Your company culture can defeat the COVID-19 crisis

Kailash Ganesh
7 min read

…with the right employee engagement platform

The power of a great company culture

Flashback to a few months back, where millions of employees were going to their offices on time, submitting their reports to their superiors in the weekly meetings without fail, collaborating with different teams, launching campaigns, and speaking with customers.

All was well — they went to the meeting room for their morning stand-ups, had lunch in the office cafeteria, hung out near the water cooler, and came back home to their personal lives at the end of the day.

And then, COVID-19 changed everything — employees could no longer enjoy the journey to their offices, had to stay at home day in and day out, juggle work and their personal lives, where some days they ended up attending meetings in their pajamas.

While the busy workforce stayed in to stay safe, they immersed themselves more and more into their work—pouring their productivity into PowerPoint presentations, excel sheets, and cooking. The catch-ups and laughs by the office water cooler, and sharing spicy okra curry in the cafeteria was a thing of the past now.

No more formal nods during meetings or stolen laughs across the desks. Everyone was too busy keeping themselves safe from an invisible threat. And this left a void for the teams — the loss of a feeling of community in the office.

This adversity made its way into the lives of people unsuspectingly, and driving cracks in the relationships created from years and years of solidarity in the face of numerous challenges. The only thing that guarantees insurance against this in organizations, both small and large, is great company culture.

Why not change for the better?  

As employees are compelled to take up arms against this colossal challenge, they armor themselves in unfamiliar avatars. From huddling together discussing the recent test trials in the meeting room to waiting for the WiFi to reconnect during that video conference — everything changed. The physical distance between the employees not only affected their productivity but also their sense of community. Employees can no longer walk up to the marketing bay to catch a breath of non-IT air or crack a joke with the interns. The ease with which efficiency and freedom went hand in hand was seamless — everyone could be there for each other, voice their opinions, huddle together, and share a few laughs.

But the pandemic changed everything.

The changes caused by this pandemic is witnessed not just in our approach to work. There has been a fundamental shift in the organizational community, and more specifically — human behavior. Uncertainty is taking on a new definition in these strange times. People are more anxious now, and being far away from their teams and leaders isn't making things any easier.

The first wave of uncertainty that loomed over leaders and CXOs was whether they would survive this crisis. They immediately started working around it and adopted business continuity plans. They let go of their year-long projections and month-long marketing plans to adopt newer goals solely focused on the survival of the company.

As the shock wore off, leaders started wondering how the crisis would impact their people and culture.

Can digitized workspace solve everything?

The digitization of workspaces has led to the dawn of a new era of work culture that would have taken another decade to establish as the new normal had it not been for COVID-19. This new trend has shed light on many new opportunities that were earlier not given any importance.

In a recent panel discussion "Would e-Culture replace the word culture?” experts from different industries came together to discuss the on-going changes in the corporate and startup culture. They shared valuable insights drawn from their personal experiences to give the audience a more comprehensive understanding of the sudden growth of e-Culture, thanks to COVID-19.

Aparna Aggarwal, AVP at Urban Company, admitted that companies are re-evaluating the importance of employee well-being, and putting people first. The physical distance has perhaps pushed people to adopt a more empathetic attitude towards their fellow team members and see each other more humanely.

This new-found responsiveness towards each other has motivated CXOs to look beyond the apparent and to understand the unspoken plight of the quieter employees.

Organizations have become more humane and the empathy factor is on an all-time high amongst the people during these tough times. In this next part of our #knowledgebytes series, listen to our panelist Aparna Aggarwal sharing her views on the opportunities created by COVID-19 for the e-culture.

As Anuradha Bharat, Head of People Operations, Razorpay says, companies are more accountable now, not just in regards to getting their tasks done faster, but also in terms of the mental and physical well-being of each other. The allowance of autonomy and ownership — letting teams come up with their processes within the suggested guidelines for amplified results — proves that organizations are prepared to take on the task of growing, unlearning, and innovating continuously from this experience for the sake of their employees and not just revenue.

