Accurately defining Organizational Culture is a challenge of its own, one that has been undertaken by numerous researchers over the past years. Organizational culture can be defined as the “behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors.” In other words, culture may also include the organization’s vision, beliefs, values, systems, language, unspoken expectations, assumptions and habits. It is also the pattern of such collective behaviors and assumptions that are taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling. Ravasi and Schultz (2006) stated that organizational culture is a set of shared mental assumptions that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations. Culture is a company’s DNA, evidently, it would differ from one company to another even within the same industries.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put most company cultures to test, as would any other crisis. Research has proven that the most common elements that constitute a strong culture include: agility, people-centricity, integrity, collaboration, ambition, innovation and accountability. According to Bain and Company, organizations that exhibit the right culture and engage their employees are 3.7 times more likely to be business performance leaders.
With this global pandemic spreading at an exponential rate, several organizations have had to accelerate the formation of their business continuity strategies. One example of this is the remote access infrastructures capable of handling the load of an entire workforce.
According to People Matters Global, “In order to establish a pandemic-proof business continuity model, organizations need to focus on two key building blocks: the technology core and the organizational culture, with the former augmenting the latter.”
So what are the key corporate culture elements that ensure a well-prepared workforce and a sustainable technology infrastructure for a future of automation and smarter processes? How can companies ensure better resilience in case of similar future adversity?
The ingredients to creating an agile organizational culture include leaders with a clear vision and decisiveness as well as employees who are change-resilient and adaptable.
The Covid-19 pandemic for example, has placed organization leaders under a lot of decision making pressure, where they were forced to approve and process things at a much faster scale than usual. This situation’s success highly depends on whether the team members are already adaptable and agile. Embracing phases of transition is essential to founding a well-equipped continuity plan;it requires readiness for a change in mind-set . According to Mckinsey & Company, culture becomes even more significant when organizations with high-performing cultures prosper during change. The reverse is also true: Unhealthy cultures do not react well to change. Mckinsey’s research shows that 70 percent of transformations fail, and 70 percent of those failures are due to culture-related issues.
The Impact of Technological Transformation on Culture
The augmented growth of digital transformation across industries driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has offered organizations the motivation needed to dedicate resources to technologically improve their processes and operations. The options are virtually limitless and comprise smart backend adaptation that empowers real-time, decisions that will highly contribute to building an agile organizational culture.
One of the ways this can be achieved is by recognizing critical functions and services to implement an integrated approach to business continuity. By applying this, companies can leverage essential technology components to accelerate transformation and support the workforce. However, several organizations are not yet ready to adopt a digitally transparent ecosystem. Most companies are struggling with unorganized data and incongruent systems, which maximize the level of uncertainty in face of challenges. For that reason, businesses need to emphasize on establishing an all-inclusive digital platform founded on a reliable technology core. If accurately planned, this combination would have the in-built resilience and competences to adjust to pretty much any situation.
Purpose and Values as a Guiding Light
The first and most important step during times of adversity is to reflect on your organization’s purpose and values which are the reason why your business exists in the first place. A crisis can bring these into surface and offer a benchmark for decision making. So ask yourself: what can you do to act in alignment with your purpose and values? If managing business continuity is your only choice, communicate your plans with employees and customers in a way that’s congruent with your values. Today several right choices come at a high price. Transparent and empathetic communication helps employees and customers better understand any taken decision.
Reflecting Corporate Culture on Customers and Community
Every decision taken by your organization towards customers during crisis will be well remembered. Organizations should consider taking actions that demonstrate admirable corporate values and bring them closer to customers. This can happen through top-down communication where leaders behave as role models of the organization’s values, and encourage grassroots initiatives. According to FSG, individual and community resilience can be actively upheld by philanthropy. Corporate philanthropy leaders should pay attention to community needs, assist nonprofit organizations in sustaining critical operations, tap into local structures, and ensure the consensus of the local community.
Data shows that total philanthropic expenditure in response to COVID-19 has exceeded $1B globally, with companies representing over 80% of contributions. MasterCard, for example, has contributed 25 million USD to a 125 million USD partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust to create a COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. Learning and development companies, including ideas group, have been offering free webinars to provide support to organizations in addition to insights on relevant topics that can help them get through the Covid-19 recovery phase.
Reconnecting with your organization’s purpose and values will pave the way, when the crisis has ended, to look back with pride at how your company responded. Culture always matters, but it matters now more than ever. Covid-19 or any similar crisis may significantly challenge the organizational culture and the current workforce deployment strategy. The key is to enable existent workarounds and utilize them to outline the impending ways of working with increased interaction between employees and technology for better collaboration, effectiveness, and efficiency.
The role of organizational culture goes beyond initiating and supporting technological developments during crisis. With a healthy culture, these trying situations can also serve to reinforce resolve and accelerate progress. Therefore, companies should recognize the importance of nurturing transparency, empathy, patience, trust and mutual support reinforced by a robust technological core to guarantee sustainability, stability and progress.