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Evolve or Dissolve: Shaping Your Corporate Culture for a Remote Reality

Remote Culture Caligiuri

IN THE PAST DECADE, the corporate world has seen a seismic shift in how it operates. The advent of technology that enables remote work combined with the ever-increasing rate of employee turnover in many industries has led to a transformation in the very fabric of organizational culture. Businesses striving to adapt and thrive amidst these changes must find innovative solutions to the matter of maintaining a robust corporate culture.

The Erosion of Traditional Corporate Culture

A strong corporate culture will influence how team members interact and conduct business. Teams operating within a strong culture share a set of values, beliefs, and behaviors. These are learned over time and socialized when newcomers “learn the ropes” from interactions with and observation of colleagues and leaders. But today’s decentralized office environment makes it harder to socialize culture, foster a sense of unity, and reinforce shared values. Additionally, greater turnover rates disrupt continuity and the transmission of cultural values, leading to a disjointed and often weakened corporate identity.

Importantly, if corporate culture is left unattended, over time it will weaken and dissolve.

Remote Work: A Double-Edged Sword

While remote work offers flexibility and can increase productivity, it limits opportunities for spontaneous collaboration and social interaction — both crucial for building a cohesive culture. Without the organic conversations that occur in physical office spaces, employees can feel isolated and new hires may struggle to assimilate into the company’s ethos.

In attempting to bridge this gap, Google, for example, has invested in virtual reality technology to create more immersive and interactive remote meetings. Using a very different approach, companies like Yahoo and IBM, once pioneers in remote work, reconsidered their remote work policies and brought team members back into the office to preserve their corporate culture.

The Impact of High Turnover

Frequent employee turnover further complicates the picture. Each departure is a loss of cultural knowledge, and each new hire is a potential cultural reset. This constant flux can make it more challenging to maintain a stable and consistent corporate culture.

If companies experience increases in short tenure among senior associates, they will have fewer leaders able to transmit the corporate culture. Some industries, such as professional services, hospitality, and retail, are experiencing higher turnover rates, impacting the maintenance of strong corporate cultures.

5 Strategies to Strengthen a Weakening Corporate Culture

In response to these challenges, companies must be proactive in nurturing and evolving their corporate cultures. Here are five strategies to consider:

  1. Emphasize regular communication and visibility: In a remote or hybrid work environment, have clear and frequent communication. This is crucial. Leaders should also strive to be visible and accessible, using various communication technologies to maintain an open dialogue with their teams. Hold regularly scheduled video conferences, company-wide updates, and virtual town halls to help bridge the physical gap.
  2. Foster connection and collaboration: Create opportunities for employees to interact and collaborate beyond work-related tasks. This could include virtual coffee breaks, online team-building exercises, and interest-based groups. Encouraging informal interactions helps build relationships and a sense of belonging. Some all-remote companies regularly organize remote social events and meetups to strengthen bonds between associates and create a connected corporate culture. It should be noted that these virtual social events work best when employees are given plenty of notice, are able to help organize, and are able to provide feedback regarding opportunities to connect — which isn’t always the case in every company.
  3. Reinforce and adapt company values: As the workforce changes, so should the approach to instilling company values. It’s important to regularly revisit and communicate these values, ensuring that they’re aligned with the current mode of operation. It might be, for example, that the values for work-life integration are patterned after outmoded ways of working — that work happens at the office and life happens at home. Adapting and reinforcing values could involve a collaborative approach to updating company handbooks, creating interactive learning modules, or holding workshops.
  4. Use myGiide to socialize employees: The innovative myGiide platform can play a pivotal role in socializing employees. It offers personalized learning journeys, making it easier for new hires to understand the company’s culture, values, and expectations. It can help company leaders better understand the pressure points that will impede the integration of the corporate culture. To execute winning corporate culture initiatives, myGiide can help integrate individuals into the corporate culture, even in a remote setting.
  5. Recognize and reward cultural contributions: Acknowledge and reward employees who embody and promote the company’s values. Celebrating those who contribute positively to the culture reinforces its importance and encourages others to follow suit. Salesforce is known for its Ohana culture. Ohana is Hawaiian for “family” — both the family you’re born into and the family you adopt. Salesforce demonstrates Ohana by fostering a corporate culture that emphasizes inclusivity, collaboration, and support among employees, customers, and stakeholders, treating them as an extended family.

The evolving landscape of work presents unique challenges to maintaining a strong corporate culture. However, with thoughtful strategies and tools like myGiide, companies can adapt and even thrive in this new era. By focusing on communication, connection, adaptation, socialization, and recognition, organizations can forge a resilient and dynamic culture that withstands the tests of distance and turnover.

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Leading Forum
Paula Caligiuri is a D’Amore-McKim School of Business Distinguished Professor of International Business at Northeastern University and founder and CEO of Skiilify, a digital platform for improving cross-cultural communication. She has a new book, Build Your Cultural Agility: The Nine Competencies of Successful Global Professionals and offers a free web tool to assess cultural agility at myGiide.com.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:38 AM
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