In our ongoing discussions on the journey of culture into e-culture, we bring to you the next one from our #knowledgebytes series. 🎧Listen to the nuggets of wisdom from our panelist Anuradha Bharat as she shares her views on how CXO's can cope up with the new shift in culture.

However, there is a flip side to the coin. Being confined to our homes while trying to solve complex business problems over video conferences may not always be easy. Not everyone is attuned to working in silos. There are teams within every organization that are more efficient working together in person with the team. Sales teams or community managers might need face-to-face interactions more than the Tech team. The absence of this physical presence over the past few months has led to breakdowns even in the most organized organizations.

Collaborate, innovate, accelerate

Although technology has got our back and is helping us survive these strange times, it can be difficult for most organizations to transform from a hands-on community to an online tribe within a few weeks.

With the sudden and forced digitization of many organizations, employees are suffering from undue stress. The challenges can vary across organizational roles and domestic situations.

  • Unlimited distractions
  • Technical issues
  • Inability to engage directly
  • Lack of commitment
  • No work-life balance
  • Screen fatigue

(Source: Remote Collaboration: Facing the challenges of COVID-19)

As the physical proximity between employees decreases, it becomes increasingly difficult to engage with one’s colleagues on the same level as it was in the pre-COVID-19 time. These challenges have taken a heavy toll on every company’s community.

The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business; the human touch.
— Shep Hyken

How do you amplify company values and drive employee engagement?

With rising concerns across all departments, HRs and leaders need to adopt a flexible and inclusive behavioral change and pass it down throughout the company.

Retaining the same company culture as it was before, is proving to be more difficult than previously imagined. It is now time for every company to prove that it values its employees. The culture of focusing on employees than on revenue sets the tone of empathy and a feeling of belonging in an organization.

Here are certain things needed for an agile and collaborative company:

  • Be there for your employees

An employee-driven company will always place their employees before anything else. Yes, the times are hard but that doesn’t mean being unkind to those who have dedicated their lives to help build the company. Many companies are letting go of their employees but have done so with kindness.

As companies are asking their staff to work from home for an indefinite period, it is important to know whether the employees have all the necessities to set up a home office. CultureMonkey’s specialized surveys, like the COVID-19 surveys, are helping HRs across industries to reach out to their colleagues and find out what is needed to make this sudden transition as smooth as possible.

All organizations, small or big, are generating a tremendous amount of content right now and giving their take on how they are approaching this pandemic. This helps employees become aware of the ways their leaders are doing everything possible in their capacity to help them. However, listening to employees while undertaking such tasks is more important.

Listening to employees goes beyond the routine Q&A rounds. It includes paying attention to the non-verbal attitude across multiple drivers and components. Doing this while everyone works from home might sound difficult but CultureMonkey makes it very easy.

Understand and empower your employees

Features like anonymous feedback, sentiment analysis of surveys based on 15 drivers like work environment, work-life balance, etc. through different lenses of gender, role, etc. help a company’s leader to understand and evaluate employee insights that in turn strengthens the company’s workforce by taking the right step towards solving the concerns of each employee.

  • Invest in your employees

Employee engagement is complete only when the collected feedback is analyzed and executed to amplify the company’s values. Tracking feedback from each employee across teams and departments without any comprehensive plan results in a time-consuming, if not impossible, task.

CultureMonkey makes this easy with hand-crafted reports that take a deep dive into all the 15 drivers. The team leaders tagged in each survey and anonymous feedback, can export these reports and share them with the company’s C-suite executives, making it easier to convert the problems into action items and track the progress. Acting upon the feedback received is what makes for thoughtful leaders.

If you think your company would do better than to focus on its employees through the crisis, think again.

After all, a great company culture creates a great product, especially in times of crisis.

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash Ganesh

Kailash is a Product Marketer with 5+ years of experience. He loves story-telling in the simplest way possible and he is an avid reader, movie buff, and likes to travel new places to meet new people.