The Culture Imperative
Your Next COVID-19 Challenge
There's an old saying: “A crisis is like a receding tide – it reveals the rocks beneath the surface that were there all along." Once businesses have addressed the initial challenge to merely survive the COVID-19 situation, the next question is how do they continue to perform and prepare for the future?
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- Organizational culture often determines how successful businesses are at tackling large scale challenges.
- Companies with healthy cultures typically value safety, accountability and quick and effective decision making; people are attentive to their work, each other and their shared objectives.
- Double down on your investments in employee value propositions, employer brands and employee engagement; people will long remember how their leaders treated them during a crisis.
To learn more about how you can help optimize your organization’s culture and enhance you ability to respond to change, contact Mary Larson.
Business leaders are rightly worried about shifting customer needs, supply chain security and manufacturing capacity. Public sector leaders must ensure critical services are delivered to the public. Both need to think about IT security infrastructure.
It’s understandably daunting. And it’s why in this complex time it is possible to underappreciate how your organizational culture will help to determine how successful you are at tackling these challenges. But never forget: It’s your people who must get things done. And it’s your culture that dictates how that will happen.
Culture drives how decisions are made, the way work is accomplished and how processes are designed. It also drives employee loyalty and engagement.
Culture Drives Outcomes — Good and Bad
So how can a leader be most effective in addressing culture in a crisis? Manley Hopkinson served as a Royal Navy officer during the first Gulf War, set a record skiing to the magnetic north pole and advises government entities around the world on how to deal with crises. His view is that effective crisis leaders must position themselves at the centre — not the top — of things, saying:
“Clarity of purpose, intent, and priority, long term and immediate, allows teams and individuals to be fully empowered. It enables teams of teams to make the right decisions, and it enables decisions to be made where the information lies. That is key.”
My own experience as an organizational culture expert has shown that more than 70 percent of culture change programs fail due to a lack of focus on mindsets and behaviours — the real drivers of strategy. In addressing the change needed to manage the COVID-19 crisis, I recommend organizational leaders take steps to address two critical culture dimension: efficiency and trust
Get Things Done Quickly and Effectively
Companies with healthy cultures typically value safety, accountability and quick and effective decision making. People are attentive to their work, each other and their shared objectives.
This week I spoke with a woman who leads a national medical supply distributor. She is not worried about the survival of her company — it is an essential service and her clients are very large pharmaceutical companies. But she is extremely concerned about the health and wellbeing of her employees.
Her team is working hard at the operating level to ensure a safe environment in her distribution centres, protect the health of drivers and ensure deliveries to clinics and individual patients are made in the best possible manner.
Her company’s culture supports decisiveness and teamwork, and she is talking about its values daily. There likely aren’t a lot of rocks beneath the surface in this organization — just smooth sand.
Loyalty and Trust Depend on Culture
A crisis is the time to double down on your investments in employee value propositions, employer brands and employee engagement. People will long remember how leaders dealt with layoffs and how they talked about their team members — the people getting things done.
Employees will consider whether the messages you send about how to deal with the pandemic conveyed sincere concern for their wellbeing, and whether anyone was listening to their concerns — or whether it was about a return to business as usual.
Not only will they remember, but they will talk to their friends, colleagues and family about their leaders and the culture of their organizations.