· Insights

Why culture is critical in the post-COVID world

Post-COVID, your company culture will make the difference between surviving and thriving. So now really is the time to look at it in depth.

It’s now something of a cliché to say that coronavirus has changed everything. But like all clichés it has a core of truth. It’s not just changed where we work and how we work, but fundamentally altered how we look at the world and, for many of us, challenged us to re-assess what really matters in life.

As we gradually return to the office or to hybrid ways of working; shops, restaurants, bars and cafes re-open and as we look forward to the possibility of booking a late Summer get away, we are all moving forward, even if only a few small steps at a time. The world has changed, but how many businesses have really accepted that fact and taken this opportunity to look again at the impact this has had on their goals and objectives? Because if everything has changed, then that means that what was once your reason for being in business has changed too. We’re never going back to the way things were. So now is the time to ask the essential question: just where do we go from here?

That’s why this is the right time to not just re-examine your culture, but to radically revisit and revitalise it. The challenges all businesses face are significant. For some, such as retail and hospitality companies, those challenges are clearly greater than for others. But for all of us the shake up that coronavirus has imposed upon us means that the sooner we get down to digging deep into our values the better.

It’s not just about the workplace, either. If you continue to view your employees as merely self-interested ‘contractual’ agents, just coming in to the office to get the most they can from the minimum of effort, then that attitude can only make things worse as this radically different future unfolds. Not least because it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This view has to be challenged and eradicated. Without motivated employees, you’ll never thrive as a business. That has always been the case. Cornavirus has just thrust to the forefront something many were happy to ignore when times were good. So if that has all changed, the question now is: what do you have to do to create an aspirational culture in this Brave New World which has everyone fired up and really ready to go those extra miles to build back a better business?

This isn’t easy. That’s the first thing to take on board.  It takes time – and commitment from everyone at the top table – from CEO to HRD to really re-discover what ignites your business. It needs you to really go back to first principles, to be honest, to truly challenge yourselves.

So you need to be free of other distractions, for one thing. The fact that this takes time and extra effort is the reason you need to act now, not when everything is up and running again. By then it will be too late. The world, which has already changed, will have moved on. The best of your competitors will have moved on with it. There is no set date for when we’ll be magically ‘released’ from COVID, so you cannot sit about either waiting for the new normal to happen or blindly expecting that things will somehow carry on as they used to. That way leads to stagnation at best.

So, you think, let’s get in an employee branding agency and see what they can come up with. What we need is a good looking attraction campaign, setting out what makes us different, and reasserting our core values so we can reel the talent and get moving again. But without addressing the fundamentals, these campaigns will be mere window dressing, a papering over of the cracks. But many of those cracks post-COVID will threaten to go deeper than any campaign can address.

Fail to address that and not only will the talent soon see through your campaigns, your existing talent will see through them, too. That’s why agencies need to play their role in ensuring their clients dig deeper, go further, and really address the issues that matter to them in this totally new environment. It’s about reigniting the fire in the belly. That takes more than a few clever posters for the breakout room.

Sooner rather than later businesses need to face up to the new challenges that the post-COVID world has placed before us. Putting this off to a later date is not a real choice.  Re-discovering your culture, re-evaluating and re-vitalising that culture for this new world, takes time and deep effort. It can’t be done just as an agenda item for a board meeting.

Those who do dig deep will find the rewards more than justify the effort. Because if you can find that aspirational purpose which gives sense and meaning to the culture, which inspires employees to try new ways of doing things, to get creative and think outside the box, they’ll surprise themselves and you. Your employees will be full of energy and commitment and performance will rocket, whatever issues you may face, whatever challenges are thrown at you in the future.

So I hear you ask: that’s all very well, but just where do I start? It’s a great idea, but what exactly should I do next? Well, start by downloading our whitepaper. And do it right now. The sooner you get going the sooner you’ll unlock the true potential of your employees and create a dazzling bright future for your business. COVID has changed everything, so it’s essential that you change too.

Click here to download the Re-ignite Your Company Culture whitepaper. 

Mark Bevans is MD and founder of WeLove9am.