Few companies were prepared for the magnitude of change brought about by the pandemic, from employees forced to work from home and new technologies urgently needed to enable this to organizations struggling to adapt to doing business online.
But one thing’s for sure – the shift has shown us that there are better ways of doing things.
In terms of company culture, the curse of COVID-19 brought some positive changes. Here are four top examples:
1. Greater diversity
Eliminating the need for employees to be tied to a physical office created an opportunity to build more diverse teams and create an inclusive workplace. No longer restricted by geography, hiring managers could focus on finding candidates based on their skill set rather than their location.
Remote work enables employers to cast a wider net and find stronger candidates with backgrounds and experience in specific industries. A more diverse team at every level of your organization can bring huge benefits, including:
- Enhanced creativity – More people with differing perceptions means more great ideas and better problem-solving.
- Increased productivity – A broader range of skills and experience provides a more solid and comprehensive approach, thus improving overall productivity.
- Improved reputation – People see companies with a diverse workforce as better employers who treat their staff fairly and are open to differing cultures.
- Better marketing opportunities – The more diverse your company, the more it can relate to the general public and a wide range of businesses. Also, staff members from different countries may help you establish connections with organizations in new territories; for example, by addressing language barriers.
Focusing on gender and ethnicity can help create a sense of belonging for all employees while encouraging them to embrace their uniqueness and all that it brings to the culture.
2. A more innovative and 'people-first' approach to technology
When the world went into lockdown and employees were told to work remotely, company leaders had to find ways to ensure employees could perform their jobs efficiently from home. At the start of the pandemic, a survey commissioned by ABBYY revealed that three-quarters (74 percent) of remote staff experienced challenges. Around a third (33 percent) attributed these to not having the right IT tools, with 70 percent asking for better communication tech or task monitoring (43 percent) and artificial intelligence (39 percent). One in four said bad business processes made them want to quit their job!
[ Also read 3 ways CIOs can empower their teams during uncertainty. ]
Company leaders knew they had to act fast. And they did, with 64 percent immediately adopting new technologies and processes to help employees alleviate the stress of working remotely. Staff members were introduced to more intelligent automation – cloud-based, user-friendly applications, low-code/no-code solutions, and assistance from software robots, or so-called digital workers, to accomplish tedious tasks. This new ‘people-first’ approach to digital transformation has had a huge impact.
Company leaders took employees’ concerns seriously: 20 percent of organizations said employee pressure sparked further change. Organizations across the globe are now benefiting from a more innovative culture, with employees becoming central to technological change.
3. Greater flexibility
The very mention of returning to the office set alarm bells ringing and sparked what is now known as The Great Resignation. The pandemic gave many workers time to reflect on their careers and reevaluate their priorities. People began looking more seriously at balancing their work and home lives.
Companies that weren’t willing to be flexible have faced multiple resignations as people moved to jobs that better aligned with their values. As employees gain the upper hand, many formerly resistant organizations have become more willing to offer changes to suit individual needs.
The focus is now on output rather than time spent at the office, and business leaders are starting to measure performance by output rather than the number of hours worked. It boils down to strong, effective management. According to Owl Lab’s State of Remote Work report, companies that allow remote work have seen a 25 percent lower employee turnover than those that don’t. And 86 percent of people who work remotely feel it reduces stress.
4. Better employee development and engagement
Pre-pandemic, many companies offered perks like free breakfasts, transportation allowances, and unique offices, thinking it would create a great culture. That has now shifted to prioritizing employees on an individual level.
For example, depending on their circumstances, employees are now more interested in tailored training programs and personal development, home-office allowances, help with childcare, and gym memberships. Working at home can bring different challenges for different employees – younger people might feel isolated and lack motivation, for example, while parents of young children juggle childcare and family responsibilities.
One size doesn’t fit all. To attract and retain talent, we need to show consideration for individual needs and give people choices that work for them. For example, we introduced new training programs, monthly coffee talks, and remote groups in Workplace to discuss tips and challenges. And with mental health being a huge focus for remote workers, many companies are now offering therapy and counseling sessions.
Feedback from a monthly employee engagement survey revealed many colleagues were keen to give back to the community, so we introduced a two-day annual Volunteer Time Off program that offers paid leave for employees to help a charity of their choice. It has proved extremely popular, with many employees volunteering at food banks, animal shelters, and a domestic violence unit.
Our free LinkedIn Learning provision has also been a huge success. More than 70 percent of our staff joined this year, completing 29,782 videos and undertaking 1,151 courses. Course topics range from technical to professional development.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on company culture. Culture is now often the most important factor for employees considering a new role.
More than ever, people want to work for organizations that do more than generate cash or value for shareholders. Business leaders must ensure that their employees do not need to make personal or professional sacrifices to stay with the company. Today’s employees want a culture and an environment that matches their lifestyle.