Among remote work teams, how common is misalignment with company culture? And what is the cost?
All over the United States, cases of COVID-10 are once again spiking. We’re setting records again — and not the good kind. Daily, it seems, we see and hear grim reminders that this pandemic maintains a firm grip on our country, and our psyche.
For many of us, returning to the office about the same time as kids returned to school seemed possible. Not any more. And for many companies — especially those that have enabled a loose operating system around remote working, it’s time to tighten up. Of course, we all did what had to be done to keep our employees, customers, and vendors safe. But long-term social distancing comes with a cost. And often that cost comes in the form of misalignment to company culture.
So now, 8+ months into the pandemic, it is time to revisit our core values and purpose. Just as important, now is the time to once again encourage our employees to factor those core values into our daily work habits and to refocus on our purpose.
Our Guest: Natalie Baumgartner, PhD — Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers
This week on #WorkTrends, I welcomed Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers, to talk about the challenge of aligning today’s remote workforces to company cultures. Our timing couldn’t be better: Based on their recent survey of over 1,100 people around the world, Achievers’ Workforce Institute just published its 2020 Culture Report.
As Natalie said at the beginning of this episode, the survey asked respondents about culture alignment — both before and during the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, Achievers sought to measure the extent to which an organization understands its values — and then aligns everything the company does to those values. Also included were questions related to engagement, recognition, and the voice of the employee. The answers to those questions, according to Natalie, were revealing.
“We found culture alignment dropped significantly during COVID-19. In addition, organizations found themselves less able to align decision making to company values. That’s not really a surprise, though. After all, there was no forewarning. We didn’t understand the massive impact this pandemic would have on business. So organizations have been in crisis-management mode.”
After telling Natalie I also wasn’t surprised, I shared that to me, and perhaps to many of our listeners, hearing this provides just a little bit of comfort. It helps to know nobody’s alone in this; we really are in this together. There’s also comfort knowing we can work toward a solution, together. Natalie agreed, and injected a distinct sense of urgency:
“It’s true, and now we can step back and see everything organizations have had to manage around the world, and in short order. But we also know there’s a very strong correlation between culture alignment and employee engagement. And when we see this dip in culture alignment, we know it is going to negatively impact employee engagement, and very soon.”
Company Culture Misalignment: Communication as Part of The Solution
After so clearly stating the challenge, Natalie began to talk about the solution: “The good news is there are simple ways to foster and maintain culture alignment. We’re not talking about massive overhaul initiatives, which are impossible and unpalatable while still in the midst of a pandemic.”
I asked if clear communication, which can have such a key role to play in terms of alignment, is a major factor in realigning company culture. Natalie responded: “What’s most important, regardless of the type of culture you have, is clarifying and communicating what your values are. Make it simple. Focus on four to six values, then make sure those values are clear to everyone. If you do nothing else in terms of culture alignment, that is most important.” Natalie added:
“You must say, ‘This is who we are. This is how we want to do business.’”
Natalie and I went on to discuss many other communication-based solutions to misalignment of culture, including CEO-led virtual town hall meetings and open recognition of a job well done. Of the latter, Natalie says, “Recognition is, objectively, the single, most powerful driver of engagement.” I couldn’t agree more!
I invite you to take in this inspiring and timely interview with Natalie. Grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the listen!
#WorkTrends Twitter Chat: Wednesday, November 4th
I also invite you to help us extend this conversation on Wednesday, November 4th at 1:30 pm Eastern. Natalie will be there to further discuss company culture, engagement, and inspiring remote work teams. She’ll also help provide answers to these questions:
- Q1: Why do organizations struggle with communicating core values? #WorkTrends
- Q2: What strategies can help boost alignment? #WorkTrends
- Q3: How can leaders boost alignment? #WorkTrends
Natalie and I will see you there!
This podcast was sponsored by Achievers.