The simple answer is yes, of course it can. Every company has a culture: either one that is intentionally cultivated or one that has evolved and emerged and just “is.” As we continue to navigate the uncertainty of COVID, company cultures will survive or thrive. The real question leaders should be asking is: will the culture that has guided us through past success and change be suitable for what lies ahead?
With the rapid-fire business challenges executives face now, doing nothing with a company’s culture and just letting it play out, or survive, sounds reasonable. Business strategies have been modified, workforce shifts have occurred, time and resources are strapped and we’re all working differently. Let’s not forget people are suffering from change fatigue, personally and professionally. It can be easy to forgo placing an intentional focus on culture. Why add something else to the mix?
The More Things Change, The More Culture Matters
In “normal” times, organizations that lead with culture are growing more than twice as fast as their peers, reporting sales that are 2.2x higher and profits that are 3.2x higher than competitors. Beyond the many well-documented business cases for leading with culture, there’s one fact that stands out. The more change there is, the more culture matters. That’s why we often hear about the importance of “culture fit” as it relates hiring, company growth, and mergers and acquisitions. Using that logic, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t agree that today’s COVID-induced business transformations have rapidly morphed almost every aspect of the why, how, where and when we work.
What Should Leaders Who Want to Manage Their Culture be Thinking About?
- How Culture Affects Productivity. Culture is a product of joint learning and solving problems that manifests itself in “the way things really get done around here.” The way things have to get done within companies has significantly changed in a short period of time, and will continue to.
- How Culture Supports Strategy. While strategy offers a formal logic for a company’s goals and orients people around them, culture expresses company goals through values and beliefs that help achieve strategic business goals.
- How Culture Influences Values and Behaviors. At its core, culture is driven by people’s thoughts and underlying assumptions that then inform their behaviors. If those current behaviors don’t align with and support company core values and the business strategy, now is the time to start a dialogue with employees about culture.
- How Culture Needs to Adapt to Change. Almost overnight a new, segmented workforce developed. Traditional employees, tenured remote workers, outside contractors and transactional remote workers are now more prevalent. Each employee has different needs, all of which impact culture.
- How Culture Thrives Under Engaged Leaders. Finally, and maybe most importantly, culture starts at the top. Moments of crisis, like COVID, reveal great leaders and those who struggle. Think about how current leadership team members have performed and if future leaders are prepared for what comes next. It might be time to invest in developing those leaders.
With or without COVID, because culture is a product of humans and their behaviors, it can still be viewed as an elusive and ambiguous concept that leaders struggle to grasp, let alone help bring to life. It doesn’t have to be. Instead, consider culture a business priority well worth investing in for the benefits of your organization, employees and customers.