UK BLOG - six minute read

Keeping company culture alive when your workforce is dispersed

Company culture is often discussed, but why does it matter now more than ever and how do we maintain it during these challenging times? Fatima Nahimana, Workplace Experience Lead at ISS explores.

RBS

‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast!’ may be a twentieth-century concept (see note 1 below), but the sentiment is as relevant as ever to this century’s challenge of keeping a dispersed workforce engaged and enthused as the pandemic accelerates changes to our ways of working.

Company culture is something often discussed, but what is it and why does it matter?

Defining culture as “the common set of behaviours, underlying mindsets and beliefs that shape how people work and interact day to day”, McKinsey & Co. research finds that companies with the best cultures post a 60% higher return to shareholders than median companies and 200% higher returns than organisations in the bottom quartile (see note 2 below).

Clearly culture matters because it can enhance a company’s performance, and competitive advantage.

Factors that contribute to positive company culture are, great employee relationships, embracing common values, support for individuals, flexible working conditions and spaces that help individuals and teams thrive. Organisations are now facing the biggest challenge to company culture in modern times. Workers are suddenly dispersed and the normal methods for cultivating a collective ethos are compromised.

Because performance and organisational culture are closely linked, organisations that adapt fastest and establish new frameworks to maintain company culture among dispersed workforces will have a competitive advantage.

A new roadmap

Here are three simple steps to support your workforce and maintain company culture in virtual or dispersed teams:

Video Call Facetime Chatting Communication Concept

STEP ONE

Communicate better

It’s human nature to crave social interaction and connectivity; that’s why many homeworkers feel isolated without the community feeling of the workplace. Communicating regularly with employees is the therefore the most important thing for supporting culture among dispersed colleagues.

Diversifying communications channels and mediums is a great way to increase engagement and cater to different people’s preferences. Emails and newsletters are a useful method, but could you instead try to recreate ‘water-cooler moments’ virtually, or encourage skill-sharing sessions?

It’s human nature to crave social interaction and connectivity; that’s why many homeworkers feel isolated without the community feeling of the workplace. Communicating regularly with employees is the therefore the most important thing for supporting culture among dispersed colleagues.

Diversifying communications channels and mediums is a great way to increase engagement and cater to different people’s preferences. Emails and newsletters are a useful method, but could you instead try to recreate ‘water-cooler moments’ virtually, or encourage skill-sharing sessions?

It’s also essential to purposefully emphasise and ‘live’ the company values even when people are working remotely. At ISS, we have a proud heritage of fairness, equality and inclusion. Every day, we strive to create a culture of open communication and collaboration, where differences and individual contributions are respected and celebrated.

So, when Pride marches couldn’t go ahead in the summer of 2020, in the UK we held a week of Pride virtual events to show our continued support for inclusivity. 

From webinar talks on Black Lives Matter and LGBT+ rights in Poland, to a Pride movie night and quiz, the events instigated much-needed debate. Similarly, for Black History Month more recently in October, a programme of communications including podcasts and webinars, enabled colleagues to share their experiences encouraging ongoing understanding, discussion and action for all.

These campaigns allowed our LGBT+ and Black colleagues and allies to celebrate, foster a sense of community and feel connected to ISS.

Is there a way you can show continued commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) in your organisation? Could you host an online ‘Open Mic Night’, or create a book club or coffee morning to stimulate discussion on D&I themes?

African man wearing headphones watching webinar making notes study online

STEP TWO

Listen and act

The best communicators do not take a unilateral approach; effective employee engagement is a two-way street.

Checking in with employees should be more regular and focus on obtaining actionable feedback. Employees need to see actions taken as a result. It doesn’t need to be a formal survey, just inviting and acting on feedback through continued ‘you said, we did’ communication shows that employees are being listened to.

Employees also need to feel valued and connected. That’s why it’s vital to show you care about both the big and the small things. At ISS all employees are encouraged to join regular virtual coffee and chat sessions. Hosted by senior leaders, these informal meet-ups provide a safe space for conversations about the things that matter most to colleagues – be that work or home related. Leaders can then identify where colleagues need more support and act to provide it.

Doing exercise with my lazy dog

STEP THREE

Promote Wellbeing

Wellbeing and performance are closely linked. In fact, 50% of working days lost are due to stress and Deloitte estimate a return of £5 for every £1 spent on wellness and activities designed to improve mental health (see note 3 below). Because people have diverse experiences of virtual working and every organisational culture is unique, it’s important to offer a variety of support systems.

At ISS, Workplace Managers across global contracts shared ideas and experiences of delivering ‘Curated@home’ experiences to support wellbeing for diverse ISS and client teams, and even their children. Recognising that juggling home schooling with home working is a huge pressure for many, the team provided links to resources such as virtual zoos and museums and learning tools to support parents. Combined with a programme of meditation sessions, home workouts, online cooking classes and a virtual charity fundraising team step challenge, investment in wellness activities to suit diverse needs has a positive impact on employee wellbeing and company culture.

Empowering people to invest in your people and culture

By empowering managers to do what they can in these three areas as part of our new ways of working day to day, we ensure that the positive company culture is maintained and that the engagement and dialogue is kept alive.

Want to know more about our company culture?

Our experts are here to help.

Get in touch

PEOPLE MAKE PLACES

59,000+ customers across 30+ countries