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Is your company culture being a victim of COVID-19?

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As we navigate the lingering effects of the global pandemic, one thing is unmistakably clear – change is here. We’ve changed, and so have our companies. The entire workplace has transformed, but it’s not always a change for the better. Organizations have been deeply affected during these trying times, and it’s only now the impact is beginning to show.

Corporate culture, our shared workplace values are already shifting. Subtle changes that will ultimately put your organization on a path to resounding success or a disastrous failure. Of course, flexible schedules and remote working are decidedly good. The danger lies in losing control, taking your hands off the wheel as your culture transforms. A recent study from Deloitte revealed 43% of employees credit their organizational culture for creating a sense of belonging.

However, I’m confident that today’s new hires will experience a very different culture than those who joined in years past, because many organizations are heading down the wrong path. Traditional water-cooler chats and informal “drop-ins” aren’t automatically part of this new normal. Relationships aren’t forming like they used to because of the isolation. Many leaders are concerned this will impact innovation, productivity, and even creativity in the workplace.

Recently a Marketing Director mentioned that some of their best ideas were born in informal meetings, relaxed lunches, and after-work drinks. Virtual drinks sought to replace this, however, enthusiasm for these sessions is already falling. One Clinical Director even revealed that some middle-level managers are avoiding key responsibilities. Neglecting to mentor and develop junior employees, preferring to assign someone who can do the job immediately. In a traditional office, an attitude like this could never prevail. Reporting lines and responsibilities would ensure staff receives the support and guidance they need to thrive. But for some leaders, in particular, it appears to be “out of sight, out of mind.”

The president of a European company shares my concern. He’s seen the difficulties onboarding newcomers into his organization and knows strong cultural capital is an irreplaceable competitive advantage. In his own words, “We must stay connected, you must stay engaged…we need to deliberately define our processes and beliefs, and not let them be reactionary to the pandemic.”

Technology will be a key enabler here, with tools like Teams and Zoom bringing people together to push forward. If you’d like a perfect example, consider the recent PDMA meetings. Instead of the one-on-one sessions of the past, multiple parties now join each call. When needed, clinical and regulatory affairs leaders are ready to be called upon and speed up the decision-making process, in forums designed to foster good communication.

There’s no question that the culture within an organization is fluid and dynamic. The “vibe” within a business is always under a constant state of change. The risk is that left to its own devices, an organization’s culture can quickly spiral out of control. It’s imperative you’re still in control and are acting to instill the right attitudes, beliefs, and values that will drive your organization forward. Don’t let this pandemic be the one to define your culture. Step up, and create an environment that will allow your organization to succeed – no matter what comes next.

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