Today’s business leaders realize that a human-centric approach to organizational thinking is the best way to deliver an exceptional employee experience and create a company culture that retains the brightest talent. The value of a strong company culture can’t be overstated. In a 2018 Katzenbach Center survey, 65% of respondents said they thought an organization’s culture was more important to performance than its strategy or operating model.

In the employee experience, there are many “moments that matter” that define culture — times when a company can clearly demonstrate its values through behaviors and actions. Collectively, we’re all living in a moment that matters right now. What companies say and do and how employees perceive them is being put to the test, and leaders are questioning whether their core values are being reflected in the steps they’re taking to support employees when they need it most.

As businesses focus on navigating what’s ahead, they must keep culture at the forefront and recognize the impact of this moment, adapting to meet employee needs during these challenging and rapidly changing times.

What Did the Company Culture Landscape Look Like Before?

Before the current crisis, company culture was already shifting for most businesses, as creating an engaging and inspiring employee experience became the baseline expectation for talent. The exponential progress of technology coupled with a new generation of employees with different values acted as the catalyst for a renewed perspective.

As Generation Z began entering the workforce, employers found that company culture, values and reputation are second only to salary in terms of recruiting from this new pool of talent. Like its millennial predecessors, Gen Z wants to work for a company where culture is evolving. It values collaboration, continuous learning, the ability to transform existing processes using technology and leadership that is open to new ideas.

Where Does Culture Stand Now?

Culture is a mindset, and employees’ mindset can undergo rapid transformation during a crisis. Clearly demonstrating to employees that company values have not changed and the organization cares for its people creates a feeling of security and trust. If suddenly a business does not uphold the values it touted before the crisis, it can lead to reputational risk, not just among employees but externally as well.

Similarly, brand trust and culture are more closely aligned than ever during a crisis. According to a recent Edelman Trust Barometer, 89% of consumers say they trust brands that keep them informed about how they’re “supporting and protecting their employees and customers” through the pandemic. What’s more, 90% of consumers trust brands that “protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends.” In summary, now is the time for businesses to stand by their promises to employees.

3 Steps to Take to Protect Your Culture

1. Stay Focused on Employee Experience

The first question many leaders asked a few weeks ago was, “How will this crisis impact our customers?” But impact on employees should always be top of mind, too, as a great customer experience starts with a great employee experience. Proactively communicating in a way that creates community and trust, particularly with a remote workforce, is key to maintaining a positive culture. Employees want to know how the business is doing and what decisions leaders are making to protect their well-being. Keeping dialogue transparent, accurate and consistent — and timely — can help employees feel connected and cared for through times of change.

2. Reevaluate Your Learning and Development Strategies

While your employees are working remotely, it’s a great time to test new development strategies that are rooted in technology. One survey found that 80% of decision-makers have adopted a technology or tool because Gen Z employees suggested or requested it. Why not tap into your younger employees’ technical knowledge now? You may uncover a new platform or method of providing continuous learning opportunities, so employees don’t feel like their professional development has come to a halt in the crisis.

Development is particularly important given the unknowns around how long social distancing guidelines will be in place. Employees should still feel that opportunities to grow and collaborate are available even while they are working from home.

3. Keep Company Culture in Mind in Interview and Onboarding Processes

In the current environment, companies must shift their interview and onboarding processes and lean on technology to continue conducting these necessary functions virtually. But leveraging video interview platforms doesn’t mean that hiring best practices go out the window. Today’s technology offers enough functionality that your team’s behavioral interviewing process and ability to communicate with candidates about company culture don’t have to be lost in translation.

The same can be said for virtual onboarding. With eLearning tools, organizations can create a virtual experience for new hires that is still grounded in company values and culture. With the right resources in place, companies can continue to be deliberate in building talent pipelines and sourcing strategies, creating the space to anticipate future needs.

What Will Culture Look Like Moving Forward?

During a crisis, change is constant. Culture has never been a stagnant entity, and it never will be. But the narrative that companies are “stepping up” in the midst of uncertainty implies an intended “step down” in the future. Instead, businesses should focus on making this level of employee engagement the new normal for their culture.

All businesses are facing unforeseen challenges and uncertainty. The companies that stay focused on who they are and who they want to be for their employees are the ones that will emerge as a great place to work, with a stronger culture, on the other side.

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