Expressed opinions Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
In the past, leaders have focused on manipulating three levers: compensation, their relationship with employees, and company culture. Now, though, Covid-19 and other social dynamics have turned that strategy into jelly. The way employers are in the office is unable to navigate the three levers to keep employees in remote settings. Even remote options give workers some control back, leaders are struggling to provide social interaction and friendships that, more than anything else, keep people from leaving. However, if leaders tap into the same warm elements of humanity that are behind many of those shifting dynamics, better retention can be achieved.
The new reality calls for a more deliberate culture-building by leaders
Contrary to popular view of leadership in the workplace, top-level executives do not usually sit down and develop their office culture. They can set a desired tone, but in the end, people create their own culture from the bottom up as they interact with each other. A lot of people work from a distance, though, the staff isn’t doing it to the degree you would normally see.
In my company, we acknowledge that our people are different from those who came out of the epidemic. We find that many social activities that we used to enjoy together, such as holiday celebrations and barbecues, are not happening in the same way or at the same rate. Even company meetings are isolated. We can accommodate up to 100 people in a zoom without having to connect in person. Engagement is one foot inside, one foot outside.
In this reality, leaders must be more deliberate and take a more active role in building culture. Their recent changes need to be seen as opportunities, not complications. In recent months, our team has actively rebranded and set new standards – curious, collaborative, and confident – to be the cornerstone of what we do. We are cultivating culture and working in a way that squares with our beliefs and goals, and we purposefully try to talk about those values in our precious time with each other. The effort begins with hiring, where we encourage our hiring managers to look for our new values among the candidates they interview.
Related: How To Be A Culture Champion In 2022
Borders are breaking down, and that’s a good thing
Before the epidemic, it was normal to draw a clear line between your professional and personal life. These boundaries have made it easy for every human being to forget his humanity. If you want to lay off someone, cut wages, or make other difficult choices, you can repeat the mantra, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.”
As the staff moved away, that clear line became blurred. People are starting to be in front of their screens, and things that we’ve never seen that are a normal part of our humanity – that is, children running in the background with dogs – have suddenly become much more visible.
So the separation between professional and personal has already been violated. But where I sit is a positive thing. Employees may realize that the idea of a corporation as a soulless entity is illogical. Real people run businesses and make difficult decisions and that is always the case. And in terms of leadership, because those decisions can have such an impact on so many other people, if you are at the top, you have to do what is right for the collective.
Related: How to better manage corporate culture during transition
From the crisis, the gift of a shared experience
In countless ways, the plague has torn us apart in ways we have never felt. But we were all through that hardship and the way of life Together. The great gift of a once-shared life hidden in this crisis. We can see our shared humanity and relate to each other in a way that we would never have had without the epidemic. As a result, we have the opportunity to open ourselves up to our work and other relationships.
You can express this empathy in many small ways that ultimately rebuild your culture for the better. When we were in the office last week for the meeting, we moved away from the more task-oriented interactions that took place in Zoom. Our natural desire to let the conversation flow began and time passed. Instead of turning it off in a hardline way, we acknowledge how much people want to connect and talk about things off the to-do list – and the result is that I’ve started paddling my schedule for compensation. More broadly, we’re trying to rely organically on phrases that bind to values that we all agree on. We want that common language to unite us and help people remember that they belong.
The opportunities you get to respond sympathetically may not look the same as the ones I encountered. IBM employees sympathized with each other by using slacks to organize practical assistance efforts such as picking up groceries. Infosys chartered flight for stranded workers outside their home country. But there are opportunities. It’s just a matter of choosing to observe and seize them.
Related: How to create a corporate culture that retains loyal employees
We can’t go back, so let’s break down the boundaries
When a problem strikes, people naturally want to get out of it. They want to avoid pain and risk, which often means knowing what is hidden. As we begin to see what life will be like after the epidemic, it is clear that what was known is already gone. There is no going back.
To work successfully in the new remote environment, we must continue to break down boundaries between personal and professional. We must move towards a way of working where our shared humanity is at the heart of the activity and provides a sense of both community and purpose. How we are the same and all connected to each other requires a higher awareness of the need for effective, trust-centered communication remote settings and can serve as a basis for creating an environment where people want to live. Strive for it and both individual and collective success will follow.