A recent global study by the Future Forum found that 76% of employees do not want to return full-time to the office post-pandemic, despite their employer's strong preference to have them do so. This significant shift in workplace attitudes creates an unrivalled opportunity to attract and retain top talent for those employers who are up for embracing it. Equally, it could well create a talent crisis for those that are wedded to the past and hoping to go back to pre-covid working practices.
So how do the forward-thinking organisations who are offering flexibility on where (and when) their employees work, ensure they can still build a strong company culture that will drive performance?
Inspiring and authentic company values
If your employees are going to be working remotely you need to make sure they understand and feel connected to what you are as a business, how you want to do things and the types of customers and work you want to have.
These values need to be compelling (so talent and customers can differentiate you), memorable (no more than 4) and authentic (must reflect who you are). Your people need to be able to look at your values and say "yes, this is the company I work for". In addition, you must ensure they are unique to you. Using commonplace phrases such as ‘We are empowered’ is bland and meaningless unless you articulate how this comes to life in a unique way for your employees.
If you are a forward-thinking employer that’s embracing the opportunities that flexible working brings then this may even need to be reflected in the values themselves.
Take the time to get this right and then test it with your current high-performing and high-potential employees. If you don’t, anything you do after this will not produce the impact you are looking for.
Inform, Influence, Inspire
Having a dedicated section on your intranet and a poster on the wall etc. can be useful ways to promote your culture. However, you need your engagement strategy to help people not only understand it but also (and more importantly) understand the behaviours you want them to demonstrate every day to make the culture thrive. A simple 3-step process can help you achieve this:
- Inform – introduce the culture, values and behaviours and explain why they are important through optimum and targeted engagement channels.
- Influence – tell real stories of employees living the values and behaviours and the impact it has had. This will bring it to life for all your people in a way they can relate to and replicate.
- Inspire – give your people tangible ways to live the behaviours that are applied to everyday tasks and the environment. Then feedback to them on the outcomes through your engagement tools and channels.
You can also make your engagement activities far more effective if you ensure they are relevant to the outcomes you are trying to achieve. So if you want your people to behave with curiosity then you could create inter-team quizzes where they answer questions about what the other team does or submit their questions to all-hands gatherings and reward the best ones.
Drive the culture, values and behaviours into every aspect of your people strategy
It’s too easy to develop a culture and values that exist only in an annual report or on a website. For your culture to have any meaningful impact on your business and your bottom line it needs to pervade every part of your people and customer strategies.
Focusing here specifically on the people side, you must endeavour to weave it into every interaction possible. It should form an integral part of the candidate attraction messaging, your recruitment process, onboarding, career development framework, recognition programmes, performance review process and even your alumni engagement initiatives.
This consistent and comprehensive re-enforcement will deliver a measurable impact on many of your people's KPIs from time and cost per hire to retention, internal promotion, D, E&I, engagement and on-the-job performance.
Use the right tools and channels
If your teams are often working remotely you may not be able to rely on the traditional tools and techniques to engage with them.
You can create your solutions such as culture apps that enable push and pull engagement, employee story sharing, polls and the launching of new initiatives. There are also a lot of remote collaboration and engagement tools in the market such as Beekeeper.io that’s been created specifically for frontline staff or incling.com which uses fun and interactive elements to gather insights, and ideas and test the effectiveness of initiatives.
You can explore the host of technology available to engage with your audience. Everything from artificial intelligence, to virtual and augmented reality and gamification. Make sure you do some analysis of your audience first before you choose the route for you to make sure you engage with them in the right way, at the time and in the right place.