How Your Company Can Drive Positive Culture Change During A Global Pandemic
Our world is still adjusting to life while social distancing. Understanding the long-term implications that COVID-19 will have on organizations has been on the minds of many. Questions to ponder include how long it will take to bounce back (or if some industries will bounce back) and how businesses will have to pivot in light of social distancing orders, which may be in place for months or even years to come. With the world’s curiosity in mind Culture Amp conducted a survey to better understand organizational culture amidst this global pandemic. Culture Amp is a company that was designed to collect, assess and understand employee feedback in order to help organizations improve engagement, retention and performance. Some of the factors that Culture Amp assessed include employee perceptions of company confidence, leadership and adaptation while navigating COVID-19. At the time of this writing over 7 million surveys have been completed from individuals at more than 2,000 companies. Culture Amp’s Equitable Design and Impact Lead Steven Huang sat down with Forbes to discuss the results of the Emergency Response – COVID 19 Survey that Culture Amp designed.
“In my five-year tenure at Culture Amp,” Huang shared, “I can say that the COVID-19 Response Survey was the quickest and most widely adopted template I’ve seen! Most of the overarching themes point to a self-evident truth; companies with a strong culture are much more resilient in times of crisis…organizations that already have experience flexing this muscle are more likely to have confidence in their leadership, feel safer, and be more comfortable about their company’s plan to return to work.” With the vast amount of data that was garnered from the survey template, Huang and the talented team of researchers at Culture Amp were able to analyze the most insightful results. One major finding, Huang shared, was that “companies with strong communication practices were much better equipped to adapt. Among the 20,000 plus responses, we saw a clear stratification in results based on timely communications. The cohort that received clear communications had the most confidence in the company’s ability to adapt…those that weren’t receiving timely communications from their company were 27% less likely to know where to raise concerns, 37% less likely to make sufficient adjustments and 57% less likely to believe leaders were making effective decisions.” This finding emphasizes the need for corporations to have effective communication practices that are both timely and clear.
Another interesting finding of the data may not be a surprise. Huang and the team of researchers at Culture Amp found evidence for the importance of staying connected, particularly now during a period of vast uncertainty. “In order to ensure continued support of your customers, make sure your teams stay connected to one another.” Huang indicated. “Of employees that were able to stay connected as a team, 93% believed that the company was able to support customers through the COVID-19 pandemic…conversely, employees that were unable to stay connected as a team are not adapting; only 45% believed that the company is able to support customers through the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting customers throughout the pandemic, while teams are also suddenly remote, is creating two types of teams. The teams that were inclusive, connected and exhibited high levels of trust are rising to the challenge. Other teams that had been working in silos, were newly formed or lacked inclusive leadership are cracking under the weight of the changes.”
The research also highlights employees’ growing desire to “stop talking about work for a moment.” Huang noted “if managers have regular check-ins with their employees about non-work-related activities, [our research indicates that] employees are 35% more likely to adapt to changes in work conditions. It can’t just be about work! Ensure employees feel equipped to look after their family and dependents. Without this support, only 26% of employees reported they could adapt to changes in work conditions. Once employees do feel equipped to look after their family and dependents, 82% reported that they could adapt to changes in work conditions; this was one of the biggest shifts that we observed. Strong relationships between managers and employees are a key differentiating factor in the ability for teams to adapt. Managers had previously taken time to get to know their employees ‘outside of work’ are reaping the benefits because they already have a sense of how to help their employees through difficult times.”
When reflecting on whether the results of the Culture Amp Survey template were surprising, Huang shared “I’m not surprised that companies and leaders want to get back to work as soon as possible. What does surprise me is that many leaders are looking to what the government says, rather than what their employees say. After all, their employees are the ones that are on the front lines…my recommendation is that your ‘return to work’ readiness plan must include a 90% or above favorability threshold on these three questions, meaning 90% of your employees should agree or strongly agree [based on a 5-point Likert scale] to these questions before you think about ‘return to work.’ [The questions are as follows] (1) I know what I need to do to keep safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. (2) I feel safe carrying out my role during the COVID-19 pandemic. (3) I am being treated fairly by my colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To foster inclusion and belonging during a global pandemic Huang suggested assessing some of your company’s data for insights. “The CDC-issued guidelines clearly lay out how stigmatization can increase among disease outbreaks and its impact on mental health. The World Health Organization understands belonging is a critical work outcome that allows one to realize their own abilities, cope with normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and [be] able to make a contribution to their community. Asian workers are facing discrimination in the workplace. Black Americans are disproportionately likely to be laid off and are facing disparate health outcomes because of generations of discrimination that have prevented them from having equal health access. In your COVID-19 Pandemic Survey, leaders should capture identity demographics (e.g. gender identity, age, caregiver status and race/ethnicity) and look for any disparities that exist in your data…[leaders] may also want to consider collecting novel information, like whether employees live alone or with others, as this may strongly impact their experience of this crisis.”
To learn more about the COVID-19 Pandemic Survey that Culture Amp designed, click here.
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