensure employees are aligned with the Mission, Vision and Values of the organization. One such factor is goalsetting. Does every employee have goals that are aligned to the goals of the organization? Also, accountability is essential. How are your leaders holding everyone accountable for their role in achieving success? Also, employee expectations and goals must be clearly defined, and reporting sessions must be held on a regular basis. Feedback is also extremely important to keep employees focused and motivated. We strongly encourage companies to include incentives and rewards – not just financial, but also verbal praise and even performance and team-based contests – because these are proven ways to maintain a strong esprit de corps and high moral among your employees.
We also encourage the formation of teams so that employees feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie. Everyone needs a friend. Teams are an excellent way to forge bonds and strengthen performance and results. When leadership’s vision for success – and how to achieve it — are clear, and the work processes and key metrics are set with intention, it eliminates confusion, errors, and guess work. Teams can also eliminate the isolation or fear of being left behind when working online or virtually. Intentionality is one key to managing your Culture Shift and ensuring that everyone is prepared and on board for the changes that lie ahead.
Measure your current Company Values.
Another important step to remain relevant and in synch with your employees and customers is to assess your company’s values and how they are being practiced and embraced in your virtual workplace. You can be sure that your company values will be interpreted differently from those values in a virtual workplace environment.
We recommend you conduct a Culture Assessment to determine if your company values are aligned with those values being practiced in the virtual workplace. Also, a Culture Assessment can reveal what your employees consider their top priorities versus the company’s top priorities. This will be a true wake-up call for most leaders because despite the loyalty level of your employees, you can be sure their list or priorities will be different from the list composed by leadership.
Of course, the benefit of knowing what your employees think is worth its weight in gold. For leaders to know what your employees consider to be their highest priorities, gives you a head-start in managing your Culture Shift. Once you know this, you can create a clear path to where you want your business to go and a plan to help your employees achieve their goals. As part of your Culture Assessment, be sure to also ask what virtual procedures work, and what can be improved to help your employees put forward their best effort? Be sure to ask your people if everyone feels seen, heard, and valued?
Through a Culture Assessment, you can precisely track your company’s principles and key values over time once you know your starting point. You can also determine the good, the bad, and areas for process improvement, and use this valuable knowledge as a launching pad towards managing the Culture Shift that is taking place.
Maintain Regular Contact.
One of the most significant factors your business will face as the world goes more virtual is how to best maintain contact with your employees. Whether it be through video or phone calls, it’s critical to schedule regular contacts with your employees. A higher level of participatory communication will create stronger inclusion and motivation among your employees and, in turn, encourage them to share their own innovative ideas with each other thus promoting stronger teamwork and higher levels of productivity and successful outcomes.
Conduct conference calls that include updated video clips showcasing what is changing within the company. This is also an excellent way for leaders to reinforce the company’s principles and values. Communication is the key to keeping everyone connected and working efficiently throughout the day even when they are far apart.
Build a strong and flexible virtual infrastructure.
Having a strong platform to brainstorm, collaborate on ideas, and work together to further projects is one of the best ways to increase productivity and results in your business. This is why it’s important to create a strong communications network and infrastructure based on the latest technology that allows you to bring your people together and create solutions to your customers’ wants and needs.
As we noted in the beginning of this article, times are changing more quickly than most companies can adjust. This is why you need to have a talented IT team that uses state-of-the-art technology to create an up-to-date infrastructure that hosts your virtual workplace.
Be sure to properly train your employees with the following online tools:
- Conference calls
- Chat rooms
- Messenger apps
- Private chat
- Group chat
- Artificial intelligence
Having everyone on the same page dramatically increases motivation and productivity since no one will be left behind. Each person will be adequately prepared for day-to-day operations, meetings, and projects.
The Bottom Line.
Everything will continue to change as technology advances and customer needs shift. This includes your company’s Culture. It will shift and leaders must be ready to respond to that shift. This also means that how you lead and manage your organization must also change. Having the most current technology and plans in place to support a virtual workforce are two of the best ways to successfully manage your virtual workforce.
Preserving your company’s Culture is the brass tax and foundation of every reputable business because it is how your customers know you and your employees remain loyal. Ensuring your leadership stays flexible so they can keep your employees prepared and motivated is the recipe for business long-term success.
About the Author:
Tom Hinton is president and CEO of CRI Global, LLC, an international training and consulting firm based in San Diego, California. He is the co-author of the Amazon best-seller, The Heart and Soul of Culture. For more information: https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Soul-Culture-Transformation-Conscious/dp/0983503273