What is your company culture? Can you define it in two to three sentences? More importantly, do you see it in action when you go to work everyday and interact with your colleagues?
If your answer to the last two questions is ‘yes,’ then you probably work for a high-performing organization and you’re likely a highly engaged employee. Difficult as it is to define organizational culture, it has a powerful impact on individual and corporate performance. It gives workers the meaning and purpose they look for in their jobs, and research has shown that people who have that at work exhibit higher levels of performance and put in greater discretionary effort.
In a traditional workspace, culture is something that is built and reinforced over time as the people who make up an organization work together and connect with each other on a daily basis. But as technology enables more and more people to work remotely, and as organizations begin to offer more alternative work arrangements, there may be fewer opportunities for employees to congregate in a shared space. How do you create a shared cultural experience in this kind of environment?
In a report entitled, “Beyond office walls and balance sheets: Culture and the alternative workforce,” Deloitte offers a framework – a set of questions for business leaders to consider – that can help organizations create a consistent culture even as they make room for these various workforce personas: the traditional worker, the tenured remote worker, the transactional remote worker, and the outside contractor.
What is our culture and purpose?
Naturally, the starting point is to have a clearly defined culture, one that supports the organization’s purpose and mission. Patagonia, the global outdoor clothing manufacturer, has made environmental sustainability a key feature of its culture and actively encourages its employees around the world to get involved in initiatives that support the environment. For its part, the company donates either 1 percent of its total sales or 10 percent of its pretax profits – whichever is greater – to grassroots environmental groups.
Through these efforts, the company makes it easy for employees to put the corporate culture into action and it also demonstrates its commitment to this culture.
How do we improve cultural fit?
All organizations have a process for screening potential employees, but this exercise may take on a different form if you’re screening for, say, transactional remote employees – individuals who will be in your employ for a fixed period of time and will not necessarily report to your office. The nature of their work allows for limited opportunities to interact with the more traditional workers and imbibe the corporate culture on-site. This makes it even more important to screen these individuals for cultural fit.
Employers can use a number of digital technologies to do so, such as video interviews, online value assessments, and peer-rated feedback. Think of the last time you used a ride-hailing app. At the end of your trip, when you were asked to rate your driver, do you remember the factors you were asked to consider when deciding on that rating? Most likely, those are the factors that define that organization’s culture, and they are relying on you to tell them how well one of their drivers is living that culture.
How do we create a consistent employee experience among our unique segments?
When you have a variety of work arrangements, a one-size-fits-all approach to cultivating a shared culture will probably not work. Each worker segment will experience your corporate culture in a different way, so carefully consider the best way to make each segment feel included and valued.
One financial services firm removed senior leader parking spaces to underscore its egalitarian culture and to drive home the point that all workers’ efforts are important. This is something that would resonate with traditional workers. For tenured remote workers, including them in meetings where their insights and expertise would be valuable and acknowledging their achievements in front of traditional workers will go a long way towards making them feel like a part of the team even though they’re not always on-site.
Transactional remote workers likely choose that work arrangement because they want greater freedom and flexibility. So don’t micromanage them. Instead, assure them that you support their need for flexibility but at the same time, spend extra time talking to them about their targets and how these connect with the bigger picture and the organization’s overall strategy.
What capabilities and reinforcing mechanisms do we need to extend our culture?
Organizations need to constantly reinforce the desired culture as employees come and go and as challenges and opportunities change. A rewards program that is anchored on an organization’s values is one way to strengthen culture. If a good number of your employees are remote workers, organizing events that bring everyone together in one place is a good way to assess how well your workers understand your culture and to reinforce that culture if needed.
Airbnb, for example, organized a conference where hosts could meet up with other hosts and exchange stories and best practices, and create networks. It also used that event to talk about how to make guests feel at home – an important trademark of the Airbnb experience.
These are just some of the ways business leaders can strengthen their organizational culture even as the workspace expands and workers break out of the 8-to-5 schedule. The way we work, where we work, and how often we work may be changing dramatically, but a solid and pervasive corporate culture remains as valuable as ever, a constant ingredient for corporate success.
The author is managing partner and CEO at Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd. – a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited – comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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About Deloitte Southeast Asia
Navarro Amper & Co. is a member of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd – a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited – comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam that was established to deliver measurable value to the particular demands of increasingly intra-regional and fast growing companies and enterprises.
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