Company culture is guaranteed to change – how to manage it successfully

Nevo Hadas, Partner at DYDX explores how to create a rich culture while working remotely.

Most CHROs are battling with hybrid working requirements of the near term and the complexity of future employment policies, which will be increasingly “remote first”. The big fear is that company culture will dissipate, and productivity will drop.

We live in a working world that was unimaginable 50 years ago, barely possible 20 years ago and that seemed unlikely three years ago. We are at the beginning of this journey and the significant changes that remote working has created, are only just starting.

It is expected that within three years most companies will have official hybrid working policies and within five, most will actively be remote working as the preferred way of engagement. The working world of the future is starting now: our challenge as leaders is to unlock the power of “virtual” so it can add to the physical tools we have become used to.

Peter Drucker said that social innovation, or the changes because of technology, have a far greater economic impact than technological innovations themselves. For example, cars enabled mobility, which gave rise to suburbs, shopping malls, parking lots and many other social innovations based around a commuting population. Imagine the impact of social change on multiple sectors of the economy brought on by this shift in where we work – and it is just the beginning.

Trying to maintain culture, however, is the wrong approach. Your culture is guaranteed to change. The most important actions that can be taken is to manage the change so that you emerge stronger.

Nevo says the following are key interventions that companies need to take so that they can change successfully:

Loss and change management

We don't speak enough about loss in change management. We know from behavioural psychology that loss aversion is a greater motivation than gain, and in the change process, we must allow not just the benefits and excitement of the new, but the letting go of the old.

Remote working policies

There are a significant number of issues that remote working raises, from insurance to HR, leave, pay and perks and many more. Companies need to create a forward-looking policy that will help them and their staff to navigate towards this future. For example, do you provide staff perks to equip a home office, or even rent a flat with more space?

Tools and training

Jumping on a Microsoft Teams call does not mean you are working effectively. You are probably only at 20% of new productivity improvements. Invest in training your staff how to use the tools properly – not just from a hard/technical skill perspective but (and more importantly) from a soft skill perspective.

Fewer but MUCH better meetings

Remote working provides more power when it leverages asynchronous communication (i.e., not every problem needs a meeting or a long mail chain). Rethinking how you manage meetings not only reduces fatigue and context switching, but it also allows for more work to get done.

Build behaviours to make culture actionable

When people are in disparate locations culture is harder to maintain, period. Making culture actionable through behaviours allows common norms to set the tone.

Networks vs. location

Remote culture success is reliant on seeing the organisation as networks versus a hierarchy. Organisational connectors are the people who may not have authority within the business hierarchy, but have power within the organisation because they are inclusive and consensus builders. They connect disparate teams to identify synergies and lead to the “watercooler effect”.  Growing internal networks is critical for success.

Communities to combat loneliness

Lockdown created a significant skew in remote working statistics regarding loneliness. Younger people reported feeling lonelier than their more established counterparts with families. Promoting community is critical and should replace the company events as budget items (also much cheaper). Communities can bring people together both internally but also contain external elements of interest for companies.

Onboarding

Bringing on new employees and helping them acclimate quickly is critical. Structuring onboarding programmes, ensuring learning management systems are up to date and other components are critical for long-term success.

We are in the midst of a fundamental change that will have broad impact both within businesses, consumer patterns and society overall. It is our generation of leaders who need to face and make these changes.

For example, in 1923 Ford increased the wage of factory workers to $5/day, a wage three times higher than its competitors, due to massive staff turnover. Ford went from hiring 60 000 workers a year and only retaining 10 000, to virtually no staff churn within a year. Ford took a bet that by increasing pay, they would be reducing their cost of production per car significantly – and they were right. Their wage increase was followed by other manufacturers and led to factory workers joining the middle class.

Investing in change is always scary, especially when the problem seems social or cultural, but thinking through the strategic impacts and opportunities can unlock far greater gains and leave a positive legacy too.