4 Keys To Sustaining Your Startup's Culture In the Pandemic

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By Peter Cohan, Inc.

What is corporate culture? Can it be sustained when people are working from home? Or does the lack of in-person contact cause corporate culture to evaporate? If so, are the benefits of corporate culture worth the cost of office space, commuting, and all the other amenities employees expect when they work in offices?

These questions came to my mind in reading about how leaders are struggling with the fear that after months of working from home implicit norms of how their people should work together are being lost..

As the Wall Street Journal reported, companies are improvising with video-call enabled techniques -- such as hosting walk-and-talk meetings, virtual dance parties, corporate game shows based on Netflix's Love is Blind, and break-out groups in which people share their feelings.

Do any of these events strengthen or weaken a company's culture? There does not seem to be a good way to measure that. A survey conducted for Prudential Financial found that over half of 2,050 full-time workers felt "less connected" to their company when they began working from home, noted the Journal.

My take: Culture is what employees do when the CEO is not watching them. A good corporate culture attracts talented people to a company and motivates them to take actions that win new customers and give them a reason to keep buying.

Any company that operated in geographically dispersed offices before Covid-19 has already used technology to communicate and strengthen its corporate culture. If those meetings were effective before Covid-19, technology can bolster the company's culture with employees working from home.

Ultimately, company leaders will decide whether they can preserve what's best about their corporate culture, cut way back on office space and reinvest the savings in new growth opportunities.

Here are four things you must do to preserve your culture during this pandemic.


1. Identify your company's most critical values.

When you are a tiny team scrambling to win your first customers, there is no need to verbalize your values. However, once your company has achieved enough success to be comfortable with the idea that it will survive, you ought to look back on what you did to get to that point.

Articulate the most important things that helped your company prevail. My conversations with leaders revealed that values such as going the extra miles to satisfy customers or listening carefully to customers -- rather than forcing them to accept what your engineers want to build -- are examples of the foundational values of your culture.


2. Use culture to hire, promote, and manage people out of the company.

Based on my interviews with CEOs, you should screen potential employees for their fit with your culture before investigating more deeply their work skills. These values should also factor into decisions about whom to promote and whom to manage out of the company.


3. Make videos of employees who 'carry' your culture.

To make your culture come alive create videos that convey how your happiest customers feel about working with your company. The videos should begin with a customer conveying their feelings about the problem that they asked your company to solve and why the solution was so important to them.

Next, the video should show the people in your company who listened to the customer, understood what they needed, and delivered the solution. Finally, the video should show viewers the customer's happiness with your company and the people who helped them solve their problem.


4. Recognize employees who bring your culture to life.

To encourage people to act according to your company's values, recognize them in front of your entire company. Hosting company-wide videoconferences that celebrate such employees will encourage others to strive for such recognition in the future.

These four tactics can help you preserve the best of your corporate culture among those who are working remotely.

See more at: Inc.

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