Three Critical Questions for Enriching Your Culture Post-COVID
As we enter into the “other side” of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are beginning to be able to evaluate the extent to which our workplaces have changed over the course of the past two years. In our conversations with our partners, clients, and those within our own team, it’s clear that in order to recover and, in many cases, relaunch, organizations need to have a healthy culture. If you want to ensure that your culture looks how you want it to, it is critical that you look back so that you can understand what you need to prioritize going forward.
In order for your organization to maintain or build a thriving culture coming out of the pandemic, it’s important to ask questions to determine these three things:
What has changed?
What does your culture need?
What do your people need?
The answers to these questions are likely going to overlap, as meeting the needs of your team members is going to enable you to shape your culture into what you want it to be. But it is crucial that you take time to walk through each of these questions.
Understanding What Has Changed
Before all else, it is important to carefully define and communicate what has shifted in your organization in the past two years. Here are some questions you can ask yourself and your teams to start to understand this:
What specific systems have changed in your organization?
What about your vision, mission, and strategy to achieve them?
Did COVID change your target audience?
Did priorities shift to new areas?
And have all of these been clearly communicated to your staff, or are you simply assuming that they know and understand?
Ensure that you communicate and re-communicate these things to have a common ground to stand on. Before you can move forward in developing and enriching your culture, all team members need to be on the same page in understanding your goals and exactly how you are trying to accomplish them.
What Your Culture Needs
Next, let’s consider what your culture needs in order to recover from months of work-from-home, uncertainty, and burnout.
How is communication and feedback between employees and supervisors?
What is the overall attitude of your teams towards the work you are doing?
What overall messages about your organization do your employees convey?
Where are there tension and concerns within your organization?
These questions are by no means fully comprehensive in understanding your culture, but they are a good place to start so that you can move to understand what your people need.
If you're looking for more guidance, check out our free Culture Tool to get real answers to your culture questions based on real data.
What Your People Need
So what specific questions can you ask to understand what your people need? Here are a few places to start:
After a year of chaos and burnout, should your organization offer more PTO or flexibility this year?
What emotional support is being provided to your people? Is this something you need to intentionally provide?
Do you provide enough staff engagement opportunities to allow for social support as well as feedback?
Have you directly asked your team members how they are struggling as they recover from the past two years, and what they need from you in order to do their best work?
If your organization is like most, you may also have a lot of new faces on your team. Maybe they started during the pandemic and still don’t know what a “normal” workday looks like, or they’re brand new and don’t have context for what your culture was pre-COVID. It’s especially critical to assess how new members of your team perceive your culture. Do they get the same positive experience your more senior staff members had? And did your onboarding processes reflect your culture well?
The Workforce Shortage
If you've kept up with any news source recently, you've probably been hearing about the workforce shortage. A combination of factors such as continued COVID hesitancy, reluctance to get back to work, lack of childcare, and overall burnout means that there are over 9.2 million vacant job openings as of May.
The issue, however, doesn’t seem to be an actual shortage of workers. Instead, workers are looking for jobs they actually want, with good benefits, better conditions, and higher pay. They also want more flexibility and options for more remote work. The workforce doesn’t want to go back to their pre-pandemic “normal,” they want better for themselves. Whether you are hoping to hire new team members or just trying to steward well the ones you have now, it's important to check in with your people and figure out how their expectations for their workplace may have changed in the past year and a half, and discern how you should respond.
We encourage you not only to sit down and ask yourself these questions, but draw in team members of various backgrounds, levels of influence, and years within your organization, to reflect on these questions and determine what your culture needs going forward. It would be just as harmful to only reflect on these as a senior executive by yourself as it would be to simply plow through and do no reflecting whatsoever. Your people make up your culture, and the wellbeing of your church, school, or organization is entirely contingent on the wellbeing of the people within it.
"Your people make up your culture, and the wellbeing of your church, school, or organization is entirely contingent on the wellbeing of the people within it."
If you’re looking for more advice on understanding and developing your culture, check out Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irresistible Workplace. This book by our Founder and CEO William Vanderbloemen provides further insight into reflecting on your culture and molding it into exactly what you want it to be. You can check out Culture Wins here!