Tim Beyer is global COO of technology scale-up Sana Commerce.
The pandemic has led to a sea change in the workforce and employee preferences. Research shows that 53% of employees who can work remotely expect a hybrid work arrangement, while 24% foresee an exclusively remote arrangement. The “great resignation” saw 44% of employees switch jobs seeking better salaries, opportunities and work-life balance.
What can organizations do to weather these upheavals and turn them into growth opportunities? The key lies in building a strong work culture that focuses on employee development, so that everyone feels empowered to be the best they can be.
Your values are the foundation of your work culture.
The core values of a company are the ethics it embodies and shares as a team. At my company, Sana, we develop our culture through a shared commitment to growth, teamwork and excellence. Your core values are your identity, and to build that identity, you must keep these values consistent. More importantly, you must hire and retain talent that embodies these traits. By adhering to this ethical system, you can anchor your business and guide your actions even in the face of multiple, worsening crises such as the pandemic, major layoffs and political instability.
Today’s world is tumultuous. Today’s peace is tomorrow’s conflict. Yesterday’s lockdown is the narrowing of today’s supply chain. You have no control over these things. No matter how big your business gets, you can’t eliminate these disruptions any more than you can bend the path of a hurricane. But you can navigate this tumult with the right planning, tools and talent. That’s why it’s so important to find and keep the right people, the ones who embody your core values.
The best workplace cultures support employee success.
A strong work culture starts with employee empowerment. Putting trust in employees, and living up to it by supporting them in their role, is how companies succeed. At my company, for example, we give our people responsibility and autonomous decision-making early on. We regularly ask them questions like “What decisions would you make if you owned the company?” We also live by the motto “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” which means that positions are earned by merit, not by seniority or tenure.
To build a culture of empowerment, you need to provide your employees with the right tools and guidance to enable them to succeed. Nurturing personal and professional development gives them the opportunity to empower themselves and grow organically into more mature roles at the company. With responsibility and empowerment comes respect and celebration. Your employees are the DNA of your company and it is important to defend them with pride.
Flexibility of work models can support strong cultures.
Many companies see remote working as a challenge, something to squeeze into their corporate culture. This is misplaced. Remote working allows you to meet your employees. We’ve adopted a hybrid model in my company that takes travel time into account to determine how often employees need to come to the office. This balances the well-being of employees, their satisfaction and the ability to promote teamwork and creativity. This requires some creative planning to keep remote employees engaged, but it’s a small investment that pays off big.
Companies need to recognize that the workforce is shifting and respond proactively to these shifts; otherwise they risk losing the best talent. By offering remote work opportunities, you expand your talent pool beyond the geographic location of your office, giving you an advantage in an already tight recruiting market. In fact, companies that do not offer the possibility to work remotely are missing out 70% of applicants.
One of the biggest questions leadership has is, “How can you have an office culture when not everyone is in the office?” I suggest thinking about it this way: do you still live with your parents or extended family? If not, does that mean you have no relationship with them? That is probably unlikely. You probably call your mom, video chat with your dad, or visit relatives during the holidays. Just as a shared home does not create a family, the physical office is not what creates the culture. It’s the people.
The key to successfully fostering your workplace culture is to use your values as a compass to guide employee hiring and development. Building a strong culture around these values will help you develop an organization that can adapt and evolve when faced with external challenges, leading your company and employees to new growth and opportunities.