The Power of Culture in the Face of COVID-19
This article was developed based on an interview conducted with The Works’ Sustainability Director, Wesley Gee.
Management Guru Peter Drucker famously observed that “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This wasn’t a knock against strategy, but it was an acknowledgement that what really holds a company together and shapes its destiny is culture – the shared values, behaviours, expectations and purpose that guide the actions and determines the engagement of employees from the front line to the C-suite.
In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of a vibrant, inclusive and deep-rooted culture has never been more clear. To fight the pandemic, we have all been forced to move apart, and businesses – as well as investors – are finding that culture may be the key to keeping things together.
COVID-19 has forced most companies to make difficult decisions about how they can continue to operate and who they can retain. The type of culture an organization has in place – one that fosters accountability (taking responsibility for decisions made), accessibility (how we communicate/reach each other), collaboration (how employees and partners work together) and transparency (sharing information and explaining actions) – helps that organization enact tough decisions while maintaining trust and engagement.
A strong culture also builds reliability and resilience, which are essential elements of business success at any time. (Though if you added “now more than ever”, you’d be right.)
Increasingly, analysts, investors, rating agencies and even customers are asking companies to communicate their policies, programs, priorities and performance relating to “human capital.” They’re interested because there is wider recognition of the value that talented people and strong culture bring to the workplace, and, correspondingly, a greater expectation for companies to put policies in place and invest in programs that attract those people and foster such cultures.
At a time when meeting some business goals may be extremely challenging, perhaps impossible, COVID-19 presents the opportunity to prioritize your people. Now is the time to put more effort into internal communications, into actioning organizational policies and purpose, and, wherever possible, to implement systems and training that help us retool and reinvent.
In short, if you do the spade work needed to bring out the best in people, your people and your organization will be ready when the times change (and they will).