5 tips for strengthening corporate culture during COVID-19

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My father often said, “The best way to know if you can trust someone is to trust them.” He stole the line from Ernest Hemingway and quietly attributed it to himself. The idea of trust has never been more front and center in corporate culture than when the COVID-19 global pandemic forced us to isolate in our homes and work remotely. The shift in accountability rapidly switched from ‘bodies in seats’ to ‘faces in a screen’. "Work" and "home" life swirled together as our dry-cleaning bills dropped to zero and our stress level went through the roof. Within this sudden change has blossomed stories of caring, resilience, and growth. BDP is hosting our annual Customer Service Week starting October 11th and amidst this uncertain world, we see this challenge as an opportunity to strengthen our corporate culture.  

For those who may be struggling with keeping your team connected right now amid the uncertainty and Zoom after Zoom, try deploying the following:

Tip 1: Encourage Employee Feedback

No one is ever eager to fill out an employee engagement survey.  Efforts to get survey responses often involve significant follow up from HR teams as the numbers inch toward an acceptable threshold.  Furthermore, few people add discretionary responses to supplement their scores.  Yet as we see our results on surveys for Pandemic Response and Remote Work we are amazed by the level of engagement and feedback from employees.  They are embracing the chance to share their voice and help leadership understand the direction they support.   

Tip 2: Increase Recognition Efforts

Early in the pandemic, the greatest fears for many organizations were how it would affect productivity and accountability.  Yet we may only reward productivity since it is easily quantified.  At BDP, ‘Committing to Accountability’ is one of our core cultural competencies, and recognition efforts around accountability can help managers struggle to meet deadlines with a virtual team and combat complacency that may arise.  Employee Recognition can be done at little or no cost to produce huge benefits.  Consider an online gift card to DoorDash, Caviar, or another food delivery service as a ‘Thank You’ for putting in extra time on a project or resolving a difficult customer issue.  Be specific about the action you are recognizing and sincere in your delivery.   

Tip 3: Promote Employee Health and Wellness

Personal Health ranked 2nd only to Job Security in a survey by JoshBersin.com related to top issues on employees’ minds. During Customer Service Week 2020 we are incorporating mindfulness, yoga, and fitness into our events for the first time to address mental and physical wellness for employees.  A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Promoting health and wellness as part of company culture ensures that all team members are focused on their personal health as a critical aspect of being a productive team. 

Tip 4: Invest in Skills Development

Somebody pinch me. Never in recorded history has there been such high demand for professional development and access to these resources.  Culture is at the center of any sustainable talent management strategy and building trust with new people in a virtual setting is likely more of a challenge than building skills with your internal, trusted employees.  Employees value job security and companies will do well to provide these opportunities to prepare for the future.  While building skills, you also increase your corporate agility to respond to future disruptions.  Send the message to Millennials and Gen Z that you have their future success baked into corporate culture and enjoy the luxury that comes with winning the war for talent.

Tip 5: Create Human Moments

In our recent survey for remote work, employees noted only one significant thing they missed about office work:  their co-workers.  It turns out that the same people that annoy us when they microwave leftover fish and broccoli in the cafeteria make up for it by being our work family. Even when they ‘borrowed’ your headset when you were out for 3 days they also had your back when your customer had an urgent request.  Your ‘I guess you had to be there’ war stories shipping strange cargo around the world are lost at the family dinner table yet are met with raucous laughter to your office mates.  Carve out time to meet with your team for “social” events. Share pictures of your pets or your new favorite recipes. When we trust our employees and encourage them to bring our whole self to work, the screens between us in a Zoom window don’t make us feel so far away.