Even before the recent pandemic, when more people began working remotely, I noticed the dynamics changing in many workplaces, both between employee interaction with peers, and interactions with customers. People on both sides seem to have a shorter attention span, appear less tolerant, and less interested in building personal relationships related to business.
In my role as a business advisor, my challenge is to understand the reasons for these culture changes, and to offer guidance on what you can do to keep your team engaged and positive. Studies have shown that work productivity is related to a happier work culture, and customer satisfaction and loyalty are also dependent on the culture. Here are the key elements I see:
Make your company culture virtual. Building and maintaining a winning work culture is no longer just a function of the office. You must regularly host online meetings, as well as external networking and team-building exercises. Don’t wait for word-of-mouth to spread your culture. Use marketing, blogging, and industry conferences to get the message out.
For example, CEO Mathilde Collin of Front has implemented 25 ways her company has translated their strong in-person culture to the new remote reality. These include a weekly “Ask Me Anything” call with her team, virtual game night, and birthday shout-outs for all.
Balance remote work and contract assignments. The trend toward more remote work, flexible work hours, and outsourcing can eliminate productive work relationships and communication between functions. Customers will be impacted and less likely to have a memorable experience. Your challenge is to enable communication between all teams.
Some business leaders don’t realize that managing remote work and outsourcing always increases their communication and project management workload, rather than reducing it. Thus, the move to remote workers can actually increase costs and risks, unless anticipated and balanced. Don’t eliminate the home-office team too quickly as you learn.
Facilitate work on favorite personal devices. The advent of powerful new devices, including laptops, smart phones, and tablets, affords everyone with alternatives that are more productive and satisfying for them, without sacrificing productivity. The stigma of a clunky desktop today can easily lower worker engagement and satisfaction.
This trend to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is catching on rapidly across many offices. Of course, you may have to set boundaries and take extra steps to protect your data, their personal data, and IT infrastructure from devices no longer entirely in your control.
Give extra credit for smarter work versus more work. Make sure your team members get rewarded for changes and new tools for improving overall productivity, not just personal hours worked. This requires that everyone understand the total process, your business goals, and that you enable collaboration rather than isolation of functions.
Move to modern platforms for more collaboration. Customers and peer groups, including freelancers, are already using popular social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, so make them a part of your team culture. Newer collaboration platforms, such as Zoom and the Cloud, are a step up from your legacy internal platform.
Measure results in terms of customer satisfaction. It’s easy for technology to count number of products sold, or service requests completed, so these can become your focus, rather than number of customer advocates, or repeat customers. The result can be employees who don’t see the value in positive relationships and collaboration with peers.
Don’t overlook the interests and benefits of Boomers. As your customer population ages, they will relate more to your mature workers, and both will be more satisfied. Studies have found that these are often more productive, and more conductive to positive relationships and the collaboration that builds the workplace culture you need to survive.
As a business leader, it should be apparent to you that the things are changing in the workplace environment, just as fast as the market and technology are changing for your business. It’s an opportunity for you to win over competitors, and expand your market, maybe more important to long-term survival and success than product innovation. Make it part of your strategic plan today.
*** First published on Inc.com on 10/13/2021 ***