We have all been told lately that our workplace, as we known it, has been changed forever. However, we believe that it is not the changes themselves that pose the greatest threat to your organizational culture, but the risk that you will continue to act on the basis of yesterday's logic. In the following insight, we will give you advice on how to continously work with your culture!
Organizational culture is still the winning factor
Some believe that COVID-19 has forever changed our view of what work is and how it should be performed. And with this, a pessimistic idea has started to spread - especially in some HR circles.
Since organizational culture is by definition something socially transferable, it is believed that cultural norms have a harder time reproducing and taking root in organizations if we do not meet physically in the same way as before. The proponents of this view believe that cultural development and remote work are two fundamentally incompatible phenomena. “Employees must return to the office!”
Fortunately, research does not support this pessimism. Of course, some cultural elements will need to change in response to new working conditions, but as long as organizations are made up of more than one individual, we need to interact to complete our shared tasks. And in this interaction, we will create norms that aim to make us successful. In other words, as long as we work with other people, we will develop culture.
And of course, the pandemic has not made culture any less important. Culture is still one of the few things in the market economy that is difficult to copy and can constitute a truly sustainable competitive advantage. Most strategies are easily copied, cultures are not.
Words of advice for your culture journey!
Do you, like many others, feel that your favorite tools for working with culture are no longer effective? Here is some generic advice that should be relevant for most organizations - no matter what the post-pandemic conditions look like:
- Create a system for recurring (probably digital) reflections about culture – in formal teams as well as in critical cross-functional touchpoints.
- Do not talk about culture as an abstraction. Instead try to discuss cultural challenges without using the word "culture" - only then will the dialogue become concrete enough to be valuable.
- Do your very best to put into words the specific cultural changes that are most important for your success. Can you really hope to make a change if you cannot even spell it out?
- Try to find ways to continuously measure the cultural changes you want to achieve - how else will you know if the things you are doing is having an impact?
- Assign a person responsible for ensuring that there is a clear and effective approach for your cultural work – just "hoping" that culture will improve is not an effective approach.
An agile mindset benefits cultural development
Working with complex phenomena such as organizational culture benefits from having an experimental and agile approach where we act, test, measure, observe, re-evaluate, iterate, etc. By doing this, we quickly develop an intuition for what works and what does not. It is safe to say that the organizations that dare to experiment the most, and fail the most, will be the ones that create the best cultures in the long term.
One of the most important ingredients for developing a winning culture is to genuinely "care" about the culture.