Protecting Company Culture in a Crisis
As the old saying goes, home is where the heart is. Since mid-March, home is also where the work is. While undoubtedly many have been working from a home-based office for years, the sudden eviction from the office environment has been a difficult transition for many workers: the lack of peer interaction, no quiet spaces allowing efficiencies, and the absence of free coffee.
At the same time, organizations have struggled to maintain connectivity with their employees. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a "moment of truth" for corporate culture as leaders correctly ask themselves: Are the actions we take and choices we make right now reflecting our culture and the values that define who we are?
I've always said that crisis reveals character, and that has never been truer then over the past five months. While organizational leaders have a responsibility to take the appropriate measures to survive the pandemic both financially and operationally, they also must act in ways that are in alignment with their overall culture system. More specifically, there are three areas of focus:
1. Contemplate your mission, values and purpose. These are the reasons your business exists and how you believe in executing commerce. This crisis is a golden opportunity to bring these into sharp focus and provide a guidebook for your decisions. Ask yourself, "What am I doing (or could I do) to act in lockstep with my mission, values and purpose?" Many times during an emergency, organizations contemplate actions that are wildly inconsistent with their stated values. The decisions made today will have critical consequences for years to come.
2. Communicate your values. Communicating through your actions and words in ways that are consistent with your values is crucial to your employees. In challenging times, communication should be a strong expression of a culture of integrity. When you stray away from that in favor of short-term gain, you erode trust in the very people who are the lifeblood of your business. Hard decisions will continue to be made, but when you choose to make those decisions under a shroud of secrecy, you will destroy their confidence. However, when the same challenging choices are shared openly, with empathy, and per your stated values, your employees will understand the decision.
3. Bring your values to life. The actions you take today, and in the coming months, will be remembered for years to come. The time is now to ease your employees' pain by active listening and joint venturing with them. Instead of assuming what they need, ask them—and listen carefully to the answers, both spoken and unspoken. Your colleagues need to see your value system expressed in meaningful ways, and that starts at the top of your organization: helping furloughed employees seek temporary employment, conducting weekly status updates in an open forum, or even just asking how people are doing and listening to their words as well as their hearts.
Connecting your purpose with your value system and using that as a basis for making difficult decisions is the best way to protect the company culture of your organization through trying times. When this crisis has passed, what will it reveal about your character? Making the right choices today will allow you to look back with pride on how you and your company responded.
Culture matters. In 2020, it matters now more than ever.
Bill has over 20 years working in executive leadership positions at leading promotional products companies, always working collaboratively to achieve the “wow” desired by the target audience.
A Managing Partner at brandivate, a full-service marketing services and advertising agency, Bill is featured speaker at numerous national and international events, a serial creator of content marketing, and co-host of the industry-leading podcast, Promo UPFront. Bill has extensive experience defining brand strategy, creating successful marketing campaigns, creating and developing winning RFP responses, and presenting winning promotional products solutions to Fortune 500 clients.
A fierce advocate for the Promotional Products Industry, he is the Immediate Past President of the Regional Association Council (RAC) board, has worked closely with senior leadership at Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) on many committees and work groups. In appreciation of his years of service to the promotional products industry, Bill was named as an inaugural PPAI Fellow—a program designed to recognize influential individuals who have actively supported the industry through personal involvement.
Bill lives in Franklin, TN with his wife of 26 years, Sandy, and their 17-year-old twin boys, Drew and Mitch.