An eye opener for many of us

As published by FA News

Company culture in today’s environment is important. Covid-19 has opened up a new way of working, and things will continue like this for a while.

In this new normal, however, how do we keep employees engaged when we have this divide between those working from home and those working at the office?

“With the lockdown, organisations had to deal with workplace safety, data privacy, adapting policies and procedures, remote working options and the impact on the wellbeing of their employees,” said Dumo Mbethe, CEO of Momentum Corporate.

“Organsiations had to think differently and execute action plans with greater agility. Even more so than in the past, we’ve had to balance business output and performance with the needs, health and safety of our people, ensuring we show compassion while remaining accountable to our clients. People were also challenged with many emotional, financial and health issues. We are seeing a significant impact on the mental health of our people. Resilience in organisations and people is a key capability to build and sustain on,” added Mbethe.

Culture in today’s environment

According to a quote from business guru Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. “This does not mean strategy is not important, but rather that a powerful and empowering culture provides a surer route to organisational success,” continued Mbethe.

“Culture gives an organisation the best chance of continuous success and is co-created by leaders and employees. Culture is defined as the character and personality of your organisation. It is the way an organisation ‘does things’ and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors and attitudes. It’s what makes the business unique,” added Mbethe.

“The culture and values of a company reflects on the company, and what that company wants to be as an essential part of its identity. Strategy will change with circumstance, and culture should endure,” said Steve Symes, CEO & Founder of Genasys.

Mbethe mentioned that positive workplace cultures attract talent, drive engagement, impact happiness, raise satisfaction, and affects performance.

A new way of working

“Before the pandemic, organisations were already undertaking initiatives to support and equip their workforce with the right types of skills, roles and tools for an increasingly digital environment. However, many were doing this at their own a pace, which was not necessarily aligned to the accelerated speed of change set by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and other global trends,” said Mbethe.

“The COVID-19 pandemic was/is an eye opener for many of us. It showed us the importance of grit and the adaptability of people. Somehow, we managed to work, educate children and cope with separation overnight,” added Symes.

“From a productivity perspective, the work-from-home concept works. There are fewer hours wasted commuting, and in the right environment, productivity flourishes. The downside in this new world of work is that the human touch of relationships and close human interaction is lost, which I believe will have a marked effect in years to come. People are naturally communal, and I think a balanced lifestyle will prevail,” continued Symes.

Themes that emerged

“Most employers will confirm that productivity increased during the lockdown. This is due to employees not setting boundaries, and therefore continuing to work long hours. In addition to working longer hours and the social isolation, employees with school-going children had to take up the role of teacher and carer, adding to the already unusual load. During this time, we also saw employees not taking enough leave. This combination of factors led to burnout and health issues,” emphasised Mbethe.

“Another theme that came to the fore is that employers struggled to measure the productivity of employees who were at home, and they only become aware of issues at later stages. It is, therefore, important that employers stay connected so that they are aware of issues early on,” added Mbethe.

“A window of opportunity now exists for companies to assess the impact of the pandemic, review changes and to reset and rejuvenate their approach to work, the workplace and their workforce. In doing so, they will create new meaningful employment opportunities and ensure workers are adequately prepared for the new world of work,” said Mbethe.

“Although remote working is not a new concept, the majority of organisations had office-based employees with a traditional employee value proposition (EVP). The pandemic challenged employers to enable their people to work remotely within a very short period. Covid-19 has opened up new ways of doing, thinking and engaging with employees – an opportunity to define an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that empowers choice and trust,” added Mbethe.

Redefining the future of work

“I believe that company teams are important and should be encouraged. To this end, we are trying a hybrid approach,” said Symes. 

“Employers should be aware of the different pressures faced by staff, in this new ‘normal’ and should balance profitability with humanity,” concluded Symes.

Looking ahead, Mbethe believes that work will be a hybrid approach where you will have flexibility of choice with people working in the office two to three days a week, and then working remotely the balance of the time.

“In summary, it’s important to establish new ways of working. If culture is ‘how we do things’, or even more specifically, ‘how we interact and accomplish our work each day’, it is important for leaders to recognise that this has shifted dramatically. This is an opportunity for leaders to establish new ways of working – new rituals, new practices and patterns, new methods of communication, partnership and collaboration. In offices, much of this happens organically, but now we need to be more deliberate in co-creating that with our teams,” concluded Mbethe. 

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