What top-performing professionals are looking for in post-pandemic company culture


Companies that can attract and retain talent will thrive after the pandemic, says Kea Hammond.

Kea Hammond, chief people officer at +OneX explores what professionals are looking for from an employer brand and company culture in the post-Covid-19 landscape.

“Just as businesses throughout South Africa were preparing to lockdown in 2020, +OneX was gearing up for growth. Starting up a business at that time was difficult and daunting, yet it also birthed a company culture uniquely positioned for a time of digital acceleration and disruption. Whereas most businesses formed before the pandemic had to transform themselves, we built our business for the new era from the outset,” Kea says.

She says while technology might have helped the company navigate the challenges of the past two and half years, human resilience, adaptability and ingenuity enabled leading companies to emerge stronger from the pandemic.

“It stands to reason that companies that do the best job of attracting and retaining staff in the post-pandemic era will be the ones that thrive. Yet the recipe for success has changed. People’s priorities and values have evolved, and top talent expects more from an employer than a job or even a career,” Kea says.

The following are some aspects of company culture that Kea believes top professionals are looking for from their employers:

Human connection

“Our company was born in the age of remote work and has largely followed a hybrid model even after people could return to the office. It was clear to us from the outset that people need human connection – even when they’re working from home. We could thus start with a blank sheet of paper and design ways of communicating and collaborating for a world where people might not come to the office often or even at all,” Kea says.

Some of the tools and tactics she says the company adopted with success include online company connect sessions, regular team meetings, a mentoring programme, and a buddy programme that pairs new joiners with someone who knows the ropes. “Our leadership team also has regular meet-ups with newer team members to touch base.”

Leadership without titles

“In a world that moves as fast as the post-pandemic landscape, organisations that are encumbered by bureaucracy and hierarchy may struggle to keep up with the rate of change,” Kea says, adding that flatter organisational structures allow for more speed and agility in responding to risks and opportunities.

‘Leading without titles’, according to Kea, means that people can step up and lead at the opportune moment. “Leading isn’t about command-and-control – it’s about inspiring others to grow, perform at their best and be part of a bigger story.”

A founder’s mentality

Kea contends that top-performing people don’t simply want a job – they want an opportunity to make a difference. “We have a founder’s mentality that encourages each person to treat the business as their own. This ensures accountability in a culture of leading without titles. It also helps to drive innovation and spark passion – each person has some skin in the game and knows that they can take calculated risks, be transparent and be creative,” she shares.

A relatable story

According to Kea, a lot of people are now looking to their workplace to offer a sense of purpose that goes beyond making money. They want to be part of an organisation that has a legacy of leaving every situation in a better state than they found it. “Relatable stories about the leaders and people in the business help to bring this to life. We’ve attracted many people to join through the stories we’ve shared about our leaders and their passion for the business, or the stories our team and clients tell about their experiences with us.”

Collaboration across functional boundaries

“Along with a flat structure, successful organisations need to drive collaboration across different business functions and departments,” says Kea. She says one approach they find works well is assembling cross-functional teams on a project-by-project basis and giving them ownership of an initiative. “We also hold focus groups with our teams to get input and feedback about changes and programmes that may affect them. This approach means we get diverse perspectives to inform the decision-making process and each decision is made for our people by our people.”

Recognition beyond remuneration

Competitive remuneration is essential, Kea says. “But beyond financial benefits and rewards, people want to feel that they and their contributions are valued.” She says a good way to achieve this is to offer access to opportunities for growth and learning. “For example, we introduced a monthly breakfast with the CEO, since many people value the opportunity to sit down with the CEO, learn from his experience and share their ideas in recognition of exceptional performance.”

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