The need for businesses to keep up continuity during the pandemic forced them to rapidly change their ways of working.
However, in order to ensure their ongoing growth, a longer-term approach to cultural transformation is needed.
By taking the opportunity to rebuild their company culture now, businesses can attract and retain much-needed talent, while setting themselves up for future success.
Focus on continuous improvement
The last six months have brought on significant changes to the working world, from the physical set up of offices to the services that businesses offer. By taking on board the lessons they have learned during the coronavirus outbreak and assessing areas of their organisation where improvements can still be made, businesses can rebuild their company cultures to be stronger than ever before.
Seek employee feedback
The rise of remote working during the coronavirus crisis has seen many employees benefitting from an improved work-life balance and greater flexibility. However, many workers will have also experienced challenges, such as being furloughed, worries about job security or concerns about balancing work and family commitments. As such, employers must take the workforce’s views and opinions into account before any long-term changes to working practices are set in stone.
Consider communication carefully
The development of an effective communications plan is essential to ensure that any proposed changes to ways of working are long-lasting. The last few months have emphasised the value of a more empathetic and flexible management style, so it makes sense to continue this wherever possible. This may involve reviewing existing management approaches. For example, before lockdown, managers may have had complete visibility of workers in a physical office space. However, the need for employees to work from home has led to leaders focusing more on workers’ outputs and adopting new ways of communicating.
Regular and open communication with the workforce, using a range of methods and platforms, is also important. For example, some employees may prefer the kind of face-to-face communication that video calls enable, over traditional audio calls. Ultimately, leaders should aim to build reassurance by checking in with employees regularly, without overwhelming them with constant messaging over many different platforms.
Remember that change is personal
Effective communications plans should reflect the needs of each member of the organisation, as well as the range of channels needed to get the workforce on board with transformation. It is worth remembering that change can affect people in very different ways and can often raise insecurities in the initial stages. As such, it is vital to ensure that people know there’s someone to talk to, should they have any queries or concerns. Expectation management is also critical at the start of the change process; promising unrealistic benefits may raise obstacles further down the line, negatively impacting company culture.
Messaging around alterations in working practices should also be carefully considered. By planning this thoroughly, business leaders can stay in control by keeping communication honest, respectful and consistent at all times. If employees have a clear understanding of why changes are happening and what the benefits are for them, they are more likely to trust the process.
Keep the team connected
Many organisations will likely continue to support remote working arrangements moving forward. However, this should not come at the expense of company culture and leaders should think creatively about ways to keep up the team dynamic. For example, could some face-to-face social events be replaced with virtual catch-ups, enabling the team to socialise outside of the working setting? Managers should also encourage regular group check-ins to ensure that everyone is aware of the business’ agenda, regardless of where people are physically working.
The UK business landscape has changed beyond recognition in the past few months, and it is likely that many employees will not want to revert completely to old ways of working. By remembering people at every stage of cultural change and prioritising close collaboration with the workforce, companies can ensure that any changes they make are for the better and stand the test of time.
Matthew Garrett is a programme manager and Eman Al-Hillawi is a principal consultant and co-founder at business change consultancy, Entec Si.