As vaccination rates continue to rise, organizations are beginning to turn their attention to bringing their workforce back to the office. Of course, part of this decision has to do with their empty buildings sucking up resources, but another driver is the struggle that organizations are having to maintain their cultural identity. Culture is a huge part of the identity of an organization. It embodies the company’s mission, values, and leaders in the way individual employees interact with each other and the decisions they make. Company culture is a crucial way for employers and employees alike to evaluate their fit with each other. Potential employees will often ask about the company culture early in the hiring process and companies will fly in candidates to evaluate how they fit in with the rest of the group.
In the past few years, companies have struggled to balance remote work with preserving their company culture, not only for current employees, but also for new ones. It has become more difficult to evaluate culture fit with potential candidates and, once, hired it can be hard to familiarize them to the company culture. Below are a few suggestions on how to preserve crucial aspects of your company culture, while evolving certain aspects to meet the current circumstances.
Consider how you can be more intentional in the hiring process now that interviews must be conducted in a virtual environment. Try to incorporate information about your culture and questions around culture fit into your interviews. Include multiple teams and team members on virtual interviews as possible to gain a more holistic view of how the potential employee fits with the company. You may also consider using assessments to evaluate fit. How closely do this person’s values align with the company’s values? How does their personal style fit or clash with those who they will be working with?
Think about how to build a new onboarding program or modify your current program. Focus on communicating the culture of your company. Maybe new employees can read a book by the founder, or a long-tenured team member can spend time with new employees to talk about what the company means to them. Including timelines, videos, and key information in onboarding materials can go a long way towards helping remote hires feel connected.
If you are hiring a lot of individuals, consider creating cohorts for onboarding. This is an excellent way to quickly create a sense of community and give new employees connections in their new environment. You can also include current employees to act as mentors and future build relationships. Make sure you involve leadership in the process as well. Schedule time for leadership to share more about themselves and company mission and values.
Continue those traditions that are important, but be creative with the ways to evolve them in the virtual space. Does your team miss hanging out together in the office? Try adding some time to everyone’s calendars every few weeks where activities are planned to encourage conversations and interaction. Rotate between different employees who plan the calls to keep the burden limited and choose times that are convenient, particularly if you have employees in different time zones. Were happy hours a key staple in the weekly schedule? Jump on a Zoom call and have different team members teach everyone how to make their favorite drinks at home. You can even send out supplies!
However, think about changing traditions that need to be changed. Move away from hallmarks of a “fun” work environment; ball chairs, basketball courts, and free soda or beer and find ways to move those perks into a virtual environment. What do your employees need or want to be able to do their jobs better? Are there new ways to encourage interaction rather than hoping employees will brainstorm over the free coffee?
Be explicit about your work policies. Ensure that employees understand what is expected of them in the new work environment. Do they need to be available at certain times? What are the social norms for connecting and communicating with co-workers? Do you turn on your cameras for Zoom calls? As you figure these out, consider how these have and should be modified to suit the virtual environment.
It’s easy to want everything to return to normal, but I challenge you to let go of your previous definition and method of creating culture. Now is the time to revisit and refine the company’s culture, exercise your creativity, and consider how to evolve as the world of work changes.